THESE DAYS, sell-through videos are so cheap, the old-fashioned video shop seems to have disappeared. It's all Blockbuster round here (what was wrong with Azad Video?). But back in the 80s, when you'd pay 40 quid for something three or four years after it came out at the pictures, and it wasn't in widescreen and didn't have stereo sound, people were a lot more wary of buying videos, and tended to rent a lot.

So, quickly fast-forwarding through Simon Bates explaining the British Video Classification System, we present the TV Cream Video Rental Shop, where the shelves still heave under those slightly oversized video cases used to house Mad Max, Firefox and many, many more - you know, the ones with the rounded spine. You never see 'em any more, except at car boot sales...

HORROR NASTIES: Driller Killer, Basket Case, etc etc. The government got tough on nasties in about 1983-84, and they went rather underground. Which of course meant you could get them absolutely anywhere.

QUIRKY HORROR MOVIES THAT FLOPPED AT THE PICTURES: Q: The Winged Serpent (and lots of other Larry Cohen flicks). Often horror films that were a bit too intelligent and/or had an actual story to them.

THE OMEN: Get all three out cheaply 'cos they'd been on telly. Don't forget to stir in the playground myths about what had happened to various people who'd seen them and starred in them.

ITALIAN HORROR MOVIES: Dario Argento's psychotic stuff. Mario Bava. Lucio Fulci. Films where you know precisely what they spent all 200 lire of the budget on - an analogue synth and a big bucket of blood. Best watched with the sound and the colour turned right up 'cos otherwise you don't get the full effect.

CHARLES BRONSON MOVIES: Every Death Wish movie you could ever wish for and a lot you couldn't, plus rack upon rack of unwatchable copies of Telefon and Mr Majestyk.

ONE FOR THE LAYDEEZ: Gentlemen of colour with big todgers getting all sweaty, cf Mandingo and its sequel Drum. Or was it the other way round?

ONE FOR THE LADS: A collection of old Sylvia Kristel, Electric Blue and (if you're really unlucky) Mary Millington skin flicks. Unwatchable 'cos of abdominal unguents stuck to the tape and/or worn out because of excessive use of the pause button.

CHEAP VIETNAM MOVIES: Made in the immediate aftermath of Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter, starring people who looked a bit like Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe but who on closer inspection you realise you'd never heard of at all.


BRUCE LEE: Plus Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Jet Lee (who was pretty good - Communist China's top martial arts star), and even the legendary Bluce Rhee. Yes, he did exist. Martial Arts deserves a whole page to itself sometime. No video shop was complete without at least 50 vids bearing the words Ninja, Shaolin, Temple, Warrior, Style (as in Snake Style, Crane Style, Mad Monkey style...)

PORKY'S: Porky's II, Porky's III, Porky's IV, God only knows how many of them they made. That whole genre of bad smut teen comedies that Animal House either started or parodied wonderfully... Many of them had the likes of a young Tom Cruise or Shelley Long in the cast (but not the Porky's movies).

ALL THREE ROCKYS: Usually cheap too if you rented them all together. Both Mad Maxes used to be a pretty common pairing too - particularly fun to note how the first one had been dubbed into American rather than Australian...

CALIGULA: Caligula, in one of the butchered prints with no story and a lot of porn. However, having recently seen a print that had the story too, it was just as bad.

TAT SCIENCE FICTION: Often from Roger Corman or some of his alumni, or Italian. Stars would be the likes of Peter Coyote, Robert Urich, Richard Kiel, Malcom McDowell etc. People who were either telly stars moonlighting or second-banana film actors roughing it. Special effects dodgy, plots generally sub-Mad Max or sub-Leni Riefenstahl Star Wars. Actually, Mad Max is already on this list, nearly.

SWORD AND SORCERY: Worse than the above. Lou Ferrigno Hercules movies. Conan the Dialogue-Free. Krull! Jesus, Krull was regarded as something quite special - a movie with Bernard Bresslaw in it! David Carradine in that weird one with Eli Wallach living in a barrel of oil until his genitals shrivelled up! Early Rutger Hauer movies! On a good day this sort of rubbish would make up at least half of the shop. Could also be Italian (usually shot in Turkey), in which case it was even worse.

RANDOM SELECTION OF EPISODES OF SOME JAPANESE ANIMATION: Not enough to see if there's actually a connected plot running through it. and in any case the animation was never as good as, say, the classy Battle of the Planets (qv)...

SMALL SELECTION OF MUSIC VIDEOS: That one about the Eagles gig, and The Song Remains The Same. Possibly never, ever, rented ever.

INEXPLICABLY LARGE NUMBER OF VIDEOS OF CAR CRASHES: The HAVOC! series that seemed, fortunately, to die out in the late 80s...

MISMATCHED BUDDY COMEDIES: Generally starring Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. There's also one whose title escapes us but whose sleeve picture strangely hasn't - two cops back-to-back, the serious one posing with his gun, the kooky chilled-out one posing with a hairdryer. 'Twas always there in the same place on the shelves, week after week.

PEOPLE WHOSE FILMS YOU ONLY EVER SEE IN NASTY VIDEO SHOPS: Or Channel 5 at peak time, or Sky Moviemax between the hours of 2am and 6am. Definitely not at the pictures. Step forward Jim Belushi (particularly in films where he wears a light suit and dark shirt), Greg Evigan (the poor man's Steven Seagal) Tawny Kitaen, Linnea Quigley, not forgetting the later oeuvre of Steve Guttenberg, whose fall from Lee'n'Herring-noted mediocrity into "ex-rental £2.99" arse has been swift.

FOR THE KIDDY'S: Butchers' apostrophe mandatory. Half a dozen pieces of tat that make Krusty The Klown look top-quality, plus a random assortment of old ponk that's been on the telly every year since about 1959. May contain traces of Digby the Biggest Dog In The World.

AND: The rack of Betamax stuff mouldering quietly by the door. We don't go there.


There was a Japanese movie I saw in about 1984 about a platoon of modern Japanese soldiers on an exercise being accidentally sent back in time to the early Tokugawa era. Bloody brilliant in its own way, sort of Kurosawa meets The Final Countdown only it wasn't crap like The Final Countdown was. Does anyone know what I'm talking about here!? - Pete Fenelon (Thanks to everyone who's informed us this was TIMESLIP)

My favourite only-on-video film was No Retreat No Surrender, one of those films that I've never seen, but kept hearing about at school. Anyone seen it? It's probably arse now. - Ian Tomkinson

Acting surly behind the counter: Pete Fenelon, Gareth Randall, Ian Tomkinson. All film's must be returned by 7pm the next day. Send your video rental memories here. Customer's forgetting to rewind their tape's will be fined.