Amoeblog

Next Amoeba Hollywood Sidewalk Sale Features Deals on 45s, Blu-rays and More Sept. 13

Posted by Billy Gil, September 3, 2014 03:53pm | Post a Comment

It’s time once again for a Sidewalk Sale. Our next one takes place Sept. 13 from 12-5 p.m.

amoeba sidewalk saleWe’ll be featuring the following deals:

-Restocked 45s at $1 each

-Kids VHS at two for $1

-DVDs for $3, or buy three get one free (excluding DVD box sets, which have their own deal)

-DVD box sets at $7, or two for $10

-Blu-rays at three for $12

-Books and comics at three for $1

-Deals on classical music

-And more!

Come by and pick up some goodies for the fall!

amoeba sidewalk sale

37 Years! Celebrating (or at least thinking about) VHS

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 25, 2013 06:37pm | Post a Comment
The inaugural Cassette Store Day took place this past 7 September. On that day, over 50 audio cassettes were released by major musical acts like The Pastels, The Flaming Lips, and Suicidal Tendencies. Unfortunately for video cassette fans, Cassette Day was a strictly audio observance. For whatever reason, Cassette Culture (or the cassette underground), which lovingly embraces audio cassettes for whatever reason treats the word “cassette” as if it only applies to the audio variety. As if that weren’t offensive enough, just two days after Cassette Store Day was the 37th birthday of the VHS VCR. Now that a couple of weeks have passed and the sting has subsided a little, perhaps we can do a bit of reflecting on the video format that dominated the 1980s and '90s (but was born in the '70s). 



The year 1976 was marked by several serious technological milestones. The year of the US' bicentennial saw America land Viking 2 on Mars and introduce the first space shuttle -- the Enterprise OV-101. In the computer world, IBM introduced the first laser printer -- the IBM 3800 -- and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak launched Apple.



On 9 September, Chairman Mao passed away in China and across the East China Sea in Japan, the first VHS video cassette recorder (or VCR), the JVC HR 3300, was introduced. It wasn’t the first example of magnetic videotape technology -- that had first been demonstrated in 1951. AVCO had introduced the pre-recorded tapes of their Cartrivision system for sale and rental in 1972. In 1975 Sony had launched the Betamax recording system but it would be VHS that would conquer the home video market.



Although I'm not sure how it was chosen for the honor, the first theatrical film to be commercially released on VHS was a South Korean drama, 청춘교사 (aka The Young Teacher), which had been released to theaters in 1972. It was directed by Kim Ki-duk -- the one who made the daikaiju classic, Yonggary, Monster from the Deep as well a less-well-known-outside-Korea adolescent films like Barefooted Youth (1964) and not the Kim Ki-duk who helmed such internationally acclaimed films as Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (2003), 3-Iron (2004), Address Unknown (2001), and Time (2006).



The VCR wouldn't come to the US until 4 June, 1977, when it was introduced at a press conference before the Consumer Electronics Show starts in Chicago. Despite Betamax having better picture quality than JVC's VHS, Betamax tapes could only hold an hour's worth of recorded material whereas the capacity of JVC's standard T-120 doubled that. Furthermore, whilst Sony maintained tight control of the Betamax format, JVC immediately licensed out its technology to companies like Sharp and RCA. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, JVC embraced porn, which Sony shunned. By the end its first year, VHS had eroded 40% of Betamax's market share.




When my father bought our family's VCR in 1978, he chose RCA's SelectaVision. Its heft and fake wood grain paneling matched the aesthetics of our living room TV. It didn’t quite have a remote control -- there was a portable control panel connected by maybe a ten foot long cable. The machine also had a dew indicator because supposedly humidity could make it stop working although I don't remember that ever happening even in the swampiest Missouri summers of my childhood.




VHS surpassed Betamax in sales in 1981 -- the same year the doomed, phonograph-like CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc) was released after fifteen years of delay. Other rival technologies would follow. VCD (Video Compact Disc) debuted in 1993 and quickly became the format of film producers and consumers in the developing world. In 1997, a popular weather drama, Twister, was the first Hollywood film made available on DVD. The awful and evil DIVX (Digital Video Express) was introduced in 1998 (and had its plug pulled none-too-soon the following year). All of these formats boasted potentially superior image and sound quality to that of magnetic tapes (although VCDs often looked worse and LDs (LaserDisc) often trumped all other contemporaneous formats).




VHS still had at least one major leg up on the competition – the ease with which it allowed users to record (and re-record) content from their video cameras and televisions. Who among those alive back then didn’t amass a collection of home movies, soap operas, episodes of Manimal, and collections of music videos? My music promo compilations – laboriously culled from programs like MuchMusic’s City Limits and RapCity, BET’s Rap City, and MTV’s 120 Minutes and Yo! MTV Raps (and interspersed with selected TV ads) remained among my prize collections for many years. Digital Video Recorders like TiVo were introduced to the market in 1999 but were slow to catch on. By 2006 were still only present in 1.2% of households.




And, as with audio cassettes vs CDs, there are still thousands (maybe millions if you consider porn) of films that have never been released on digital formats – classics like Captain Eo (1986) and Walk Proud (1979) (which, of course, can both easily be watched online as can most others). Finally, if it weren’t for VHS, there would probably be no TV Carnage, no Future Schlock, and no Everything is Terrible!, and no Tim and Eric Awesome Show ...no Nam June Paik!



HD DVDs and Blu-Ray hit the markets in 2006, pleasing people who felt that the problem with movies was that their resolution wasn't high enough -- but far more ground-breaking and detrimental to the popularity all physical was the Internet and the launch of YouTube and Dailymotion in 2005. Although in their early days, shared video content was regularly taken down as quickly as it was put up, over time they and other video-sharing websites were part of the rise of online streaming. In 2006, advertising-supported free porn hosting service websites based on the YouTube appeared.




In 2006 the Canadian film History of Violence was the last “Hollywood” film to be released on VHS. In 2008, JVC produced its last standalone VHS VCR. Then, signaling that there was at least nostalgia for the format, promo copies of the independent House of the Dead (2009) were released on VHS to giddy response. So how about it Cassette Store Day people? Maybe next year exclusive video cassette releases!

*****

Amoeba Co-Presents Opening Night of 'Everything is Festival'

Posted by Billy Gil, August 6, 2013 03:10pm | Post a Comment

Aggregators of all the stupid things people have taped Everything is Terrible! along with L.A.-based film organization Cinefamily are hosting their fourth "Everything is Festival," and Amoeba is co-presenting the opening night screening of Rewind This! Aug. 12.

Amoeba will be on hand with a booth selling rare, cultish and collectible VHS tapes, for those who want to get their own "Everything is Terrible!" on at home.

In the spirit of the website of its namesake, which includes found footage from infommercials, public access TV and other odds and ends, Everything is Festival IV: The Dreamquest will feature made-for-TV movie melds, esoteric documentaries, footage from forgotten, strange video games and more. Documentary Rewind This! covers the life (and afterlife) of VHS, including early, cheaply made direct-to-video features. It starts at 10 p.m., and tickets are $12; buy them here. Before that, at 7:30 p.m. the festival will screen Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen, a film stringing together clips from classic films into a new narrative; tickets for that are available here.

Watch the trailer of Rewind This! below.

Rewind This! - SXSW 2013 Accepted Film from SXSW on Vimeo.

 

Continue reading...

The Mezzanine Shuffle - Turn and face the strange

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 25, 2010 02:55pm | Post a Comment

Do this don't do that can't you read the sign?

As some of those who know me know, I used to work in the movie department here at Amoeba Hollywood. I was assigned to Black Cinema and Latino Cinema. You could say they were my beat. But I was a bit of a lone wolf who played by my own rules. But after one too many high-profile disasters, the sarge stuck me with a desk job, writing this blog. But I still take interest in my old neighborhood and some (OK one) of the customers still tell me to come back... he also gave me a couple of candy canes for Christmas which (since I don't much like sweets) sit in the guampa on my desk. They're yours if you want 'em. ,

Anyway, so the mezzanine just went through a major overhaul, which I had/got to be a part of...

 
The Mezzanine - Officially the largest selection of movies in the universe

Occasionally, when something big like this goes down, the powers that be will promise me some nice change if I bust the right brains. Or, to paraphrase Sean P, "They callin' me to come back to the streets, Eric B, a.k.a 'Sharp Crease'/Said it was necessary, these sucka weddoz out here very scary/They comin' whole they livin' in the month of February" to which I replied, "OK den." Also I was promised pizza. More about that later.

 
      Documentaries (and some hokum - what the bleep?)                                 Action Jackson (and Willis and Bond)

Now, some may wonder why we needed to expand. With over 50,000 titles already and every other video store extinct, it may seem like overkill. But we've been sitting on a lot of titles we didn't previously have space for. Consider the documentaries. Every conspiracy theory spawns a thousand DVDs. And the already enormous Action Section literally exploded. (I like to misuse "literally," so shut it.) Sad to see we removed the poliziotteshi section. Even though I've never watched any of those movies, I felt an affinity for movies about mustachioed Italian cops who play by their own rules... 


Blu-Ray

The Blu-Ray (seriously, why'd they drop the "e"?) section grew considerably, as you can see. And now, it's a lot closer to the VCD section.


The TV section went vertical. Very nice. And don't let the sign confuse you, the BBC section includes British TV from all the English networks, whether it's Channel 4, Grenada, ITV, &c. It's just a case of a brand going metonomic -- like NPR, Coke, Kleenex and Band-Aid. To further complicate things, it doesn't include the BBC's many productions which aren't television series. Luckily the TV section is flanked by two info counters, where Amoeba staff can help make sense of it all.


Comedy, already massive, just got massiver. Everything from 1965 to 2010 that can possibly cheer you up is in there somewhere... except Oscar Wilde, it seems. The English language's second-most-read author and greatest comedian of all time no longer has a section. And gone too is Jane Austen's section... yet Kevin Smith remains -- although, to be fair, he's twice the man most of us are.


Once, under my watch, we absorbed Mystery/Thriller into drama, action, classics, &c due to space issues. When I informed this fact to a customer, he replied somewhat threateningly, "Big mistake." Well, as you can see, it's back and bigger than ever. Sadly, as with Action, the (in my opinion) most interesting section, Giallo, has been removed. But unlike Poliziotteschi, I actually did watch some of those. When I asked why we removed Giallo I was told, "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."

Lisa V. bringing the drama

With apologies to Mary J. Blige, there's a whole lot more Drama now.


Even the Short films had a growth spurt. 


By the way, the promised pizza proved to be a red herring -- and unlike my partner, Rakim, fish is my least favorite dish. No sweat. I went home and made my patented collard, turnip and mustard green pizza and ate the whole thing. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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Mummy Dearest

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 15, 2009 06:06pm | Post a Comment


Mummy films
are unique among classic monster movies in that they're neither primarily based upon myths or literature. Only Isaac Henderson's 1902 play, The Mummy and the Hummingbird and Bram Stoker's 1903 novel, Jewel of the Seven Stars, have inspired cinematic adaptations (the latter spawning four to date) with its subject of an archaeologist attempting to revive a mummy. There were a few examples of the mummy in literature, as with Edgar Allan Poe's "Some Words with a Mummy," Théophile Gautier's The Romance of a Mummy, Ambrose Pratt's The Living Mummy, Louisa May Alcott's "Lost in a Pyramid or, The Mummy’s Curse" and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Lot No. 249" and "The Ring of Thoth" all deal with mummies, albeit not always in a horror setting, and have never even loosely been adapted into film.

The rise of mummy films seem to be directly related to a then-widespread interest in archaeology and, more specifically, an enduring western vogue for Orientalism and fascination with the Near East.  Several major discoveries in the field of Egyptology occurred in the 20th century and helped renew and increase interest in one the the planet's oldest, most complex and enduring civilizations. Yet fascination with Egyptian mummies, with their tantalizing ties to the ancient past, never really translated into a healthy monster subgenre, only sporadically rising to the level of more continually popular monsters like vampires and ghosts.



In 1912, the famous bust of Nefertiti was rediscovered and rekindled broad interest in ancient Egypt. Filmmakers of that decade responded by producing more mummy films than any subsequent decade till the current, although they usually depicted people pretending to be mummies or the theft of them rather than reanimated monsters. In 1922, Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered. Completely hidden for ages, it was and is the most complete, un-plundered Egyptian tomb ever found to date. Following its discovery, the tabloids spread a rumor that a curse of death was placed on whomever entered the tomb and this, along with Stoker's plot involving re-animation of mummies, seems to have influenced practically all mummy movies that followed.
 
    

   

As opposed to Dracula amongst vampires, Frankenstein's monster amongst golems, or the Wolf Man amongst werewolves, no one mummy has ever managed to rise to dominance amongst their kind, a fact which I view as critical in its remaining a second string monster. In the 1930s, Imhotep was the first big mummy, played by Boris Karloff and then revived in the 1990s in loose remake and its sequels. In the 1940s, Universal's Kharis was the main mummy. King Rutentuten (aka Rootentootin) appeared in two Three Stooges films. Yet all these mummies are virtually interchangeable. Despite the well known mummies of the Guanches (of the Canary Islands), the Incas, the Tibetans and the Chachapoyas, filmmakers again and again depicted lumbering, unstoppable Egyptian mummies, except, notably, in Mexico, which got into the mummy movie game. Popoca starred as the Aztec mummy in a whole slew of films and even pitted a werewolf mummy against Tin Tan.

 

In addition to no single mummy achieving widespread name recognition due to inter-mummy competition, they also all suffer from the absence of engaging personalities and conversational abilities. By comparison, Frankenstein's monster practically seems like Oscar Wilde. Even a ghoul might express its love of brains, but the Mummy, on the other hand, usually broods in silence, single-mindedly obsessing over his long dead girlfriend.
 
 

The monster rally subgenre began with Frankenstein's monster's meeting with the Wolfman in 1943 in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The mummy, criticized by some for being little more than Frankenstein's monster in bandages, would seem like an obvious choice of combatant. That almost happened with 1944's House of Frankenstein. There, the scientist's monster was joined by Dracula, Wolf Man and even a hunchback frighteningly named Daniel. Early drafts of the film had included the Mummy (as well as the Invisible Man and the little-known Mad Ghoul) but the monster didn't make the cut. The following year, in House of Dracula, the Mummy wasn't even considered and it became clear that the Mummy was perceived by most as a B-list monster who would remain absent from exclusive monster rallies like Van Helsing, only showing up in more democratic affairs like Groovie Goolies, Carry on Screaming, Monster Squad, Mad Monster Party, El Castillo de los Monstruos, The Halloween That Almost Wasn't, and Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters.


Perhaps no other example illustrates the Mummy's comparative unpopularity than General Mills' monster-themed cereals. When introduced in 1971, it was Count Chocula and Franken Berry that came first. They were joined by Boo Berry in '73 and Fruit Brute in '74. It wasn't until 1987 that Fruity Yummy Mummy was born, only to be discontinued in 1993.

  

The mummy was a natural in the silent era, since he never had much to say anyway. The first known mummy picture was 1909's La Momie du roi. The 1910s, as previously noted, were a heyday of mummy films, including Romance of the Mummy (1911), The Mummy (1911), The Mummy (1912), The Vengeance of Egypt (1912), The Mummy and the Cowpuncher (1912), The Mummy (1914), When the Mummy Cried for Help (1915), The Avenging Hand (1915), The Mummy and the Hummingbird (1915), The Live Mummy (1915), The Missing Mummy (1916), Die Augen der Mumie Ma (1918) and Mercy, The Mummy Mumbled (1918).
 
The 1920s witnessed a dramatic decrease in mummy movies, with only one example, the comedy The Mummy (1923), produced in the decade.


The 1930s began with Boris Karloff's famous portrayal in 1932’s The Mummy. It was the first Universal horror film not based on an earlier source, although it owed both to Dracula (with an ankh substituting for a crucifix) and Frankenstein (also starring Boris Karloff as a re-animated monster) which may've worked against it. Unlike those two predecessors, it spawned no sequels. The other two mummy films in the '30s were the animated Tom and Jerry (but not the cat and mouse) film, The Magic Mummy (1933) and the Three Stooges' We Want Our Mummy (1939).


With the 1940s, the mummy was again the star of Universal films, albeit relegated to B-movies. This time the mummy was Kharis and a few, somewhat feeble attempts at creating some mythology came with the introduction of tana leaves, which like Popeye's spinach, give Kharis his strength. Kharis largely popularized the portrayal of mummies as a stiff, slow, relentless and almost unstoppable ghoul and zombie-like monsters. In the Mummy’s Hand (1940) he was played by western star Tom Tyler. In the follow-ups, The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), The Mummy’s Ghost (1944) and The Mummy’s Curse (1944), Kharis was played by Lon Chaney Jr, more famous for playing the Wolf Man. The mummy comedy subgenre endured with the British quota quickie, A Night of Magic (1944) and another Three Stooges mummy film, Mummy’s Dummies (1948).
 



 

After two Three Stooges movies with mummies, it was obligatory for Abbot & Costello to do one, which they did with Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy (1955) -- they'd already met Dracula, Frankenstein, Jeckyll & Hyde, Captain Kidd, "the Ghosts" and even Boris Karloff. Strangely, the American mummy then almost completely disappeared from the screen. In Mexico, however, the Aztec Mummy made several appearances beginning with La Momia Azteca (1957) and continuing with La Maldicion de la Momia Azteca (1957) and La Momia Azteca vs el Robot Humano (1957). Another Mexican mummy appeared in the Tin Tan vehicle, La Casa del Terror (1959). In the UK, Hammer takes over with Christopher Lee as Kharis in The Mummy (1959), following up with a couple more. Pharoah’s Curse (1957) depicted a blood-sucking mummy, doing little to dispel the notion of the mummy being a derivative monster.



The 1960s weren't terribly kind to the monster movie genre in the US, although Europe, Japan and Latin America made many. La Momia Azteca was re-cut and edited together with new footage and released in the US as Attack of the Mayan Mummy (1963). In Mexico, Luchadoras contra la Momia (1964) pitted the mummy against female wrestlers. In the UK, Hammer produced The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1965) and The Mummy’s Shroud (1967). In America, the little-seen Mummy and the Curse of the Jackal (1967) finally pitted a mummy against another monster (a were-jackal) in Las Vegas.

 
By the 1970s, most mummies rested in peace, coming out of their tombs in a TV movie here (The Demon and the Mummy - 1976), a Santo appearance there (Santo en la Venganza de la Momia - 1971) and Las Momias de Guanajuato - 1972) and the occasional Spanish Eurohorror movie (1973's La Venganza de la Momia and El secreto de la momia egipcia). Somewhat surprisingly, Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) was the first mummy film to adapt Brams Stoker’s mummy novel into a film. It was also noteworthy for having one of the first female mummies in film and one played without bandages by Valerie Leon.





The 1980s followed with more of the same. The Awakening (1980) again adapted Stoker's novel. The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (1980) was another TV movie. Dawn of the Mummy (1981) was a low budget, Zombie-inspired film. La momia nacional (1981) was Spain's obligatory offering. O Segredo da Múmia (1982) was Brazil's first mummy picture. Time Walker (1982) was unique in its portrayal of an alien mummy. The Tomb (1986) was one of Fred Olen Ray's early directorial efforts.
 


In the 1990s, the mummy failed to be revived until the end of the decade. First, Tony Curtis filled in for a recently-departed Tony Perkins in The Mummy Lives (1993). Under Wraps (1997) was a made-for-TV children's film. The Mummy aka Eternal aka Trance (1998) was probably the first mummy film about an unintentional mummy, one mummified by natural occurences, with a protagonist who was mummified in a peat bog. Cult Australian director Russell Mulcahy made Tale of the Mummy (1999). The mummy genre only really came back to life with the Brendan Fraser adventure/comedy/fantasy franchise, beginning with The Mummy (1999), which returned Imhotep, albeit with re-imagined origins, and the mummy film.



The 2000s have truly re-animated the mummy genre in a variety of forms. There've been many low budget, direct-to-video titles and even a handful of softcore skin flicks.
 
Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (2000)
Lust in the Mummy’s Tomb (2000)
The Mummy Returns (2001)
Belphégor - Le fantôme du Louvre (2001)
Ng goh haak gwai dik siu nin (2002)
Mummy's Kiss (2002)
Mummy Raider (2002)
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
Attack of the Virgin Mummies (2003)
The Mummy: Evil Unleashed (2003)
7 Mummies (2005)
The Fallen Ones (2005)
The Kung Fu Mummy (2005)
The Mummy's Kiss: Second Dynasty (2006)
Terror in the Pharaoh's Tomb (2007)
Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy (2007)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
My Mummy (2008)
 

In addition to the man mummy films, there have been several mummy characters in cartoons over the years, including Hakushin in InuYasha, Mumm-Ra in Thundercats, the cast of Mummies Alive! and Tutenstein in Scooby-Doo in Where's My Mummy?

 
Computer Games saw a minor revival in mummy interest beginning in the late '90s with Mummy-Tomb of the Pharaoh (1997), Choose Your Own Nightmare: Curse of the Mummy (1999), Mummy Mystery Starring Mercer Mayer's Little Monster Private Eye (2001) and Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of the Mummy (2006).


The video game industry has also benefit financially from re-awakened interest in mummies with The Mummy (2001), The Mummy Returns (2001), The Mummy (2002), Mummy Maze (2003), Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy (2003) and Mummy-Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008).
 

In music, the mummy has failed to inspire anywhere close to as much devotion as other classic monsters but there have been rare examples. The Verdicts did "The Mummy's Ball," The Distortions had "The Mummy" and Bob McFadden memorably performed "Mummy." There was the band The Mummies, and last October Babl Bijits were mummified for a Halloween performance here at Amoeba.











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