Yet More Vicious Videocassette Boxes!

I’m back with another edition of “hey here are some videos sitting around the house that are tangentially related to Halloween.”

Enjoy, and make sure you’ve read parts one and two!

#11: Halloween III: The Season of the Witch (1982)
Watch the trailer!

Halloween III spent most of its life as the franchise’s laughingstock. Slowly but surely, fans have warmed up to it. In truth, it was never a bad movie (don’t confuse “ridiculous” with “bad”), and much of its negative reputation stemmed from its earliest audiences – people who just couldn’t accept a Halloween movie without Michael Myers.

Many of us adopted the same opinion because that’s all we’d ever read, and it took me several viewings to realize that the movie had merit. A LOT of merit, actually.

It’s hard to put its story in a nutshell, but I’ll try: Some crazy novelty kingpin sells thousands of Halloween masks, which are supernaturally rigged to turn their wearers’ heads into big heaping piles of bugs and snakes. I don’t know how anyone could read that and not want to see this film. I haven’t researched, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the story was conceived in the ‘70s, because it fits right in with that decade’s lean on “global damnation” in horror movies.

The film was a failed attempt to turn the Halloween franchise into a series of disconnected films tied only by title, or so the legend goes. Had it been successful, it’s possible that Michael Myers would’ve never returned. In that way, we can be glad it tanked – but we should be thankful that we got such a wonderfully screwy movie in the process. See it!

#12: WCW Halloween Havoc (1992)

I’m a lifelong wrestling fan, but until the late ‘90s, I didn’t catch much from WCW. (I was a WWF kid.)

I’d infrequently see WCW’s Saturday night shows purely by happenstance, and while missing a WWF PPV would’ve ruined my year, I almost never had the impulse to beg my parents to let me order one of WCW’s.

The few times I did always seemed to be in October, for WCW’s yearly Halloween Havoc event. These were predominantly “normal” wrestling events, but on occasion, there would be completely bizarre “spooky” matches that remain infamous to this day. (In the most noteworthy example, a match involved a literal electric chair, and yup, someone got zapped.)

This video is for the 1992 version of the event, which I absolutely ordered back then. Jake “The Snake” Roberts had just migrated to WCW after a killer run as the WWF’s ultimate bad guy, and there was no way I was gonna miss his big moment.

Sadly, Jake’s moment turned out to be… well, not so big. See, Jake and the heroic Sting had a Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal match. A wheel was spun, with the various landing points indicating the type of “special attraction” match the two would face off in. Unfortunately, WCW didn’t rig the wheel to guarantee a match people would want to see.

And that’s how we ended up with a “Coal Miner’s Glove Match.”

In it, a coal miner’s glove – basically a glove with metal taped over it – is placed at the top of a pole inside the ring. The first wrestler to grab it gets to use it as a weapon. That may sound intriguing, but I assure you, it pretty much guarantees a slow and altogether clumsy match. Since Roberts was already past his prime by then, he and Sting needed a miracle to warrant their main event slot. A coal miner’s glove match was definitely not that miracle.

#13: Monkey Shines (1988)
Watch the trailer!

Monkey Shines came out in 1988, and though I was by then old enough to not be immediately terrified by the thought of horror movies, I still hadn’t embraced them. Seeing this box again and again in video stores, I spent years believing that the movie’s monkey really did look like that. Like a loony robot toy.

In truth, it was just a normal monkey – albeit a super smart and psychotically possessive one. I’m still shocked whenever I’m reminded that this was a George Romero production, even if studio interference twice-ruined whatever he had in mind for the ending.

Still, I’m not sure that the result would’ve been much different. Monkey Shines is interesting and at times pretty good, but it still feels like a protracted episode of Tales from the Darkside. That doesn’t matter for people like us, but did anyone really expect this movie to make a killing at the box office?

#14: Gremlins 2 (1990)
Watch the trailer!

What’s this, you ask? Why, it’s my Gremlins 2 video! The one I made back in 1990, by connecting two VCRs together and running a rental copy/blank tape combo, or however the hell you did it.

Taping shit off the television was easy. I’d just pop in a blank video, hit “record” on the VCR, and that was that. Duplicating another video was much tougher. It involved dragging my VCR into the living room, and risking Death By Father in my feeble attempts to connect it to the “family” system.

(Man, the things we take for granted when we get older. You’ve seen shows where people have to choose between cutting the red and blue wires? In my youth, that was me. Ten thousand wires connected to ten thousand devices, and if I messed things up badly enough, my father would have to pull everything out and reconnect them, one by one. This was a guy who considered popcorn outside of his scope of patience, so you could imagine the pressure.)

I only went through the trouble when it was a live-or-die situation, and seeing Gremlins 2 as often as possible definitely was. I’m never sure if I believe myself when I call it my favorite movie ever, but given how often I watched this video, it sure seems likely. (If I was off from school, it wasn’t uncommon for me to run it five times in a single day. There isn’t the tiniest fraction of Gremlins 2 that I haven’t memorized.)

Please note my insistence on using every single sticker that the blank tape came with. Didn’t everybody do that?

PS: Yeah, I guess this one falls outside the “videocassette BOXES” title, but until you read this, I know you didn’t notice.


#15: The Rescue of Pops Ghostly (1987)

Okay, this one. Action Max was a quirky video game system that used regular videocassettes in lieu of cartridges, and though I never owned one, I get the impression that it worked on the same principles as Captain Power toys. (You aimed, you shot, and you hoped the thing actually worked.)

I sincerely have no idea how The Rescue of Pops Ghostly came into my possession, but it’s pretty fitting for Halloween. Using a light gun, you had to zap your way through an absolutely insane haunted house, filled with all manner of ghosts and goblins. Though the ghosts were added later, most of the tape is in full live action, set against quirky/scary music. Because the internet is so often incredible, someone went and uploaded the whole tape to YouTube:

You don’t need an Action Max system to enjoy it. It’s great background noise for the season, so long as you keep the volume at a non-annoying level. The video is so moody and good that I’m surprised it was never bought-and-repurposed. It’s a Drew’s Famous CD in video form.

Think I’ll put a TV near one of our windows and blast this thing into the streets on Halloween night. Everyone will hate us!

Did you see the news? Dino Drac’s 2013 Halloween prints are now on sale! Click here for the details! All orders made before Halloween come with a signed photo of Larry! I am serious!

  • Timothy Wolfe

    That is a very menacing laugh at the end of the Pops Spooky tape, for what’s supposed to be a good guy character…

  • EMAG

    Anyone ever see the super underrated movie, The Burbs, with Tom Hanks? I love it, and I’m almost positive The Rescue of Pops Ghostly was shot there (which is happens to be a fairly famous movie backlot).

    I’ve never seen Monkey Shines, and my mind has reeled in terror since I was seven. I think actually watching it will ruin the entire experience.

  • Bologna

    Watched the Monkey Shines trailer out of curiosity and at the one minute mark there was a familiar face. Had to check IMDB to verify.

  • starwenn

    Considering all the programming we taped off TV over the years, I’m surprised no one in my family ever tried putting two VCRs together to tape rental movies. It may have been too complicated; the only people in my family who knew anything about how electronics worked were my sister (who wasn’t around enough to try it) and my brother (and by the time he was old enough to do it, DVDs were the going thing). I would put a DVD recorder and a VCR together decades later (and they remain together), but that was a slightly less complicated procedure that involved no damage to any electronics.

    To be honest, I would have been the kid admiring the box art but otherwise standing very far away from these movies. I’ve never liked gruesome horror. The box art gave me the willies enough. The only item of interest to me is “Action Max.” I have vague memories of seeing that somewhere – perhaps one of the older video stores in Cape May County rented it in the late 80s.

  • Falkirk

    “by connecting two VCRs together and running a rental copy/blank tape combo, or however the hell you did it”

    Nice try, Matt. We all know you probably STILL know how to do it!

  • Brian Buckley

    I Love how Cheezball that action-max was,You notice as the kids run in the house, that the house is CLEARLY a Facade?Beams and skylights etc.. HAHA!

  • KyleWest84

    Pops Ghostly is great! I think I’m going to have to download it from YouTube and convert that junk into an MP3 for future use!

  • Ken

    I used to put the stickers on my audio cassette tapes as well, I really liked using the “Master” sticker all the time. Made all the crap I taped off the radio much more important looking.

  • countz3r0

    I think you may have just admitted to video piracy. And I’m not sure there’s a statute of limitations on that.

  • Lostscribe

    Hey Matt, is the copyright law or whatever statute of limitations over for taping from a vhs tape you rented? Or did you eventually buy a copy of the tape when you got older so maybe it doesn’t matter anymore? ;)

  • Toasty

    I was a little kid at the time and watched Halloween 3. I remember not fully understanding what was going on or even remembering exactly what movie it was later but just being left with that image of somebody taking their Halloween mask off and their head revealed to be a mush crawling with roaches.

    I thought I’d imagined it all until running a Halloween marathon years later and being surprised that this was just a Myers-less installment of the series.

  • Brian

    Tape to tape VHS recorders were eventually sold in stores,after the VHS format was in decline and rental was a moot point(why rent for $3.99 when you could buy used for a dollar).I also remember most local rentals having the tab punched out so you couldn’t record over them but I don’t rememberif you could record OFF them in that condition.

  • Astro Zombie

    I’ve never seen Monkey Shines, but I remember my dad rented it and dubbed it onto another tape. I don’t know if I ever saw that video box at the store, but it seems vaguely familiar.

    When it came to dubbing movies, my dad came up with a way around the color guard copy protection system, which was to dub VHS tapes to Beta. (We had a Beta VCR with a wired remote and a comically long cable.) My parents probably still have those Beta tapes in their house. I’d like to see what’s on those tapes. If only there were any remaining Beta players on the planet.

  • jimbutsu

    The tabs were only there to keep something from being recorded over- they had no bearing on copy protection, which was wrapped in the video signal and recognized by VCRs, which were all supposed to he made with the necessary internals to recognize the ecapsulated copy protection.

    The holy grail was either a VCR that didn’t have that circuitry or implemented it weakly or a little device that went in line between two VCRs and stripped the copy protection out of the signal.

    It’s amazing that I’ve ever known the touch of a woman.

  • The Sexy Armpit

    @Matt – I too remember learning about that. My friend told me about it and I felt like I just learned all the secrets of the universe. One little piece of scotch tape changed my life forever…or until DVD’s came out.

  • JohnV

    Halloween III, I think is a great stand alone film if you just forget it’s part of a series that focuses on Michael Meyers. Now I have the Silver Shamrock jingle in my head! :)

    Halloween III: Silver Shamrock Commercial – Full

  • Al Boondy

    I bought the novelization of “Monkey Shines” from some 99-cent store as a young’in … Never had the guts to watch the actual movie (still don’t!).

  • DJ D

    This may be one of my favorite series you’ve come up with. I’m really enjoying all of these.

    Halloween III is sooo underrated!

    And yes, for those of you who have not seen Monkey Shines, it’s not that it’s a bad movie per se, but I’d stick to just admiring the box art and letting your imagination fill in the gaps. Trust me, whatever you come up with is bound to be better than what’s actually in the movie.

    I’ve never been too much of a wrestling fan outside of fond memories of watching all the fun characters that were around when I was a kid. To this day, I still don’t know the difference between WWF or WWE or WCW or any of those. But, I will say, I’ve recently discovered loads of old Macho Man Randy Savage promos on YouTube and have been watching those during my downtime at work. I don’t know that I can come up with a more entertaining way to spend 30-60 seconds.

    “Anyone ever see the super underrated movie, The Burbs, with Tom Hanks? I love it, and I’m almost positive The Rescue of Pops Ghostly was shot there (which is happens to be a fairly famous movie backlot).”EMAG

    I love The ‘Burbs! If I had to compile a list of movies with the best collection of one-liners, it would be near the top. It’s not quite Ghostbusters level, but it’s close.

  • DESandman

    Halloween III, one of my all time favorite movies to watch during the Halloween season (Along with Spaced Invaders). I miss the WCW Halloween Havoc ppvs. They were the best WCW ppvs in my opinion.

  • jason

    the ‘burbs is awesome.

  • Sam

    damn I guess I’m the only one who saw Monkey Shines and found it terrifying… that guy stuck in his chair and a grinning little demon monkey running around? First 10 minutes scared me worse than the shenanigans at the end.

  • lugnut

    @Brian – Actually, the dual-deck VCRs were available well before VHS was in any kind of decline, though were pretty expensive. My big Christmas gift for ’92 or ’93 was a Go-Video dual-deck unit, and I copied the hell out of virtually everything I could get my hands on.

    And like jimbutsu mentioned, the tabs on the tapes didn’t have anything to do with defeating the Macrovision protection, but there were lots of ways around it. Little Macrovision-blocking devices that went inbetween VCRs like he said, older players that had been produced before the Macrovision standard had been put in full effect, and I kinda think you could get around it by even setting one VCR to run the movie over an RF cable on channel 3 or 4 or whatever and then set the other VCR to record that channel as if you were recording off typical broadcast TV.

    The dual-deck units like I had, at least the early/mid-90s ones, defeated Macrovision automatically(and I think also some other, much-lesser-used type of similar CP whose name I forget). I do think those kind of features eventually wound up disappearing though; ie, how most of the DVD+VCR combo units often won’t let you record VHS copies of commercial discs at all, or vice-versa if it has a DVD recorder drive and might automatically block recordings of a Macro-encoded VHS tape. Failing that, it might record, but it’ll still usually be plagued with Macrovision color-pulsing-whatever problems.

  • Toasty

    The ‘Burbs is like, my favorite movie of all times, yo. Not only is it like the best movie in every way imaginable but also a great document of the late 80′s, for instance the Vision skateboarding clothes that Corey Feldman wears in it, and the fact that Corey Feldman is in it.

  • jimbutsu

    High-five to lugnut.

  • Zach

    Pro VHS pirates had one of those descrambler boxes that made the tapes come out perfect every time. I seriously think my family had over 1,000 pirated videos from our local rental store. Those were the days…

  • John Pannozzi

    Unfortunately, my last working VHS player ( a VHS player/TV combo) only displays a snowy screen when I put in a tape (the sound’s alright, though, but what difference does that make?). So, I’m in the process of getting rid of most of my remaining VHS tapes. There are some I’m still holding onto… Maybe someday I’ll make my own blog post about them.

  • Halloweenghost

    man pops ghostly what an ass. I helped save his family from mean ghosts,.. and all he did was laugh and take credit for it not even thanking me….