It's no secret that the '80s and '90s were a hotbed of low-budget creativity, with a video market flooded with releases that fed the exploitation market for many a child with less-than-attentive parents dropping them off to pick up some rentals. Sure, that market has been succeeded by VOD distribution, but there was something magical about that time of browsing the shelves, picking out the strangest cassette you could with the hopes that something wholly unique was encased in the magnetic tape.
But an unfortunate fact is that many of those tapes have been lost to time, with no digital versions produced to succeed the degrading VHS format. (Seriously, if any of you can find me a digital copy of The Invisible Maniac, you'll be my new best friend.) But thankfully, our friends over at the American Genre Film Archive are determined to make sure many VHS films don't fall to the sands of time.
Check out their press release on the initiative:
Austin, TX | October 19, 2018 – On the eve of the very first all-cassette VHStival in Raleigh, NC, Alamo Drafthouse and American Genre Film Archive, the largest non-profit genre film archive in the world, are excited to announce two huge new initiatives: a new VHS preservation partnership with legendary label Something Weird and genre film fanatics Bleeding Skull; and in 2019, a brand-new post-apocalyptic VHS-themed board game from Mondo called Video Vortex: Analog Apocalypse.
VHS preservation initiative
After acquiring a complete collection of original VHS masters from the Something Weird archive, AGFA purchased a tape-to-digital transfer station to capture and preserve content from these tapes. In addition, AGFA will transfer thousands of ultra-rare tapes from the AGFA and Bleeding Skull archives.
“Up to this point, AGFA has focused on preserving movies that exist on 16mm or 35mm film prints,” says AGFA director and Bleeding Skull founder Joe Ziemba. “This is an expansion of that mission. Movies like HERENCIA DIABOLICA, a Mexican CHILD’S PLAY rip-off that swaps out Chucky for a homicidal clown, will be preserved. This is especially important when we consider that the original film elements for this movie are lost.”
While efforts have been made by libraries to collect and preserve VHS tapes themselves, this is the first time that a film archive will utilize digital transfers to save this overlooked chapter of film history. VHS tapes have a limited lifespan, so it’s more important than ever to save genre movies that only exist on this format.
"While hundreds of thousands of movies have been made around the world over the last century or so, only a fraction of them have survived, much less been released on video or streaming,” says AGFA Advisory Board member and Bleeding Skull producer Zack Carlson. “In many cases, the original elements are completely gone, and VHS is the last and only stop for these titles that will otherwise vanish into total oblivion."
AGFA has previously collaborated on a series of home video and theatrical releases with both Something Weird (THE ZODIAC KILLER, THE VIOLENT YEARS) and Bleeding Skull (THE SOULTANGLER, NINJA ZOMBIE). The next release in the AGFA + Bleeding Skull DVD line will be next year’s release of BLOOD LAKE, the shot-on-video slasher from 1987.
But that's not all! To commemorate the preservation initiative, Mondo's releasing a new board game: Video Vortex: Analog Apocalypse.
Video Vortex: Analog Apocalypse
To complement AGFA’s mission, Alamo Drafthouse’s pop culture art boutique Mondo has announced plans for a new VHS-themed board game called Video Vortex: Analog Apocalypse. Inspired by the Alamo’s long-running Video Vortex programming series and newly-launched in-theater video stores, it’s a competitive deck-building game for 2-4 players. Each player controls a gang of post-apocalyptic magnetic mutants pitted against other gangs in merciless combat. The last remaining player will become the Tapemaster General and control the remote forever.
Video Vortex: Analog Apocalypse is scheduled to be released in 2019.
The Mondo games team will be at Alamo Drafthouse Raleigh for VHStival this weekend to conduct the first ever test plays of the Video Vortex: Analog Apocalypse. Game test play sessions are free and first come, first serve. A full schedule for VHStival can be found at VHStival.com.
As a big fan of deck-building games, this sounds right up my alley, so I might just need to plan some video and gaming parties in my near future.
But how about you folks? What genre flicks from the height of the video era would you like to see preserved? Sound off in the comments, and maybe one day your wishes will come true!