With digital distribution and online rental services, the brick and mortar stores are on their way out, but in the eighties and nineties, video membership cards were cluttering up wallets and purses everywhere. I have accumulated more than a few over the years, as I am sure you did, too. Back in the golden age of home video – which just happened to coincide with my formative years – taking a trip out to the video store was a special treat and as big a deal as visiting the arcade with a pocketful of quarters. I mean walking into these places was like entering that cave at the beginning of Raiders Of The Last Ark… minus the traps, of course. Who knew what treasures you were going to find in there?
The names of the first two stores my family used to frequent in the early eighties have long escaped me, but I still have flashes of remembrance. The first store was in the indoor mall that I would end up working in many years later. They had a huge Maniac poster by the entrance. Sadly, I was well into my twenties by the time I finally able to see that one. The suburban area I lived in seemed to be under some sort of ‘video nasty’ ban because certain titles like Maniac, Evil Dead and Last House disappeared for a great number of years while I was growing up. It wasn’t until I started venturing into Toronto that I was able to cross off some of those hard-to-find titles. This was long before Blue Underground and the many other distribution companies that thankfully made re-releasing those vintage titles a priority. The second store used to keep their movies behind glass like it was fine jewellery. I suppose that wasn’t far off, considering that back then a blank tape cost twenty-five bucks and the retail price of a movie was over a hundred. How times have changed!
As plentiful as the selection was at Major, I did have other haunts. There was, of course, Jumbo Video. It had this whole separate room set up behind this whole castle wall façade, that I have spoken about before. Jumbo had goodies like Rats: Night Of Terror and Night Of A Thousand Cats. And free popcorn! It was also the place that ALMOST first supplied me with The Evil Dead… until I got it home and realized it was the Beta version. That didn’t go over well, let me tell you.
I’m not sure why “Scary” is blue. Wouldn’t black or red be more appropriate?
I’m getting off track here, but let’s just say that the fourty-five minute drive to rent a couple of movies was worth it every time. I also don’t want to leave out Suspect Video either because they were very important in my cinephile development, as well. Alas, they used a password system, thus no card. That fateful day last February stung something awful. However, Suspect still lives on in the Markham St. location and the newly opened Eyesore Cinema. I visited there a few months ago and when I spied Noriko’s Dinner Table wedged in between Erotic Werewolf In London and Maid In Sweden, I knew the spirit of underground video was alive and well.
So, I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane as much as I did. Please feel free to snap a pic of any old cards you have lying around and send them to me. I’ll add them to the collection. Here’s to the sweet smell of newly laminated plastic.