Tag Archives: vhs

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 – 1.30.17 – I Guess You’d Look Like A Garden

Isaac Asimov’s Robots VHS Mystery Game

This 1986 VHS game envisioned a murder mystery set in the universe of Isaac Asimov’s Robot books.  Loosely based on the book Caves of Steel, it’s an ambitious effort and carries a high production value – particularly for the mid-1980s, when so many were getting away with so much less.

Robots follows Detective Elijah Bailey, an Earthling, as he is assigned to the murder of a member of a rival faction, the Spacers.   Was an Earthling behind the killing? A Spacer? A (gasp) robot? The Earthlings have their own robots, but they’re pretty crude.  Sorry, really crude.

Bailey’s  got 24 hours to solve the case before the Spacers destroy the Earth. Ok.  He’s sent to “Old New Jersey”, a city that’s been modernized as a Spacer embassy on Earth, and is paired up with one of the Spacer robots, a much higher grade of production.

The sets of “Old New Jersey” are pretty impressive, for a mid-80’s production. They look positively ’90s!

Unlike some VHS games, there’s no fast-forwarding or rewinding around to different points of the tape to play the game. The story plays out pretty linearly, with prompts to pull clue cards at significant plot points throughout.

Depending on the clues selected, and your keen eye at noticing details during the episode, you either convict a legit criminal or an innocent person.  There’s no video payoff, though – it’s all up to the cards at that point. The game box boasts 256 possible storylines, but that’s a stretch.  There are really only a few outcomes, and the general consensus seems to be that there’s no replay value to this game.  A shame, given the clear effort to make this a big production. Here’s the VHS:

And here’s an ad for the game:

Call me when there’s a Foundation VHS game.

(Seriously. Call me.)

 

The Prom: It’s A Pleasure (1961)

Coca-Cola sponsors this short film filled with instruction on how to properly prepare for and attend the high school prom.  Who knew etiquette was so by-the-numbers? I have the feeling that any attempt to turn a high school prom into a formal cotillion generally ends in disappointment.  Still, the film gives good general advice, like don’t give a flower corsage to a girl who’s got a dress with daisies on it.  Tips that anybody can use.

Do NOT forget to say goodnight to the chaperones!

 

Polaris Nuclear Submarine

I’m fairly certain that this “Nuclear Sub” was little more than a pointed cardboard box, but I’d probably have fallen for this ad.  “Controls That Work” is a particularly bold feature.

 

Evel Knievel Commercial

From the motorcycle to the drag racer to the skycycle, this is a pretty impressive array of Evel Knievel toys.

 

Batman & Superman Sesame Street Ad

On the surface, it’s interesting that Batman and Superman are promoting the premiere of Sesame Street. It’s charming – they hold up the CTW letters, they refer to themselves as stars.  But, really, what are they watching? Themselves, promoting Sesame Street?

-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 – 10.19.15 – Jam Tomorrow

  1. Alice in Wonderland/Alice Through The Looking Glass – This 1985 TV Movie adaptation of Lewis Carrol’s classic novel is as notable for its star-studded lineup as it is for how weird it gets with its star-studded lineup.

Alice

Broadcast on CBS as a two-night event in December 1985, the story pretty closely follows the novel’s story beats.  There’s a way in which one could view the special as Alice travelling through Wonderland meeting al sorts of fantastic characters. There’s also a way one could view it as Alice travelling through Wonderland meeting one fading Hollywood legend after another.

Steve and Edie

Seriously, the roster is insane.  It includes Red Buttons, Sherman Hemsley, Shelley Winters, Scott Baio, Sammy Davis Jr., Imogene Coca, Telly Savalas, Anthony Newley, Roddy McDowall, Sid Caesar, Ringo Starr, Carol Channing, Sally Struthers, Harvey Korman, Merv Griffin, Patrick Duffey, Steve Allen, Eydie Gorme, Steve Lawrence, Jonathan Winters, Ernest Borgnine, John Stamos, Beau Bridges, Lloyd Bridges, and Red Buttons. Among others!

The big departure from the book is the obscene amount of musical numbers – the first hour of the special has nine (!) songs and the second hour has ten.  The songs are where the oddness of the whole thing really shines the brightest.  Here’s Sherman Hemsley singing about how he hates dogs and cats…

…Sammy Davis, Jr. transforming from the caterpillar to a human to perform a funky version of “You Are Old, Father William”…

…and on the top of the pile, Carol Channing singing “Jam Tomorrow”.  This performance has stuck with me for thirty years, and the ending is pretty great nightmare fodder.

It’s not a bad special, really; it’s just weird.  Really weird.  See for yourself.

 

2.  The Crystal Maze – The early 1990s saw this beautifully bizarre British game show, a sort of Legends of the Hidden Temple for grown-ups that embraced teamwork, sci-fi and fantasy, and mad scrambles to catch flying cash in a wind chamber.

The Crystal Maze

The Crystal Maze was made up of four zones, each representing a different slice of space and time: Aztec, Futuristic, Industrial, and Medieval.  Each zone had its own set of challenges appropriate to the setting, and each challenge had the chance to grant the players crystals that could later be exchanged for time in the wind chamber.

Crystal Maze Map

The neat thing about The Crystal Maze was that it was completely co-operative. There’s one team in each episode and the team either wins or loses as a whole.  There are circumstances under which one team member drops out of the game, but they’re few and far between.

The Crystal Dome is the final portion of the game, where the team trades their crystals for time spent catching gold and silver banknotes that are blowing around.  The amount of banknotes caught affects the prizes the team gets at the end.

Crystal Dome

Between the elaborate set design, the enthusiastic “Dungeon Master”, and the all around friendliness of the game itself, this might be the best game show that I’ve ever seen. Where was I between 1990 and 1995? Oh, that’s right. In America.

Here’s the first episode.  It’s a little weird that there’s no music in it, but otherwise solid stuff.

 

3.  Archie Gets All The Brakes – I love old comic book ads like this that masquerade as actual stories.  Archie had a ton of them.

Archie Ad

 

4.  Batman Forever VHS Commercial – This five-minute video was produced to appeal to retailers in the hopes they’d carry VHS copies of Batman Forever in their stores.  It’s beautifully cringe-worthy, especially when it gets down to about two straight minutes of marketing-speak in the middle.

 

5.  Awful Coffee Ad – Just terrible.  Harvey doesn’t deserve her!

 

-ds

Five Things – 10.12.15 – We’re No Dummies and They’re Startin’ The Yummies

1. The Yummy Awards – Last week we saw CBS’ 1983 Saturday Morning special, a half hour show with a bizarre premise that seemed incongruent with its goals and that didn’t really make a lot of sense if you applied any sort of thought against the plot.  Well, NBC did pretty much the same thing that year, except it was twice as long and much tougher to watch.

Yummy AwardsThis the First Annual (and Last) Yummy Awards Show, hosted by a young Ricky Schroder and Dwight Schultz, mega-stars of Silver Spoons and The A-Team respectively  The Yummy Awards is an event attended solely by children and intended to honor Saturday Morning programming with a trophy that contains real ice cream, sometimes a custom flavor depending on the recipient.

Ricky with Award

All of this is clearly meant to introduce NBC’s Saturday Morning lineup and maybe I’m not justified in being a little let down by this, but there aren’t even nominees to the categories.  For example, the first category is “The Best Comedy Show Starring Three Singing Animal Brothers”.  Who else is it going to be?

Chipmunks

That’s another thing – the show is kind of inconsistent about how they’re interpreting the cartoon characters in the real world.  In the case of Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Flintstones (winners of the Best Comedy Show with Stone Age Stars Who Have Rocks In Their Heads), they’re life-size costumed characters. The Smurfs remain animated, as shown in their dance number with Fame‘s Lee Curreri:

Lee Curreri and Smurfette

Papa Smurf shows up later to accept the award for The Best Show Starring Little Blue Persons Three Apples Tall from The Facts of Life’s Tootie.  Mindy Cohn also appears to present an award with Lassie.

Mindy and Lassie

They’re really leveraging the NBC star power in this special.  Dwight Schultz is in full Murdock mode throughout, performing hyperactive bits that frequently fail to land.  It’s awkward to watch him basically perform to himself, but you can’t say he didn’t try.

Dwight

An hour later, we’ve given awards to The Chipmunks, Mr. T, The Flintstones, Thundarr the Barbarian, The Smurfs, Spiderman, Shirt Tales, and Hulk.   We’ve watched musical performances by costumed Flintstones and Chipmunks (separately)…

Flintstones

…seen even less articulated costumes for other characters like Gumby…

Gumby

…watched Bozo the Clown and Tina Yothers discuss the detriments of drug use…

Bozo and Tina

…and seen a live action version of the cast of Thundarr the Barbarian.

Thundarr cast

It’s crazy, the whole thing is clearly phoned in from a scripting and production standpoint but at the same time so much effort went into it.  I can’t figure it out.  Here’s the whole thing – I stand by my earlier statement that it’s tough to watch, but it’s the good kind of tough to watch.

Bonus: the second hour of the video is a full episode of CBS’ Saturday Supercade, for some reason.

 

2.  Atari 2700 – Here’s a 1981 article from Electronic Games for the unreleased successor to the Atari 2600, the “Remote Control VCS” or Atari 2700.  It featured wireless controls and a few other enhancements, but was basically intended to be a fancier 2600.

Atari 2700

I love the ‘scoop’ on the new console but I also love the layout of this page! It looks like the 2700 got canned because there was no way to pair the remote controllers to a specific console, so if you were in range of another 2700 your controllers would control each others systems. Whoops!

 

3.  Panasonic VHS Advertisement – In which a robot from the ’80s unintentionally makes us feel a little guilty about our attitude toward electronics.

 

4. Planet of the Apes VHS ad – And for something to put in that well-performing Panasonic VHS machine, how about all of the Planet of the Apes movies?

Apes Movies

$19.98’s a steal. I’m being completely serious.  Even back then, that’s an great value!

 

5.  Jell-O – And finally, here’s a gorgeous Jell-O print ad for raspberry Jell-O – arguably one of the worst flavors in existence, but a gorgeous ad nonetheless.
Raspberry Jell-O

 

-ds

 

Five Things – 6.29.15 – Thrill To The Awe And Mystery Of The Hidden World

1.  Secret Video Game Tricks, Codes, & Strategies, Volume 1 – Whew! That’s a mouthful! This video is one of dozens of “How to Beat Videogames” tutorials from the 1980s, most of which focus on exploiting glitches and bugs to gain advantages in difficult parts of games.

VIdeo Game Tips TItleThis one’s no different, except that it features exclusive tips from the US Video Game Team (a real thing!)

Video Game TeamThe video takes you through glitches and scoring tips for some of the big names like Gradius, Contra, Adventure Island and Castlevania II as well as some of the more obscure ones like Ring King and Iron Tank. While usually you just get a bunch of gameplay video in these things, this title sets itself apart with wacky 80’s graphic transitions and what appears to be a studio setting in which the team members execute these amazing tricks using NES Advantages.

VG Transition AdvantageThat second picture looks like something from the  Spaceship of the Mind in Cosmos.

Here’s the whole thing.  Let me know if these Metal Gear passwords work.

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Five Things – 09.01.14

1. LJN Roll and Rocker – This was the NES accessory that I wanted above all others.  This, to me, was the future of gaming.  About a year’s worth of requests fell upon deaf ears with my parents, and as an adult I can now look back and agree that they made the right decision to ignore me. Before there was a Wii balance board, there was the Roll & Rocker.

Roll & Rocker
LJN, they of the Karate Kid and T&C games, made a play on the popularity of the Pogo-Bal and released a controller that worked in a similar fashion.  The player would stand on the controller, which had a rounded bottom, and their shifting weight would tilt the platform and emulate a finger pushing that direction on a D-pad.  Simple, right?

Roll & Rocker

The catch was that if you wanted to push buttons, like you might have to in any game on the market, you still had to hold a controller in your hand. This rendered the entire effort useless. The Roll & Rocker worked about as well as a controller as the Pogo-Bal did as a pogo stick and once revealed as the gimmick it was, the product didn’t last long.

Stick to licenses, LJN – you’ve got a better batting average with those.

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Five Things – 7.29.13

1.  Parker Brothers Video Games Board Games Ad – From the height of video game coolness, here’s Parker Brothers’ attempt to cash in:

Parker Brothers Game Ad

I can’t imagine the Pole Position board game matching the fast-paced action of the arcade classic.  My favorite part about this ad is that they suggest that playing the Popeye board game will help you become better at the Popeye video game – that the board games are training modules for the arcade versions.  Also, who went to an arcade and played Popeye?

 

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