Friday, January 10, 2014

Videos From Beyond the Gray.....

I’ve been a fan of horror since I was a kid. I remember spending many Sunday and Saturday afternoons catching monster flicks like Frankenstein, Godzilla and King Kong on television. They have been a part of me since Kindergarten. The home video boom hit me in the 1980’s. We had one VCR in the household and that was sufficient until my brother bought one. For what reasons I can’t really remember but that purchase started my movie collection. I would rent movies from the local mom and pop video store and make a copy for my personal collection. As my obsession grew so did my knowledge of all sorts of different horror films, especially those from Europe.  Films from directors such as Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava were hard to come by and when I did find them, they were normally edited versions. I remember seeing Unsane (1982 aka Tenebrae) for the first time. I had a heck of a time tracking this Argento film down. I adored it upon the first viewing! I loved all the stylized violence and cinematography. I then discovered it was missing footage and there were no uncut version available through retail vendors. I wondered if I would ever see the film in the form that Argento meant it to be seen. 

Then one day I saw an ad in the back of Fangoria magazine for a mail order VHS company called Midnight Video. The ad said they specialized in UNCUT horror so I sent off for a catalogue. This started my journey into a whole new realm of horror film discovery. Within the pages of that Midnight Video catalogue were listings for films that were already on my shelf but in truncated form. There were film titles I had never heard of and many that I had only read about. After much perusing of the pages I finally decided that I would shell out my hard earned cash on Midnight’s Japanese print of Tenebrae. I was ecstatic when the UPS man delivered it to my doorstep. Finally I was able to see a Letterboxed version of this film in all its uncut glory! There was no packaging on the tape itself. It was housed in the Maxwell Industrial slipcase that it came in from Midnight’s vendor and the tape itself was adorned with a spine label and front label with the name of the film, its date and alias. I felt a little disappointed until I popped it in the VCR and watched it. A beautiful print it was. The quality was near perfect and mind you this was before DVD or Blu Ray. Many of Midnight's titles were sourced from Japanese laserdisc releases so that right there was a nice improvement over what most mail order companies were offering. No one could beat Midnight's quality!

As my interest in European horror films grew so did my shelf of VHS titles. Midnight Video introduced me to the films of Paul Naschy, Jess Franco and Amando de Ossorio, absurd Italian gore films such as Antropophagus(1980), impossible to find titles such as La Venganza De La Momia(1973) and Spanish sleaze such as Los Ritos Sexuales Del Diablo (1982). Midnight Video was also an introduction to genre actors Helga Line, Jack Taylor, Lina Romay and more. For me, Midnight Video opened the floodgates to a plethora of films that have become staples to my video diet for many years after I was introduced to them.

As video technology progressed and gave birth to the DVD format, Midnight Video was able to follow suit and offer DVDR versions of their titles. There was nice artwork on these early DVDR releases which included the artwork from original poster art. It was a nice change of pace compared to the bare bones VHS releases. As always Midnight Video offered the best print quality that was out there and truly uncut versions of their titles. This also ushered in a new digital era where Midnight Video launched their own website and stopped printing catalogs. If you happen to have one keep a hold of it because there are none left. The Midnight Video website offered an easy way to order the obscure titles you were looking for plus offered a section of the site dedicated to informing collectors of what was available out in the retail world. Many titles were being released by other DVD companies now that there was an ever growing interest in European horror and exploitation film. Many companies were claiming to offer uncut versions of these films but sadly some of the prints used were not truly uncut. Midnight Video offered a very detailed comparison of what footage was missing from certain titles and if they were presented in their correct aspect ratio. Midnight now offered more than just a place to buy obscure Eurohorror but also a place to learn more about the films themselves. 

Finally in 2010 Midnight Video did something I did not expect. They ceased to be! Midnight Video became Midnight Legacy. No longer was there a website offering DVDRs of hard to find titles but a true blue DVD and Blu Ray retail company. The first title they have made available is the 1980 Italian schlock fest Alien 2: On Earth. Midnight Legacy’s first release is presented in its correct 1:85:1 aspect ratio and features a gorgeous high definition transfer from 35mm original footage plus additional extra footage. The release also features some outtakes and a trailer for the film, a crowning achievement indeed for Midnight Legacy. You can drop by their website and check it out!

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