FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Apr 16, 2010

awesome movie poster friday - the WARNER HOME VIDEO edition!

When I think of Warner Home Video (and believe me, I often do), I think of a specific VHS package design the company introduced around 1981 (OF COURSE it was 1981, 1981 rules). Their entire catalogue got the same treatment:
  • Mmm, hard clamshell packaging
  • large photo on the front, often pulled from the film's poster
  • a big dot on the cover & spine indicating genre
  • 2 small photos on back
  • copy that's actually worthwhile: rather than some grammatically-incorrect nonsense typed up by a PR person who doesn't give two craps, WHV films featured critical notes and smart copy; a predecessor to today's often-stellar DVD liner notes
  • the cool black & color stripey background
The part of my brain that's OCD (7%) absolutely appreciates the uniformity of the WHV line, and the part of my brain that's nostalgia (36%) gets many warm fuzzies whenever I spot one of these hulking plastic cases on a shelf. I'm not gonna deny that my love of VHS is rooted firmly in nostalgia- I've certainly talked about it plenty of times before. Neither will I deny that DVDs are superior in a few ways: durability, convenience, picture quality. But for horror geeks who came of age in the 80s, there's no beating VHS. The tapes are more than just copies of movies- they're tangible experiences; trust me, I know how corny this all sounds, but it's true. That pattern in the background of a Warner Home Video can instantly bring to mind 50 memories, of the films themselves and so much more.

All of this means: I heart Warner Home Video. I have a hard time fighting my collector impulses whenever I see one of these- I want to take them home, even if I already own the movie or the movie stinks. I want them expressly for the purposes of sitting on a shelf, looking uniform and pretty. I know how stupid that idea is, so I let them go and then I have these mild pulses of regret. Should I go back and pick up Dressed To Kill? Why oh why did I let The Exorcist II slip through my fingers? At least I have Humanoids from the Deep to console me.

I'm so lame. But Warner Home Video box art sure isn't!

Some of these are courtesy of Basement of Ghoulish Decadence and some are courtesy of Slasher Index. Others, from random places like eBay. This post needed some serious digging. I feel like Indiana Jones! No wait, Lara Croft.


















23 comments:

Robson, Proprietor said...

That MURDER BY PHONE cover practically guarantees an unforgettable experience.

B-Sol said...

Such memories of the neighborhood video store! Thanks for this, Stacie. I was enthralled with these classic clamshell boxes back in the day--and not just because the horror section was on the opposite of the shelf from the adult section.

Charlie said...

I absolutely agree with your commentary about the VHS experience, and I suffer from (aka greatly enjoy) identical OCD. Thanks for describing it better than I ever can! You may have encouraged me to start obsessively adding my VHS collection to the archives on the Preserve...thank goodness it's a rainy weekend.

P. K. Nail said...

And of course, the quintessential element - the inevitable warping of the plastic cover. :)

That Rabid cover is always the first to spring to my mind when I think about WHV - which I frequently do!

Jayson said...

The pictures of The Pack, The Nesting, The Mummy, Murder by Phone, It's Alive, and Humanoids from the Deep are ones I took of my personal copies. I can see my gray w/ white lines bedspread, hahaha.

I have most the others too and a bunch more not pictured as well. :)

Jayson said...

Also the Pack, Nesting, and Humanoids are Betamax. ;)

Here's a pic of others (most are buried):

http://img412.imageshack.us/img412/7909/img0764m.jpg

Moviezzz said...

Completely agree. I remember Warner Home Video quite well. The essays on the back were often quite good.

Didn't they also, in the very early days, say "For Sale only" or something like that?

There were some released in cardboard packaging. I don't know if that was just a repackaging by the video store, but I remember seeing some that way.

I miss the old days of the video store.

MaxTheSilent said...

I still have my precious BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA VHS done in this style.

In facrt, occasionally I cradle it to my hefty man-bosom and sing to it.

The Mike said...

Yeah, I used to go straight for these. I still have one of Razorback somewhere around here.

Marc Edward Heuck said...

It was interesting to watch the evolution of the WHV box. Back when they started off as WCI Home Video, they presented a plainer oversize cardboard black box with poster art. That stayed the template until their ill-fated "Rental Only" strategy (an attempt to get a cut of video store profits by discouraging outright tape sales), and that is when they switched to the beloved style with the plastic clamshell cases and all text in the same font and just a large image on the cover, with an occasional "For Rental Only" blurb on the front. Eventually, when they dropped that plan, they also softened up the uniform font concept and returned to putting full poster art on the cover.

There was a weird period starting in 1984, about the same time they switched from the Saul Bass logo to the original shield, where new movie releases like GREMLINS and PURPLE RAIN would be in tape-sized cardboard sleeves, but catalog titles would still be in the clamshell cases. Eventually, they started putting all titles in cardboard sleeves, but they were still good about keeping the smart liner notes going for about a couple more years. Then, sadly, the '90's came and their packaging got as dumb as all the other studios.

Thanks for reminding me I'm not the only one who misses the WHV template.

Tanya said...

Aw man good times!!!! Those covers are epic!

Anonymous said...

I love that black/color stipey design on these covers. I have that same copy of The Shining somewhere! They should bring back that design for their DVDs. haha.

Squiffy said...

There is something almost cinematic about those black stripes that always made me really excited to watch whatever was inside a WHV box. I bet there was a lot of psychological research that went into that design.

Stacie Ponder said...

Jayson- I added a link to you! I meant to do that, but I spaced out. Excellent collection, there.

The Mike- I've got Razorback, too! But the sleeve has been trimmed to fit into a standard plastic case. It's heartbreaking, I tells ya.

Jayson said...

Thanks Stacie!

Here's a few other Warner clams I've picked up recently (including Razorback):

http://img376.imageshack.us/img376/9535/img0780.jpg

Bill Walsh said...

Hey! No foreign-language stuff?! How am I supposed to make a living? I'm checking the union contract, Ponder.

Tom said...

Those cases were awesome.

The copy writer had alot to say about "Frogs".

Erik said...

I want the deadly eyes one,haven't seen that in ages,I have it somewhere but god knows where

Janice said...

Oooh, this post brought back such nice memories of going to my neighborhood rental shop. Why can't DVD cases emulate this design?

Sarah from Scare Sarah said...

Rabids looks well scary. Humanoids from the Deep looks quite sexy! Don't judge me.

whatever1964 said...

Sorry, but every time I see "The Hand," all I can think of is that old SCTV sketch with Dave Thomas doing the wa-aa-aay over-the-top Michael Caine.... "My bloody hand...."

theverysmallarray said...

Didn't realize Saul Bass did that logo. No wonder it freaked me so bad as a kid. In fact I Kinder Trauma'ed it.

MrJeffery said...

i love this post. i need to see deadly eyes!