Wednesday, June 11, 2014

VHS Memories XXXV: From U.S.A. Video to Lionsgate

Note from the author: This will be a bit longer than my normal piece as there is a ton to cover.  enjoy!

VHS Memories comes back from the outer realms of the past for another look at an old VHS distributor.  This time, we get the distribution history of what is now roughly 60% of the catalog titles owned by Lionsgate.

It all began in 1981 with the founding of Family Home Video which out out... Wait for it.  Family films!  I know, what a twist!  Eventually, while releasing a ton of animated fare, a few sub labels were created: Monterey Video for more obscure releases and Thriller Video, mainly for a video series hosted by horror hostess Elvira.

The other sub label was USA Home Video which covered not only the usual array of genre titles, but also a few big theatrical releases.

 In the late 80's, the company split into F.H.E. for family oriented releases and I.V.E. for everything else.  Shortly after that, the company was bought by Carolco Pictures and eventually, they were consolidated into Live Home Video.  They also had Avid Entertainment for budget priced (industry talk for cheaply made tapes with crappy transfers) catalog titles.

The company ran fairly strong through the 90's when they eventually, after Carolco went belly up after some really bad flops, became Artisan Entertainment.  They were swallowed up by Lionsgate in 2003.  Here is a cross-section of their wares.

This is more or less the high point in terms of class for early releases.  Don't be Afraid of the Dark is
one of the best made for TV horror films ever made.

I've got this on a 50 movie pack and... Damn.  I still need to find 104 minutes I can afford to lose so I can watch it but from what I know, it's one messed up mamma-jamma of a movie.

I have, however, seen this travesty from Cannon Films.  Another late night KTLA viewing (this is what happens when you're in high school and don't party), this is maybe the worst pirate movie of all time with Walter Matthau of all people as the lead pirate and nearly nothing else worth mentioning.

Sybil Danning introducing episodes of a cheesy 70's sci-fi show.  God, I miss the 80's!

Amazingly enough, there is something in the Superman franchise worse than the third movie... And it is this thing.  I didn't even like this when I was a little kid and had no standards at all.  Peter O'Toole should have gotten an Oscar just for showing up and not punching the producer out every single day he was on call.

Thriller Video didn't just do the Elvira series.  Every now and then, they would put out some ultra gory foreign horror flick.

The second most notorious cannibal movie of the 70's/80's.  Think about that and let it set in for a moment or two.

George Eastman stars as a deranged cannibal killer in this actually rather dull slasher flick.

Not too many people would think Jack Palance would make a good Dracula but this one is supposed to be pretty good.

One of the things about renting a lot of videos is that after a while, you could pretty much tell what you were going to get just based on the distributor.  In the case of our subject today, it was usually going to be either a crappy horror movie, a crappy action movie, or something with Stallone or Schwarzenegger.

The movie itself is actually fairly decent but I just get a kick out of the box art where the two stars look less like two badasses and more like two guys thinking "Dear lord, are we really going to have to act in these costumes?"

Roger Corman helped with the distribution in this and the end result is... Well, you're probably not going into something called Food of the Gods Part 2 expecting anything and that's about what you get, outside of some okay rat attacks and some weird dreams.

The action is pretty solid in this Sho Kosugi ninja flick that is more or less Revenge of the Ninja, only less insane.

One of the more notorious slasher films of the 80's.  Funnily enough I'm not sure who hates it worse: the people who just railed against it based on the poster and never saw it, or the poor souls who've actually sat through the bloody thing.

Unintentional laughs are the order for the day in the first sequel, though.  I don't want to spoil things because it will come up again when I cover 1987 in film, let's just say I might die laughing.

The company also out out the third, fourth and fifth movies in the series.

I'll also be brief on this one as it's got a date with my 1990 series in the future but for those who think Leslie Nielsen only started doing crappy spoof post-Naked Gun movies... No, just no.

I just love that the two biggest action stars of the 80's had a good amount of their late 80's stuff released by frigging Live Home Video.  To be fair, Red Heat is about in line quality-wise with the rest of their output.

That's about it for Arnie here, but Stallone is the real gem.  First off, I need to talk a little about that Rambo cartoon I mentioned.

In the 80's, for some ungodly reason, there was a brief fad of turning hard R rated films into kid-friendly cartoons.  There was this one, and I sure as hell watched the Robocop one.  I'm not sure which is more inappropriate: the cartoon based on a wildly gory, over the top satire or the one about a Vietnam vet with some bad PTSD killing the crap out of anyone who pisses him off.

The one constant from I.V.E. to Lionsgate has been the Rambo films have been released incessantly.

We've got the good...

The good but also sort of bad...

And the so bad, it's good.

That's pretty much it for these guys.  They put out lots more stuff, but this one has gone on long enough.  Until next time...

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.