Super Mario All Stars VHS Promo Video – 1993

Imagine going to pick up your pre-order of Super Mario All Stars for the Super Nintendo in 1993 and receiving a bonus VHS containing twenty minutes of Mario celebration along with reviews of  other contemporary SNES games, all hosted by Lister from Red Dwarf.

Are you imagining it?

This video is simultaneously an awesome pack-in for a video game, a huge bonus value, and a cringeworthy commercial that tries so hard to be cool that it comes off as like when the chaperones try to dance with the students at the school dance.

Craig Charles hosts from a very Dwarf-esque control center, narrating a brief history of the Mario series before rolling through some talking points on the bigger SNES games of the time like A Link to the Past, Mario Kart, Starwing (Starfox here in the US) and Battletoads.

The video also oddly rates its own games? Why would you present the game that you’re trying to sell to kids as anything other than 100%?

Lister then “beams down” to meet the Nintendo hotline headquarters representatives. While it would have been easy to portray the hotline headquarters as a futuristically lit gaming lair featuring loads of slick actors paid to look like savvy gaming know-it-alls, Nintendo made the bold choice to portray the hotline headquarters as a futuristically lit gaming lair featuring the actual hotline representatives who aren’t necessarily camera friendly and have no formal on-camera training.

The video then doubles down on this strategy, giving the representatives the chance to review Aladdin, Mario Paint, and more, in obnoxiously over-effected segments.

An educating but disappointingly dry five minute segment on how a video game is made leads into a run of game cheats. This is arguably the only valuable part of the entire tape.

The valuable part lasts only so long until the segment turns into a commercial for the SNES Score Master and the Nintendo Scope. I’m not sure ‘buy this accessory to play the game better’ counts as a tip.

Lister throws a few snarky one liners and the video is over.  Like I said, this is simultaneously a great bonus item for a game and a terrible video. But adorably terrible.  Here it is.

-ds

 

 

 

 

1995 Philips CD-i Infomercial: A Pothole On The Information Superhighway

The Philips CD-i was a system slightly ahead of its time. It tried to do it all – play top-of-the-line games, play movies in the best quality available, use all of the CD-ROM resources a PC had at its disposal, and also provide casual internet access in the living room. In the early-to-mid ’90s, a device that could do all of this at a reasonable price was a pipe dream. That’s why this thing initially cost $700, with expensive add-ons if you wanted the full capabilities it promised. It was also a “jack of all trades, master of none” as a device, being outperformed in gaming by gaming consoles, outmatched in PC functions by PCs, and so on.

Spoiler alert: it ultimately failed.

Philips made a decent go of trying to get this thing off of the ground, though; a licensing deal with Nintendo (good move) led to the independent non-Nintendo development of some Zelda and Mario titles (bad move).

They banked on non-traiditional, digital media (good move) by developing unique interactive kids content (good move), game shows and workout videos (good move) and interactive music CDs that let you rearrange the music (bad move).

They also advertised on cable (good move) with a full length infomercial (good move) that creates a weird narrative and tries to humorously portray middle-class lifestyles and provide solutions to those exaggerated lifestyles (bad move).

It’s that last one that we’re talking about here, a 30-minute infomercial called “A Day with Sid, Ed and CD-i” that aired in late night cable in the mid 1990s.  There’s a rivalry between a CD-i representative and an electronics repairman that, for some reason that we’re not privy to, exists. Sid, the CD-i guy, listens in on Ed’s repair calls and poaches them, getting there first and giving them a CD-i and a full library of games and peripherals so that they don’t need Ed’s services by the time he gets there.

He gives them the CD-i’s.  Gives.

It’s a pretty clear way of breaking out the CD-i’s advantages in different multimedia scenarios. In the first of three segments, little Timmy’s destroyed the family PC and it’s unrecoverable.  Sid shows up and marches right in. Mom’s okay with this. He hooks a CD-i into the television, telling them they don’t need a computer anymore. Mom’s okay with this.  He suggests kid-friendly games to Timmy. Mom’s okay with this.

In a few short minutes, Sid’s sold Mom and Timmy on the CD-i. Well, not sold.  Again, they didn’t buy anything.  But they now have a CD-i, so I guess that’s a win in a future, attach rate, sense? 

Part two: some believably rad dudes hanging out together playing video games, reading comics, and dancing to rock music on headphones all at the same time, all independent of each other. Headphones dude trips over the video game cable, destroying the console.  A quick call to Ed’s repair results in Sid barging in and, again, giving a CD-i console to the dudes along with a run through of the amazing games available.

Burn:Cycle was a pretty solid game, as are Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, but the rest don’t even look that good by 1990s full-motion-video standards.  Sid hangs out and games with the dudes, then moves on.  Sid’s about $2500 in the hole at this point, considering that he’s given away two consoles and who knows how much software.

Part three: date night.  Peter and Gina are watching a “Forrest Gump” VHS in full daylight when the tape gets eaten by the machine.  Cue Sid and his free CD-i to extol the virtues of digital media.  It’s worth noting that Sid has used “Four Weddings and a Funeral” as a selling point of the CD-i to all three groups at this point. Peter and Gina get more of an overall taste than the other groups do, as a run through the system’s digital board games draws out Gina’s murderous tendencies. Hilarious! I’d be interested in checking that “Clue” title out, though.

The “Feature Presentation” screen, a direct lift of a VHS copy, is the real highlight of this segment.

Ed, throughly defeated at this point, gets on board with CD-i.  He and Sid team up, equal partners in Sid’s unprofitable nightmare of a business.

Each segment is punctuated by wonderful infomercial hard-sells, run-throughs of the system’s features, 800-numbers, and payment plans.

Here it is.  So bad, so good.

 

 

-ds

 

 

 

 

Five Things – 05.15.17 – Fall Has Come To Millbrook

Nintendo Fun Club – April 1988 – Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

I played the new Zelda game, Breath of the Wild, for about an hour this morning. I didn’t have a ton of time to play, so I didn’t want to get into anything too big. Instead I just collected some food and cooked it, went to a few camps to farm arrows from some scrub mobs, scouted and unlocked a lookout tower while dodging laser beams from ancient robots, and stumbled across a giant one-eyed monster called Hinox and figured out how to defeat him.  Then I looked back at the past hour and marvelled at how far the series (and really, gaming in general) has come since 1986 and 1988’s Zelda and Zelda II games.  Then I remembered the Nintendo Fun Club issue that came out in April of 1988 covering Zelda II, and I found it again on Archive.org.

Amazing ’80s font work aside, the cover art pales a bit in comparison to the cover for the original Zelda, but by itself that’s forgivable. The original cover is pretty amazing.  What’s less forgivable is that this design sort of leans into the character design of the CD-i Zelda games, which are legendary for their awfulness. It’s gotta be a coincidence, though – this cover is cartoony but still not that bad.

It’s no ‘cooking food’, but the addition of the winged boots, thunder spell, fairy transformation and, you know, towns, were pretty significant upgrades.

Apart from Zelda, there’s some other really fun stuff here.  The pros offer some Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! tips – it’s the least they could do, since the game itself advertises the Fun Club pretty blatantly:

Some user-submitted reviews and Metroid artwork are pretty adorable:

And, of course, some epic-looking game ads. Nintendo’s own ads are always a significant cut above the rest:

It’s times like this that I’m thankful for sites like archive.org, that can collect and keep these pieces of history. Stuff like this could have easily been lost, otherwise, and it’s such an important part of pop culture history. Consider throwing them a few dollars if you haven’t already. It’s good work!

 

 

How to Send an E-Mail (1984)

I had to continually convince myself that this 1984 “Database” feature on modems, bulletin boards, and email was not a parody or a segment of Look Around You. The enthusiasm these folks display about this technology is really pure, encouraging, and charming.

That’s definitely not Jermaine Clement travelled back to the past to be on a BBC Program, right? Definitely not. Right?

 

 

Day In The Life of a 1950s Small Town

Richard’s town’s got a lot going on! Movies AND bowling? This is actually a really good slice of life of the ’50s.

 

1989 Canon Superman Commercial

Not sure how much more on the nose you can be with your subject matter without actually being on the nose.

 

1978 Taco Bell Commercial

The Enchirito cameo makes this 1978 Taco Bell commercial an easy share.  Miss that guy. The man about to eat them looks a bit ogre-ish for such a refined dish.

Tac-a-tac-a-tac-a-tac-o Bell!

 

-ds

 

Five Things – 2.6.17 – Two Simple Digits

The Y2k Family Survival Guide

Leonard Nimoy lends his credibility to this alarmist video produced to aid those concerned with the potential societal collapse caused by the world’s computers’ refusal to acknowledge the year 2000.

This video is one of several attempts to cash in on the hysteria around the Y2K phenomenon.  1999 was the perfect breeding ground for such a scam – nobody could say for sure that the Y2K alarmists were wrong, and nobody wanted to look like a fool. The President even appointed a Y2K Czar! And the Y2K Czar appeared in this video! What an honor!

While the content of the video is assuredly alarmist, and we’re reminded throughout that many people are probably going to die, the tone never rises above a typical infomercial level.  It’s not a frantic or panicked video, which makes it play pretty creepily.

It’s sort of an impressive effort that this video is an hour long – it’s really about 4 minutes of information repeated over and over again in different ways.  When the video feels like it needs a break from that, there are instances of what seems to be free-form musing on specific catastrophes that could occur.

There’s a lot of specific advice, too. Helpful nuggets, like “Don’t buy a machine gun and run to the woods.” We’re also encouraged to “enjoy the family time” when our systems fail us. I can only imagine the satisfaction that those who paid actual money for this VHS tape must feel. The video takes on a very nuclear-scare-era tone when advising preparedness: store fresh water all over your house, in any dark place, toilet safety in a world without plumbing, stock up on baby wipes to bathe with.  From here, it’s essentially a survivalist video – which makes for a good thirty minutes more content.  While the video stresses the importance of community, there’s an underlying addition of “but make sure you get yours first”, which is pretty ugly once you notice it.

Here it is.  Alarmist and cheesy, and a little bit alarming that so much time was spent on this. And that it probably made money.

 

French Mega Man 2 Commercial

There’s so much to love about this commercial for Mega Man 2 – from the newscaster Mario to the overacting live-action Mega Man to the shrouded, overacting Dr. Wily. Perfection.

 

Coors “Phone Home”

Amazing idea, amazing painting, amazing font. Amazing.

 

1979 Taco Bell Commercial

A patio? The Enchirito? Gas Rationing?

 

Sony Superscope Ad

Don’t make the oversight of building an elaborate stereo system and skipping out on the tape deck, guys. Rookie mistake.

 

-ds

Five Things – 09.26.16 – Find The Future And Touch Tomorrow

1984 EPCOT Video Brochure

It’s been a minute since I scratched the EPCOT itch here, but this video brochure from 1984 certainly makes up for lost time.

epcot universe-of-energyhorizons

The focus of this extended commercial, as usual, skews more toward the World Showcase than it does on Future World, a strategy that always baffled me.  Were/are people really that interested in the World Showcase? As a kid it felt like a waste of half of the park and while I don’t feel that strongly as an adult I still wonder about it.  I think this shot from the Mexico pavilion has been in every piece of EPCOT promotional material from the ’80s that I’ve ever seen:

mexico

They don’t miss the chance to tell you that you can drink booze at EPCOT, either.  There’s also a strange interlude with a stuffy elderly woman and a mime who go on a date?

world-showcase-uk mime

The back (less-than) half of the video focuses on Future World, with some great glimpses of the attractions that aren’t there anymore.  The entire layout of the park just makes more sense with Horizons poking up.  Lousy sinkholes.

smrt-1 communicore

fountain

Also a little love for the oft-neglected World of Motion attraction.

world-of-motion

This video probably captures “old” EPCOT better than any other I’ve seen. It doesn’t go into a ton of detail and it doesn’t need to – it’s just a big promo, after all. The wide shots of the park, the carefully staged in-attraction shots, and the elements of the World Showcase they included really paint the picture of a day that’s gone by. For better or worse.

For worse.

Here’s the video. So good.

 

Mighty Marvel Cookbook

Last week we looked at the DC Superhero Cookbook. Marvel beat them to the punch in 1977 with their cookbook, but it wasn’t really aimed at being healthy or anything. It was still a cute idea, and the art is great.

marvel-superheroes-cookbook desserts clobbered-omelet

I’m usually more of a Marvel guy, but I gotta give the win to DC on the cookbook front.

 

Star Trek: TNG Makeup Test

Watch the core cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation hold poses for an awkward amount of time.  Did anyone other than Geordi wear a visor in the show? It’s strange to see other characters here wearing one.

Of course Riker can’t hold his pose.

 

Super Bomberman 2 Commercials

This collection of Japanese commercials for 1994’s Super Bomberman 2 is an assault on the senses; there’s no shame if you can’t make it all the way through.  The live action Bomberman costumes are pretty great.

 

What Kind Of Man Owns His Own Computer?

Kind of crazy to imagine a time in which this question needed to be asked and answered.

apple-1979-ad

 

 

-ds

Five Things – 09.05.16 – I Shall Become A Man Named Gene Watkins

Half Hour To Kill

Vincent Price, aka The Man Who Had Time To Do Everything, was the host and star of this fantastically named 1958 mystery anthology pilot.

Half Hour To Kill

The intent appears to be that he’d always host but only sometimes star.  The nature of the pilot combined with the presence of Price seems to suggest that the series would be of of a pretty dark fare.

Vincent

Even though the majority of the episode is a conversation between two people It’s a surprisingly tight story, almost effortlessly creepy and has a satisfying ending. It’s difficult to see why this wasn’t picked up as a series based on this episode.

doll

Check it out.

“Caviar is a luxury item – and so is murder.” Classic Price.

 

 

Texas Instruments Transistor Ad

I love this 1950s ad from Texas Instruments for their transistor technology. The layout, the fonts, and the snapshot of the moment in time when a transistor was a really big deal combine to make this ad something special.

Transistor

 

 

What Is The Internet?

This 1994 segment explains the internet in an almost-insulting fashion and suggests ways to get Dad on the in-ter-net for Father’s Day.

The info-bahn.

Nintendo Power Set

Now you’re playing with body power!

 

Chewels Ads

I remember Chewels in the ’80s, but I never thought of them as competitors to “real” gum.  I thought they were for cleaning dentures or something along those lines.  Here are a few commercials that prove that a) it’s gum and b) it tastes better than other gum.

 

 

 

-ds

 

Five Things – 08.29.16 – The Universe Is Wide

Prisoners of Gravity

A guy in space, all by himself, broadcasting his thoughts on society to the people below.  This thoughtful 1989 public television show celebrated nerd-dom long before it became cool to do so.

PoG Intro

Prisoners of Gravity was hosted by comedian Rick Green. As the title sequence tells you, his character was sick of all of the bad news on Earth and launches himself into space. From his satellite he sends out a weekly transmission exploring all sorts of subjects in the science/technology/comic/fantasy realm.

Rick 2

Most episodes featured several interviews; they occupy the bulk of the show.  Novelists, actors, comic book writers and illustrators were all given lengthy interviews conducted via satellite link from space.  Thoughtful questions were raised and, particularly in Harlan Ellison’s case below, both sides of the coin were presented.  Topics like first contact with aliens, the good and bad side of fandom, and questions like “Do you have to like science to like science fiction” are treated as actual discussion topics, not fluff, and Prisoners of Gravity deserves credit for creating a forum to discuss them pre-internet.

PoG Interview Harlan

I can’t help but get an MST3k vibe from the ‘guy alone in space on TV’ premise, but the similarities end there.  It’s its own thing and it’s clear in every aspect of the show that it was a labor of love.  The show ran from 1989 to 1994, for five seasons, extending out into the US from season two onward.  Then, for some reason, it was cancelled.

Here’s an episode. Harlan Ellison’s so salty in his segment! The sting of The Starlost probably never went away.

 

Virtual Boy Commercials

There’s one common thread in all of  these commercials for Nintendo’s Virtual Boy: the fact that this console came from and transports people to an alien wasteland devoid of life or enjoyment, fraught with conflict. Why would we bring this thing to Earth?

 

1980s General Foods International Coffee Magazine Ad

I love the horizontal placement of the different flavors along the bottom. See? Earth’s doing just fine without the Virtual Boy.

General Foods Ad

Star Phone 10,000

This plays like a parody commercial from Saturday Night Live.  The guy even looks a little like Phil Hartman. The “features” that this phone has!

Now I miss Phil Hartman.

 

Phil Harman Bloopers

Now I miss him even more. The one with Phil and Jan in the bar. Oof.

Friend of mine?

 

-ds

 

Five Things – 08.22.16 – Hasta Luigi, Baby

Nintendo 1993 Holiday Demonstration Tutorial

This is the Poochie of corporate training videos.

Nintendo Training Video

Sent to game retailers before the 1993 holiday season, this demo employs a Bill S. Preston/Jeff Spicoli/Zack Morris hybrid being to take employees through the steps of acting properly as a Nintendo representative.  It tries so hard (and fails) to be cool that it doesn’t really accomplish anything else.

Nintendo Dancing

This guy hangs out on the couch for the majority of the tape, in varying levels of splay.

Using a blend of sharp graphics, blaring rock music, grating ‘attitude’ and roleplayed scenarios, employees learn about the differences between the NES, the Super NES, the Game Boy, the advantages Nintendo has over the competition, and how to set up and maintain the various display systems.  There are also some heavily stylized interludes of kids playing video games that make no sense.

Nintendo Rock Out

I really can’t overstate how hard this video tries to be cool.  Its attempts at being playfully subversive results in it not being clear who this is actually targeted at. I can’t imagine a retail employee getting anything out of this video and a consumer would see right through it.  It’s a pretty good example of how corporations viewed kids in the early ’90s, though, so at least it’s worth that. Check it out.

 

Captain Lou Albano Anti Drug PSA

A good message in this 1980s anti-drug PSA, but a strange one once the religious blanket gets draped over it.

 

Manhunt Board Game

A group of players travel around a board gathering clues to eliminate suspects of a crime. Sounds like Clue, right? No – it’s much more complicated.

Manhunt Box

In Manhunt the players are all detectives.  A crime is agreed upon by all players at the beginning of the game and entered into the Clue Scanner.  As players move through the game they are given the chance to insert probes into the Clue Scanner which gives more information to the nature of the crime. This information can be used by the players to whittle down their list of suspects and ultimately determine who done it, winning the game.

Manhunt Board

So, Clue.  But with a Crime Computer, a Clue Scanner, a Probe, a Detective Handbook, and some other stuff to complicate it up.  Still, it’s got a great look and if I had seen this game as a kid I’d have been all over it with all of the devices. Now, a game based on the PS2 game Manhunt? Take my money, please.

First Color Videotaping

In 1958, NBC recorded and rebroadcast the first color videotaping, a speech by President Eisenhower. This video starts in black and white and NBC president Robert Sarnoff flips the switch to color a few minutes in. A pretty great capture of a pretty amazing moment, and the movement in the video looks so snappy for 1958.

 

Rowntree’s Ad

There’s something in 1940s ad for Rowntree’s Fruit Gums that really grabs me.

Rowntree's Ad

 

-ds

 

 

 

 

Five Things – 08.15.16 – We Fly On, Untouched

Escapes

On one sunny afternoon in 1986 Vincent Price, dressed as a mailman, delivers a VHS tape to a kid named Matthew.  The tape, Escapes, is a horror anthology hosted by Vincent Price.  He starts watching it, and so do we. I’m not sure which level of inception we’re at at this point.

Escapes

It’s really just five short horror stories wrapped by Vincent Price and given a strange intro and outro to make it make sense.

Vincent

There are five stories here: Something’s Fishy, Coffee Break, Who’s There, Jonah’s Dream, and Think Twice.  None of them are particularly scary in the execution, and some are downright stupid, but they’re all good snapshots of ’80s cable video production.  Coffee Break is probably my favorite of the batch; it feels like an early Stephen King short story minus the actual scary ending he probably would have written.

Coffee Break

What strikes me about the ending (spoilers) is that characters from each of the stories come together in a “shocking” final scene, proving that this isn’t just some acquisition effort at getting a bunch of unrelated stories and running them side-by-side. As an MST3k fan this video conjures up memories of Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders, which is actually slightly more involved in stitching the standalone stories together than this piece is but actually has a bunch of acquired, unrelated pieces in it – from different decades even. Still, same idea.  It’s worth a watch, there’s something warm and familiar about it all.

 

World War III, Part Two

The thrilling followup to last week’s 1950s scare comic about World War III. This installment features battles in the air, on land, and under the sea… and doesn’t really resolve much. It actually  makes the story much more confusing as to what the makers of the comic’s real agenda was. I’ve also never seen it spelled “Commy” before reading this comic.

WWIII Part Two

 

Nintendo Interactive Retail Store Displays

This 1992 training video about maintaining Nintendo console in-store play units goes further than it needs to in the effort to entertain.  Probably as far as it can. It’s hard to believe that this is this guy’s real voice – it sounds like the voice someone would use to make fun of this guy’s real voice. That’s a compliment, though, I think!

 

19th Century Obesity Ad

There’s very little to appreciate about this fat-shaming newspaper ad from the 19th century, but the aesthetic appeal of the images and the wall of text do catch my eye.

Fat People

 

Bluegrass 45

Current obsession: This 1970s Japanese Bluegrass band.

 

-ds

Five Things – 04.04.16 – That Men May Fight

You Dont Know Jack

In the summer of 2001 ABC tried to create a televised version of the crazy successful trivia video game show You Don’t Know Jack.   It was not successful, but it did end up being kind of crazy.

YDKJ Title

The show was pretty loyal to the game’s format. Instead of the game’s regular host Cookie Masterson (who still performed as the show’s announcer), Paul Reubens played Troy Stevens – and did a really great job at it.

Troy

The guests selected were pretty colorful people, some with pretty colorful talents.

Contestant

The “standard” trivia questions were typically worded or executed in a unique way, true to the video game’s style.  There were also mini-games throughout the show, just like in the game, that offered bonus money.

YDKJ Question

The “Dis or Dat” minigame picked one player and gave them two categories. Troy would then run through several items that the player had to place in the correct category.

Dis or Dat

Dis or Dat 2

Narrative arcs sometimes carried through the shows as well, centered around Troy.  The final round is the same as in the video game, the “Jack Attack” lightning round that pits the top two contestants against each other . Reubens really puts on his Pee-Wee hat for this round.

Jack Attack 2 Jack Attack

All in all, a fun show – I guess America wasn’t ready for game shows that didn’t involve asking if you wanted to be a millionaire or what’s in a briefcase.  You Don’t Know Jack ran for six episodes and was cancelled.

Here’s an episode.

 

Wall Street

Wall Street Title

This bizarre 1982 arcade game has two types of rounds. In one, you are rescue workers saving stock brokers who have jumped out of windows in attempts to commit suicide.

Wall Street 1

In the other, you are presumably a banker or stock broker running through the streets of a foreign city destroying tanks that are pursuing you and collecting large sums of money.

Wall Street 2

Here’s some gameplay.  I don’t understand. I mean, I understand the gameplay, but not the container that the gameplay was placed in.

 

YWCA Posters

In 1918, the YWCA provided personnel to assist the Armed Forces in World War I.  Here are some gorgeous posters from designed to raise money for the effort.

Men May Fight Help Our Boys Care for Her Building For Health Back Our Girls

 

Clean It

This mid-’80s McDonald’s training video features a Michael Jackson ripoff encouraging employees to clean the restaurant.  I use the term “training video” loosely, as there’s not much how-to here other than “clean it”!

 

Castlevania Soundtrack

The score for the original Castlevania on the Nintendo Entertainment System is real funky! Who knew, or remembered?

 

 

-ds