May 16, 2015


By Thomas "The Dude Designs" Hodges. (2015, 264 pp).
Schiffer Publishing

Man, talk about a blast from the past...

In the days before DVD, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon (hell, even before Blockbuster), people would venture to the local mom & pop video store to check-out what was on the shelves. These were also the days before iMDB and Rotten Tomatoes could educate us about a particular film, so sharing shelf space with the usual blockbusters was a plethora of low budget, straight-to-video crap that respected critics didn’t even bother reviewing. These films relied on histrionic plot descriptions and wild covers to dupe us into checking them out.

This book isn’t about the films themselves, but the wonderful (often lurid) artwork that convinced us the latest Mad Max rip-off would be awesome. VHS Video Cover Art pays loving homage to the gifted artists who made some of these shitfests too enticing to pass up.

VHS Video Cover Art is a gorgeous coffee table book with little actual text outside of the introductions. Nor is any really needed. The pictures & film summaries speak for themselves. Some are hilariously cheesy, while others approach a level of artistry the films themselves don’t even come close to reaching. The book’s individual chapters focus on specific genres most ripe for exploitation. My personal favorite chapter is dedicated to cheap kid-friendly films, mainly because the covers are the most blatantly pandering.

My personal favorite example from the book. Check out the summary on the back of the box.

It should be noted that much of the VHS artwork offered here is from the European releases of these films, which sometimes differs greatly from what Americans spotted on the shelves back in the 80s. This isn’t really a strike against the book, since some of that artwork is truly amazing, but it might lessen its nostalgic value for some audiences hoping to see the same box art for Evil Dead II which first encouraged them to check it out in the first place.

At any rate, VHS Video Cover Art is an amusing and nostalgic blast from the past. It passes no judgment on the movies we were duped into seeing back in the 80s and early 90s, but definitely makes us appreciate the artistic efforts made to boost their gotta-see level. This is a wonderfully entertaining piece of media history.


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