Capturing the Spirit of ’80s Cinema

Given how many kids of the 1970s and 1980s are creating the movies and TV shows of today, it’s no surprise that retro is in. And that includes making new products look like they were released a long time ago.

For example, shopping at Barnes & Noble I came across a behind-the-scenes book for the Netflix ’80s nostalgia-fest “Stranger Things.” The book was purposely made to look like it had been worn down by the ravages of 30 years on shelves, and even included a transparent plastic book cover not unlike what one would have found in their school library. The book looked so beaten up that its makers felt the need to include a sticker on the cover to tell potential buyers that it was meant to look like that.

On the video side of things, ’80s retro is covered by three simple letters: VHS. It would be futile for any studio trying to capture the spirit of the early days of home video without evoking the memory of video stores and VHS tapes.

Going back to “Stranger Things,” Netflix has released Blu-rays of the two seasons of the series (as Target exclusives) with packaging meant to resemble old hardshell VHS cases you’d get at a rental store.

The MVD Rewind Collection brings ’70s and ’80s cult hits to Blu-ray using box art meant to evoke a VHS box, complete with faux stickers with messages like “Be Kind Rewind.”

Even non-movies are getting the VHS nostalgia treatment. The Disney Store is selling journals and handbags designed to resemble the classic clamshell VHS cases for its animated movies such as The Lion King and Aladdin.

Now Mill Creek is getting into the game with box art that makes it look as if the VHS is slipping out of its case. The effect comes via a slipcover that takes advantage of the relative wider dimensions of the Blu-ray compared with VHS, to basically put authentic-looking VHS art on one side of the cover, with the simulated tape on the other.

Since it’s just a slipcover it’s mostly just an optical illusion, but it looks cool. The Blu-ray itself is a standard case with non VHS-styled poster art. In some cases the Blu-ray appears to be a previously released standard Mill Creek release repackaged in the retro VHS case to give it some eye-catching pizazz.

The first batch of six films includes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Action Hero, Chuck Norris’ Silent Rage, John Candy’s Who’s Harry Crumb?, the fantasy epic Krull, the horror movie Happy Birthday to Me and the erotic comedy Hardbodies.

These are bare-bones releases without bonus features, but for most of them it’s enough just to have them on Blu-ray. What Chuck Norris fan isn’t going to want to put Silent Rage on their shelf?

In a precursor to “Walker, Texas Ranger,” Norris plays a small-town Texas sheriff taking on a serial killer.

Who’s Harry Crumb? was a great vehicle for John Candy, in which he played a goofball detective in the Inspector Clouseau mold who bumbled through cases and solved them through luck and blind chance.

And of course there’s Last Action Hero, a movie that was in many ways ahead of its time in how it deconstructed the action genre and pointed a satirical lens at Hollywood in a way mid-’90s audiences might not have been ready to embrace. Or, maybe its earnestness and meta-humor mark it as more clever than good, though it does feature appearances from future “Game of Thrones” star Charles Dance as the bad guy, and Ian McKellen as the grim reaper.

The Retro VHS Blu-rays were originally released as Walmart exclusives in October but are getting a wide release Jan. 15. They carry a list price of $14.98.

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