Film & Water #71- Tales From The Video Store

THE FILM & WATER PODCAST

Episode 71: TALES FROM THE VIDEO STORE

In this special episode, Rob welcomes back David Gutierrez to compare the “good old days” working at video stores. Be kind, rewind!

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20 responses to “Film & Water #71- Tales From The Video Store

    1. Maybe it’s just my own experiences with retail, plus the relaxed off-script nature of it, but I love this episode… it just felt incredibly organic and natural and it was allowed to drift all over.

      David is really a great guest and hearing you guys go into stuff like video store porn rentals or so on, is something that is familiar enough and different enough from my own experiences — both in retail and working at a movie theater in high school — that it brought a lot of things back.

      Thanks for doing this.

  1. Great episode! Although I didn’t work in a video store, I kept checking off things in my brain as you two mentioned them. Plus, I worked at a comic shop for two years, so it was kind of similar situation.

    We still have a video store in our town, believe it or not. Since we have Netflix, Amazon, etc., and Cindy works at the library (where we can rent movies for free) I haven’t been in there in years, but now I kind of want to.

    When I was a kid and we first got our VCR (1984), there were two video stores in town: KJ Video Connection and Video Productions. KJ was downtown, so my friends and I could walk to it. Our rentals ran the gamut from the 10,000 Marvel cartoon VHS tapes (the Red Skull gets his own video tape?) to NR soft-core fare. The manager (who was the husband of my high school science teacher later on) never carded us and let us walk out with stuff we had NO business watching. Not rated, R-rated, he didn’t care. He would sometimes give you a kind of cross look, but ring you up anyway. I was 10 at the time! It opened up a whole new world to me, to say the least.

    I don’t think I’d want to frequent DAG’s store. Rob’s store seemed much more friendly. Less drinking, less attempts to run off customers, less adultery. Although Rob’s did have an attempted homicide, so…

    Great episode fellas. You could just hear the fun you were having yacking about old times.

    Chris

  2. I loved recording this!

    The store in Austin was called Video Warehouse.

    As I said, Franklin, customers were the worst part of the job.

  3. Wonderful episode! The passion and laughs in this episode were honest and abundant! One of the most upbeat and enjoyable podcast episodes I’ve heard in a long time.

    Really enjoyed your stories and could relate to many of them from my time working in a comic book store (similar experiences, plus we also rented hundreds of anime tapes). And like Rob, I dated one of our customers. We all thought she was adorable and called her, “the girl with the eyes” until we finally learned her name. Yes, I used my power as a comic shop clerk to convince her to set-up a regular hold service, just so I could learn her name!

    And from now on, I’m not taking any guff from you guys when I make smutty comments! You had an entire section of this episode dedicated to porn (much like the section of your stores)!

  4. Coming this Summer: Shag After Dark – a podcast that examines Cherry Poptart, Rebel Studios’ Faust, Ironwood, Bondage Faeries, and other adult comix!

  5. I don’t know where to start with how much I love this episode. I think Rob’s “This conversation is a lot more about porn than I expected” was just about the funniest thing I’d heard in a podcast all year. And then half an hour later it was topped by “‘How come you don’t have those Traci Lords movies?’ ‘Because they’re child pornography. We’re kind of funny about that.'”

    I know this is an episode I’m going to listen to more than once. Great job, both of you guys!

  6. I worked at a movie theater through high school and college to earn some pocket change. So I can relate a little to the idea of watching every possible movie to learn more about the craft.

    I also had a Major Video one neighborhood over and rented from there frequently. And hearing this conversation brought back a ton of memories so I loved it.

    As you said, the draw of Beastmaster, Shanna, and Clash of the Titans was definitely there. And when those were repeated on cable, I used to be able to time when to switch over. Pathetic when you think about it. And then there were all the cheesy, not quite soft-core movies like Hardbodies, Hot Dog the Movie, and even dramas like The Wicked Lady.

    I was also a splatter film horror buff in those early days. So I rented a ton of those.

    And it was at Major Video that I got my first glimpse into different cuts of movies. The Blade Runner I first watched was the ‘UK’ cut so we get to really see Tyrell’s eyeballs get squished by Roy Batty’s thumbs!

    Anyways, this reminded me of times when I would be renting a stack of movies that probably seem eclectic to the cashier – Blade Runner, Fist of the North Star, The Third Man, and Slumber Party Massacre.

  7. Like everyone else, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. It was so fun listen to you guys reminisce about your experiences, especially since you seemed to come at it from different perspectives, i.e., Rob seemed to have had a more positive experience of the work, customers and his co-workers, while David, well, didn’t.
    Your conversation is also interesting as a bit of an oral history of a type of retail outlet that has gone the way of the dodo – although I should note that at around New Year’s in 2015, I was in Eureka, CA, visiting my parents for a few days, and was shocked to see two actual working video stores. One was called “Spotlight Video & Tan” – I’m guessing that’s the chain you mentioned that’s still hanging on, as they have a website and everything. The other one, though, was definitely not part of a chain, but I forgot what it was called. Now I kind of regret not taking the time to walk into either one just out of curiosity, but it was a short trip, and what little free time I had (two afternoons, basically) was spent in bookstores, the one local comic shop and the book sections of thrift stores.

  8. I never worked in a video store, but here are some memories/thoughts you guys sparked.

    Blockbuster was truly where souls went to die. My worst experience there was witnessing a man in his 40s try to rent a video, but he was real fidgetty – I knew him, friend of a friend, he had been struck by lightning once which explained the shakes, but he baked a great chocolate cake – and they didn’t just ask him for a driver’s license. They wanted to see his PASSPORT. Just a regular white guy from the region, it wasn’t borne from racism as you might expect from this story. But Blockbuster just had this OBSESSION with seeing proof of your address in case you decided to run off with their tapes. Which is the reason I never had a membership there (I don’t drive, see).

    You ask me, someone with a driver’s license or passport has the means to disappear with a movie much more than someone like me.

    I was going to tell a story about Full Screen vs. Letterbox, and it was about how I didn’t know anything about pan and scan, and the movie I thought was terrible because the two characters talking were just the ends of noses, and that movie was… Emmanuelle Goodbye, the second Sylvia Cristel film. It wasn’t on video though. See, in Canada, TV rules about nudity and sexuality aren’t so puritan, and on the French side especially. So on Friday nights (I think, weekend anyway), one channel ran a movie event called Bleu Nuit (best translated as Midnight Blue), which was all erotica. Quality foreign erotica originally, and eventually it devolved into badly dubbed video quality American soft core. Too bad. But the first era of the show was magical for teenagers, and you’d stay up late for it, with the volume way down so it wouldn’t wake your mom… My first first Bleu Nuit was the original Emmanuelle, which I don’t think was ever equaled. Sigh.

    Animal deaths on screen… Did you also destroy the store’s copy of Jodorowsky’s El Topo, Rob? He blows up a chicken in that. Apologizes for it on the DVD commentary track too, saying he was a kid then, and he thought a blood sacrifice would sanctify the film.

    While could find the odd, weird gem in video stores (pharmacies had the weirdest most random stuff sometimes… why did Lawton’s carry Belly of an Architect??? Who ordered for them???), but a lot of my weirder education came from a young university professor who had studied film and become friends with us. He lent me films, some banned, like 120 Days of Sodom (definitely banned in Canada), the Japanese laserdisc version of Holy Mountain, Prospero’s Books and other Greenaway films…

    And can I say how amusing I find it that David was essentially Randall from Clerks? I think at that age I would probably have been more of a Dante…

  9. After a passing glance and some confusion about what movie this episode was about, I read these comments and have decided I better have a listen pronto.

  10. I was supposed to be having a “Summer of George,” but after about five weeks, money was tightening up. I ended up working at a video store because I thought I was applying for a position with a sister organization. When I learned otherwise, I figured fuck it, why not? I did that gig for about six months, and I got zero quality stories from the experience.

    I know what cleaning a theater style popcorn machine every night does to a white polo shirt. I got to buy Sex & Lucia and Before Sunset almost new on DVD at a discount. I got to go to the Latin wedding of the very nice and handsome manager who hooked me up with those discounts before his quitting. I will forever call the favorite Jack In The Box dish of his decent but slightly sleazy replacement who was always hitting on customers “Yumbo Yacks” because that’s what he’d ask for when I’d make a run.

    It was a poorly stocked store with a 30% Spanish-language selection of really bad movies from the ’70s staring really old guys with thick mustaches and big hats. Our 60% Spanish-speaking clientele mostly stuck with new releases and porn. A startlingly large number of those Spanish-speakers from rural areas attempted to cross the language barrier in pursuit of barnyard porn they couldn’t get from us. Bootleg copies of The Crime of Father Amaro were very popular while it was still in theaters.

    Despite getting free rentals in house, I routinely drove down the street to get a 5 VHS for 5 days at $5 deal at an older store with a vastly superior selection and some cool employees. Saw a lot of great movies that way. I will forever remember songs by Lisa Loeb, Golden Palominos, The Swans, and others who were on the couple or three years old infotainment tapes we played on an infinite loop on the store monitors.

    Then I transferred to the job with the sister organization I wanted to be at in the first place. I got way better stories out of that deal.

  11. Oh my gosh. This is a really hilarious episode. David makes me laugh so much on Facebook it was great to hear his voice finally. I laughed out loud when he asked if Rob’s fake account was named Namtab. This episode has a really casual feel to it which I liked a lot. Thanks for the entertainment, guys!

  12. Ahh, this brought back memories. I worked video of a different stripe, Suncoast Motion Picture Co., video direct market sell-through. Man, the people I met through that job. Andy, the movie theater manager who vacationed to be an extra in Fried Green Tomatoes and was obsessed with Somewhere in Time. Scott, the struggling actor, who felt like he had a special connection with John Frankenheimer because he had been in some of his later cable movies.

    I worked in a store in Tennessee which was at the cross-section of Nashville, Goodlettsville, and Hendersonville, two smaller suburbs that were popular with country music stars at the time. I met Fred Thompson when he was dating Lorrie Morgan. I have tales about Mandrell sisters being clueless about the anime they were buying their kids.

    And man, laserdisc! Was I the only nerd who bought discs like the Beauty and the Beast CAV Work in Progress Disc or the It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World Criterion Box set?

  13. Fantastic episode, Rob and Dave! This was one of the most fun episodes of a podcast I’ve listened to this year. Although I never worked in the video rental world, I did work in the video retail world at Suncoast Motion Picture Co. (like Mr. Hooks).

    I worked at the Springfield, Virginia store (a suburb of Washington, DC) as a second job to pay off a credit card and ended up staying a while longer after the chain was purchased by Best Buy. We had a lot of regular customers, most of which were fairly normal but we did have a few “characters” as well. One of the “characters” always wore a huge, foot-long crucifix around his neck that had a statuette of Jesus on it; he bought every season of M*A*S*H on DVD as it was released. Another “character” was a college-aged anime fangirl who hugged everyone she talked to, even complete strangers and store employees.

    My store managers were awesome and I still keep in touch with them via Facebook. District management wasn’t so awesome and demanded I be fired for not trying to scam customers with temporary subscriptions to Entertainment Weekly that took an act of Congress to cancel. The fact I could get a customer to leave with at least three films when they came in looking for one didn’t matter.

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