Not to sound like an old grump, but I miss the days of VHS. Netflix is convenient, but it was so much more entertaining to search video stores for hours than it is to browse online. All a movie needed was a cool cover and some good pictures on the back, and chances were good somebody would check it out. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way because writer Noel Mellor has written an extended and loving ode to the old days of discovering weird cinematic treasures on VHS.
Mellor’s book is called Adventures in VHS, and it focuses on 60 strange yet beautiful (or maybe not so beautiful) crazy VHS finds with lots of crazy yet beautiful full color images to go with. You can buy it now from Unbound, which is some kind of book specific Kickstarter site I don’t fully understand. Go look around and explain it to me when you come back.
We are proud to host an exclusive chapter from the book. Here Mellor writes about a film called No Safe Haven. I’ve never heard of the film, but it has Wings Hauser in it, so it must be good. Enjoy!
No Safe Haven (1987)
Medusa Home Video – MO104
The arrival of 1987’s No Safe Haven on Medusa Home Video caused a ripple of excitement for a number of reasons. Like most of the Medusa releases from the latter part of that decade, it’s an absolutely beautiful specimen. But more importantly, this tape had the potential to settle a longstanding curiosity that had become somehow warped in the years since I last cast my eyes upon its sleeve. I seemed to remember the artwork vividly, but noted two major differences between the oversized VHS box in my brain and the one that had taken up residence on my shelf. First off, there was the title, which in my head had always been 'No Way Out'. Then there was the fact I'd apparently airbrushed the pistol-toting, Hasselhoffian lead seen here from existence and replaced him with Kevin Costner. Time had not only given me a less interesting film from that year, it had allowed a far less charming actor to sneak in and take advantage of the clearly superior artwork. That Costner... he's ruthless.
But the good news was I was about to embark on this particular journey with a man I'd be much happier with in the driving seat - the inimitable Wings Hauser. His character's story is a simple one. They killed his mother, his brother and his other brother - and now there's no safe haven. And when I say ‘they killed his mother’ (‘they’ being two insanely cartoonish South American drug cartel members), I mean they really killed her. After an introduction, setting up our hero’s brother as a successful American football player who has fallen in with the wrong crowd, we get a truly brutal home invasion scene in which all the aforementioned family members are viciously murdered. As a bonus - and assuming you’re not the type of person who is put off by the odd boom mike creeping into shot here and there - there's even some pretty nifty point-of-view camerawork that manages to raise the intensity even more.
With that initial dose of violence suitably administered, we pick up with Hauser’s Clete Harris as he is forced to give up his life as an ideological missionary based in Honduras to pursue some cold, hard revenge on behalf of his slain family. Thankfully though, this vague description of what Clete has left behind is explored in greater detail later once he has had time to come to terms with his loss and set his vengeful course. Taking a night off for his mission to remove all safe havens from his quarry, he decides to take a beautiful young woman out to wine and dine her as only Wings Hauser can. He explains that, in his role as a part time doctor and part time school teacher, he only ever has enough hours left in the day to give even more to those less fortunate than he. “To tell you the truth,” he concludes, “most of the time I'm knee deep in manure trying to get things to grow so the people there can feed themselves." Good God. What a guy.
Now let’s have it right, like most of the films within the pages of Adventures in VHS, No Safe Haven was never destined for Academy Awards. But likewise, it’s yet another example of something that only really wants to entertain - and in doing so offers so much more. Sure, not all of it will chime with our modern, politically correct sensibilities. There's the cartel henchmen who suggests it would be much easier to bribe a South American soccer player than a good old white American quarterback, as well as some casual sexism directed at a woman who chooses not to shave her armpit hair. But beyond that, it’s consistently entertaining, charming and funny - even when it isn't trying to be. Perhaps the best example of the latter would be the unintentional 'comedy boner' noise Clete makes, as he twangs the aerial of a car while hauling some bar room floozy onto its hood for some quick liquor-fuelled sex. Magical.
Genre regular and stunt expert Robert Tessier joins in the fun later as the movie shifts towards its explosive final act, but I'd have to admit it’s a very different and slightly less enjoyable direction that sucks a bit of momentum out of the whole thing. What it does give you though is the two men taking a synchronised piss out in the middle of nowhere and share nuggets of knowledge like "a geese's hearing is ten times more acute than any dog in the world." Now tell me, what has Kevin Costner ever taught us about the audiological capabilities of common waterfowl? Nothing. The prick.
Again, if you're interested in checking out more, you can buy the book here.