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The Nostalgic Attic: Video Sleeves: Then and Now (part two)

6 October 2014

Video Sleeves: Then and Now (part two)

It has been a few months since we last looked at the ever-changing face of video artwork, so seeing as it's October, lets do a full horror entry. Some of these are subtle, while some are downright appalling. I guess the art department has to justify their salaries too, but I just wish they could have been a bit more creative in what they do.

First up, a truly shocking piece of photoshop. The original Rawhead Rex VHS is hardly a masterpiece of graphic design, but it was atmospheric and eye-catching enough to make me and my friends constantly want to rent it.

The monster was there, right on the front, and looks fairly terrifying. Sure, we felt jipped when we got home and watched the film, but at least we made it that far. Would you make it to the till with the DVD sleeve? The actual DVD on my shelf is as blurry and pixelated as this image I found on the web.

This next one really bugs me. Here's the original VHS for Silent Night, Deadly Night:

It's a striking image, a great juxtaposition of a familiar image of Santa going down the chimney, only this time with the violence and terror of the added axe in his hand. The film was controversial at the time due to the TV spots they ran which outraged parents across the states, resulting in pickets and protests at cinemas. The film was a big release on DVD for Anchor Bay, who usually do the right thing and get the original art or at least the original poster design for the sleeve. Like many of you, I've had loads of their discs over the years and they usually do just fine on the presentation. So I was disappointed when the DVD finally arrived in the post and I saw this:

The obvious cropping in on the image doesn't bug me too much (though it is cropped too far, leaving the remaining image no room to breathe), what really ticks me off is the FONTS! SO MANY DIFFERENT FONTS! They made a real mess of this one with putting too much giant-sized writing all over it. Did we really need two terrible new tag lines on the front sleeve? Or two attempts to remind us that it's a controversial title, just in case you forgot as you panned your eyes down? they couldn't even leave the title font in tact, they went and added blood dripping from it too. The photoshop guy must have been really eager to impress his boss that day...

Up next, one that just baffles me as to why they went with it. Here's the original VHS for Stuart Gordon's classic From Beyond:

It's the sleeve most of us would have grown up with, and it does a good job of selling what kind of film it is (body horror with science fiction elements, I just love the gloopy images on the back). After years of thinking we were never going to see the unrated directors cut due to the original footage being lost, us horror fans got a treat when they announced that the footage had been discovered, and a special edition was on the way. I was somewhat surprised to see the artwork that followed on the final release:

Now, it's not bad artwork, but it's artwork that was done for the films original soundtrack release. So, why put it on the DVD cover? Even then it has been altered (the blue-ish hue is new) and it looks more like a cyberpunk horror than what the original film was. baffling, really.

This final one is probably the strangest and worst since the Near Dark sleeves I included in Part One. The Gate is a great little film, with a fun soundtrack and good performances from the young leads, that include a teeny Stephen Dorff . The special effects are also excellent, and VHS really does a good job of showing what kind of film it is:

Sure, the film features kids, but it isn't necessarily a kids film, which is why I couldn't figure out what the hell this was supposed to be:

This looks to be cashing on in pretty much any kids adventure film that came out in the last ten years. You would barely even notice the little creatures around the child (who definitely doesn't look like Stephen Dorff) and your little kid might be upset by the time he witnesses one of the lead characters dancing with his dead dog in the middle of the night. Harry Potter, it ain't!

As I said in closing last time, it's about preserving that culture and style from when the film got released. We don't need revisionism of obscure B movies, in the same way we don't want Greedo shooting first in Star Wars. No matter how small a niche these titles may fill in the 'bigger picture' of film history, they still belong there, and are part of that history. They are worth preserving. It would be just as sad for the artwork to disappear into the annals of time as it would for some of these films to be forgotten about completely, and with the costs of getting Blu ray discs onto the market, the likelihood of that happening to many titles that have never even made it to DVD doesn't seem too far fetched.

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At 8 October 2014 at 07:03 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

I fully agree with you across the board here. None of these revisions does anything to add to the package. Rawhead Rex - I really didn't like the movie - so it's the change I'm least emotional about. Meh, let the DVD look crappy. The giant blurbs on Silent Night Deadly Night could well have worked on the back of the box amid pictures and the synopsis - leaving the front cleaner - and yes, less cropped, please. The revised From Beyond looks like The Lawnmower Man 3. And that Gate DVD is just silly. I like these posts, John, because not only do I agree with you - it's fun to see the differences in the packaging for both the VHS and the DVD from what was released here in the US.

At 8 October 2014 at 15:32 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Part of me has a soft spot for Rawhead Rex, despite it being garbage, as it was shot not too far from where I live. That kinda thing always adds an extra layer of charm, and that goes for the many recognisable faces in the cast, especially if you are Irish.

Yeah, I might do a series of posts on the different artwork from the UK to the US - some of them really are bizarre!

At 11 October 2014 at 13:46 , Blogger Wes M said...

John, you know I love these VHS posts !

Rawhead Rex... I'm racking my brains trying to remember if I actually saw this one - I don't remember if I did or not. I always lump this title in with Vengeance The Demon (which I hated) so I might be getting it confused here. I definitely read the Clive Barker story when I was ensconced in the Books of Blood and again, I vaguely recall the story but I remember it was pretty underwhelming. If I have my facts right, Barker disowned the film and in turn inspired him to direct his film of the Hellbound Heart himself and the rest is Horror history... Having said all that, I've always loved the UK VHS sleeve and my God, what an abomination the DVD sleeve is, it must have taken all of 10 minutes to plan, design and execute. Truly shameful whether you have an affinity for Horror films or not. This particular edition was put out by Prism but it's a new low even for those bargain bin cowboys. I'd like to meet this "designer" and put it to him - y'know the way you finally pass out a slow driver on the road and sneer at him as you pass him...

Better watch out indeed ! When I first saw the DVD sleeve for Silent Night Deadly Night, I assumed it was a Troma DVD so I was surprised to see this was an Anchor Bay production. I'm thinking the designer was going for the sensationalist look of an American tabloid, but the sleeve just ends up looking like a riot of meaningless hyperbole.

From Beyond... we talked about this before, remember I sent you a pic of the DVD sleeve alongside the
fantastic laserdisc cover which replicates the VHS artwork in 12 inches no less... That's interesting that the DVD sleeve is based on artwork from the soundtrack, although not quite ! The original vinyl soundtrack used a pretty striking shot from the film of Jeffrey Combs in meta-meltdown. At this point matters get a little confusing though ! EIV's UK VHS edition of Lost In Time, the Waxwork sequel uses impossibly similar artwork to the From Beyond CD/DVD, but crucially, the Lost In Time VHS came out in 1992 - just over a decade before the 2003 From Beyond CD soundtrack !

John, any mention of The Gate must include my acknowledgement that you led me back to this great film last year when you included it in your great Top 10 Heavy Metal Horror films post. Okay, you're suitably buttered up enough now for me to go against you and Craig on this one and say as much as I prefer the VHS artwork, I think the DVD artwork is okay, I wouldn't consider it a travesty or anything - it's very age-orientated but I would say this is clearly the best of a bad lot ! Fantastic post, a great discussion maker !

At 13 October 2014 at 08:56 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Wes, thanks! In fairness, Rawhead Rex is very forgettable, so I wouldn't be surprised if you had seen it at some point and just blanked on it. The short story was so-so, as you said, but the film is a special breed of terrible. You should watch it just for the familiar faces in the cast, as you'll have a hoot. As you said though, the DVD cover is a disgrace. Prism are garbage, I've done my best to replace any shoddy releases in my collection with decent editions over the years. Not many are lining up to remaster poor old Rawhead though...

You're right, the Silent Night one does look like a Troma sleeve, but I'm generally forgiving towards Troma for what they do to their releases as they just seem so fucking clueless sometimes. Anchor bay should know better!

Wes, thanks for pointing out my error regarding the soundtrack sleeve on From Beyond! I saw the CD re-issue, and had assumed it carried the original artwork! I actually have that VHS of Lost in Time here, and I never put the two together for some reason. Good spot!

Sorry Wes, no amount of buttering up will make that DVD cover acceptable! Sure, it is well produced, and doesn't look cheap by any stretch, but it just doesn't tonally fit the film for me. I guess it comes down to wanting to feel that the contents of the film and the poster art, etc are one complete thing in your head; the colour scheme of the one above just don't even match the film for me. I could image that palette being used on something like, say, Night of the Comet, but it seems out of place for The Gate!


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