DIRECTOR Josh Johnson STARS Frank Henenlotter; Charles Band; Keith Batcheller SCREENING Today at 18.15 and Monday at 18.35
REVIEW UncleBob Martin
Nothing but fun is to be had in the course of Rewind This!, a documentary that seems to bodysurf across a scintillating selection of lively talking heads like a 12-year-old skidding over the surface of a ball pit, as it free-associates its way through the 25-year reign of videotaped home entertainment.
To start, we learn from Basket Case director Frank Henenlotter and executive producer Andre Blay that both VHS and Betamax video recorders were introduced to the US market with no prerecorded content available or even planned; both systems debuted in 1976, and it wasn’t until late 1977 that Blay started approaching the film studios on behalf of his company Magnetic Video, a video production and duplication house, seeking the rights to market prerecorded VHS and beta cassettes of studio films to consumers.
Fear of a new distribution channel that some thought could destroy the film business produced few takers — in fact, only one taker came forward, 20th Century Fox. And, though Fox owned the franchise that would prove to be the number one cash cow in all of home video, they provided only back-catalogue titles until the profits of home video became undeniable and irresistible — Star War‘s first video release would finally come in 1982, at a ‘rental only’ pricing of $125. Henenlotter gloats that, in contrast, his Basket Case was one of the first videos to be given what they called ‘sell-through’ pricing, a policy that sent already-strong sales in the video market through the roof. It was the following abandonment of ‘rental only’ pricing that at last opened the floodgates, and for the first time allowed anyone who wished to collect popular films.
Principals of today’s most idiosyncratic video houses — David Gregory of Severin, Don May of Synapse and Mike Vraney of Something Weird — wax nostalgic about their formative years, cutting their cineaste teeth on panned and scanned videocassettes, and we soon segue to visits with various tape collectors who have managed to create the ambience of a well-stocked video shop circa 1986 in their homes. Along the way, we visit the realm of shot-on-video entertainment, though we learn little about the use of video outside of porn; Shatter Dead and Sledgehammer get passing mention, but not the notorious rental mistakes Splatter Farm, Woodchipper Massacre and The Ripper.
At several points in the film, we encounter a gentleman named Peter Rowe, who seems well-spoken and knowledgeable, but whose presence in this doc never seems properly explained. This illustrates one of several reasons why you might wish to view Rewind This! with your laptop handy [absolutely not in the cinema, please – Naila]; frequently names and films mentioned in passing insist that you launch a Google search. These are invariably richly rewarding — in Rowe’s case, a search proves him to be the auteur behind Splatter: Architects of Fear. Misclassified by IMDb as a documentary, this film is a catalogue of gore and nudity posing as a behind-the-scenes survey of the techniques of a team of ‘special effects masters’ — clearly amateurs whose techniques are crude at best — working on a film about mutant-fighting Amazons, a film that never existed, except in a few scenes shown in Splatter.
Adjust Your Tracking, a forthcoming and similarly-themed documentary that achieved its funding just a month after Rewind This! met its own Kickstarter goal, may have a tough act to follow, but Rewind This! fills its 90 minutes easily, and leaves a lot of meat on the bones of the wormy corpse of this dead format for the competition to feast upon.