A documentary on one of the hallmarks of the early home video era — the erotic thriller — has been acquired by Yellow Veil Pictures ahead of its world premiere at the Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans, which opens March 30.
We Kill for Love — written, produced and directed by Anthony Penta — is slated for domestic release later this year, with an international sales launch at the upcoming Marche Du Film in May.
The film also will get a DVD and Blu-ray Disc release later in the year.
We Kill For Love chronicles the birth and development of the erotic thriller genre, which soared to popularity in the early 1990s and revitalized the videocassette rental business prior to the launch of DVD. Erotic thrillers combined bodily pleasure with danger, and while some films, such as 1987’s Fatal Attraction and 1992’s Basic Instinct, were box office successes, most erotic thrillers were produced and released exclusively to the home video market by such companies as Prism Entertainment and Academy Home Entertainment.
“We Kill for Love is part film essay, part documentary, and part casefile,” Penta said. “It’s a record of my prolonged investigation into a forgotten but once lucrative film movement — the direct-to-video erotic thriller — as well as a fantasia on its themes. For six years I tracked down the prime suspects of these films and I recorded their stories. I traveled the country to interview the academics and film writers whose books and articles explored its mysteries. I’m very happy to be partnering with Yellow Veil Pictures on the release of this film, and I’m sure it will serve as a permanent monument to not only a lost film subgenre, but a bygone era of American cinema.”
Joe Yanick, co-founder of Yellow Veil Pictures, added, “We Kill For Love is a home run for erotic thriller fans. It’s one of the most in-depth looks at genre cinema and serves as more than just a love letter but pushes the conversation and spotlights films that have often lost out to their more glamorous theatrical counterparts.”
The film stars filmmakers Andrew Stevens, Jim Wynorski, and Fred Olen Ray; film stars Monique Parent, Amy Lindsay, and Kira Reed Lorsch; film scholars Linda Ruth Williams and Abbey Bender; and others. Media Play News publisher and editorial director Thomas K. Arnold also was interviewed for the film.
It’s been said that there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Challenging, maybe. Difficult to execute, perhaps. Needs a little tweaking — don’t they all?
With these and other caveats in mind, let me share with you something I’ve been thinking about ever since I wrote that exhaustive two-part series on 25 years of digital entertainment in the March and April issues of Media Play News.
A museum dedicated to home entertainment, opening somewhere in the Los Angeles area in time for home video’s 50th anniversary in 2027.
It was in 1977 that an entrepreneur named Andre Blay licensed 50 movies from 20th Century Fox, including MASH and The French Connection, and released them on videocassette under his own Magnetic Video banner. To Hollywood’s surprise, sales boomed — and so did rentals, as savvy retailers brought the pricey cassettes and began renting them out for a dollar or two a night.
The VHS rental boom gave way to the DVD sales phenomenon, after which the business went digital — bringing us right up to the present, with streaming by far the dominant form of home media consumption, alongside legacy business models such as TVOD and the physical disc.
The Museum of Home Entertainment would celebrate all of this. I’ve already drawn up a list of potential exhibits in my mind, beginning with early attempts to bring movies into the home — before Blay, companies such as Blackhawk Films marketed vintage black-and-white features, mostly comedies, on 16mm, 8mm and Super 8 film.
From there, exhibits would focus on Blay and the explosive success of Magnetic Video; the VHS-Betamax format war; the early video rental retail pioneers ; the battle over First Sale; early video labels such as Media Home Entertainment and Vestron; the direct-to-video phenomenon; the erotic thriller; Rentrak and studio attempts to share rental revenue; the rise and fall of Erol’s, National, Blockbuster, and the other national chains; Warren Lieberfarb and DVD; the sellthrough revolution, enabled by DVD and led by the mass merchants; the birth of Netflix as a disc-by-mail rental service; Redbox; the Blu-ray Disc/HD-DVD format war; the heyday of Blu-ray and early attempts at connectivity; first attempts at streaming; the streaming boom; and the shift toward ad-supported streaming.
The scale has yet to be determined. It could be as simple as repurposed space on the USC campus, administered by the university’s famed film school. Or, on the other extreme, it could be a grand standalone museum, run by a foundation, that could turn into a significant tourist draw — maybe not the Getty, but not Ripley’s, either.
So … there you have it. My big, fat idea, something I’ve been thinking about for a while and now want to throw out there to see what people think. Please share your thoughts or email me privately if this is something you might like to get involved with.
The comedy VHYES is coming out on Blu-ray and DVD July 14 from Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Shot entirely on VHS video, VHYES takes viewers back to a simpler time, when 12-year-old Ralph mistakenly records home videos and his favorite late-night shows over his parents’ wedding tape. The result is a nostalgic wave of home shopping clips, censored pornography, and nefarious true-crime tales that threaten to unkindly rewind Ralph’s reality.
The film was an official selection at Fantastic Fest, the Denver Film Festival, the Cine-World Film Festival and the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
In media interviews following his April 1 hiring announcement, Jason Kilar, former founding CEO of Hulu and new boss at WarnerMedia Entertainment, said the next 10 years matter more for him than the previous 85 years. Kilar, who helped start Hulu in 2007, left the streaming service in 2013 to start an ad-supported video platform called Vessel, which was shuttered in 2016.
“I actually believe this isn’t about WarnerMedia; it’s as much about Disney and NBCUniversal and others,” Kilar told Variety. “I actually think these companies are going to look so different within the next decade out of necessity and out of opportunity.”
Strong words for a newcomer working for a company whose name and content library are all about legacy. But, then, the 48-year-old Kilar’s career has largely focused on emerging technology within the entertainment space.
Kilar, who begins his position on May 1, was also instrumental in launching Hulu Plus, which enabled viewers to pay extra to gain access to the most recently televised episodes in addition all episodes from every past season.
“We are still in the early innings of customers worldwide starting to watch content on demand,” Kilar said. “Under the hood from a tech standpoint, it’s very important to get that right, invest in it. Those are the two very important things.”
Kilar joins WarnerMedia as it readies the May launch of HBO Max during a global virus pandemic when domestic unemployment claims skyrocket and household discretionary spending comes to a halt. Kilar believes the lower cost of digital distribution bodes well during economic turbulence.
“The tech is hard to do but once you get it right, the cost of distribution in a tech environment like digital, is that variable costs are so small it allows you to go global,” he said.
At the same time, Kilar said he respects the value of existing distribution channels, calling the expedited release of some theatrical releases into retail channels a “necessity” due to theaters shutting down worldwide.
In an interesting note, Kilar said his early days at Amazon included melding existing video technology with e-commerce.
“I wrote the business plan for Amazon getting into the video retail business,” he said. “VHS. Everyone wrote off the VHS business when the DVD showed up on the scene, but the value of VHS business was incredibly robust.”
Indeed, Amazon reportedly only stopped selling VHS titles in 2019, transferring ASIN#’s (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers) applied to VHS to related DVDs or Blu-ray Discs.
Vidiots, the iconic L.A. video store-turned-film nonprofit, will relaunch in fall of 2020 as an expanded entertainment, social and community space with an adjacent video store in a new home at the historic Eagle Theatre in Los Angeles, according to the Vidiots Foundation.
Restoring the 90-year-old, 200-seat Eagle Theatre as an independent theater with state-of-the-art sound and projection (35mm and DCP), Vidiots will offer a program of repertory titles, new independents, hard-to-find gems, classics and community-driven programs. An adjacent storefront will house Vidiots’ 50,000-plus DVD, Blu-ray and rare VHS collection for rental. The location will also have a multi-purpose, second screening room for film programs, educational workshops, and special events.
Vidiots is currently fundraising and identifying Cornerstone Donors and Corporate Partners for naming rights and is also inviting First-In Founding Members. Founding Members to date include Katie Aselton and Mark Duplass, Jess Wu Calder and Keith Calder, Emily Cook, Mackenzie Davis, Rian Johnson and Karina Longworth, Phil Lord, Nate Moore, and Morgan Neville. Vidiots friend and supporter Jason Reitman is donating a 35mm projection system.
“Vidiots relaunching on the cusp of our 35th birthday is a triumph for Los Angeles film history and cements the legacy of Vidiots founders Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber as innovators in L.A. film culture,” said Vidiots executive director Maggie Mackay in a statement. “Bringing the Eagle Theatre back and providing L.A. with a long-needed new film space is thrilling. We’re deeply grateful for our valued programming partners present and future, our expert advisors, and especially our First-In Founding Members whose generosity and passionate belief in our mission have made this relaunch possible. Vidiots at the Eagle is a community space created by and for film lovers and filmmakers. We welcome and encourage everyone who believes in our mission to join us as we work towards opening in fall 2020.”
“Los Angeles should have more movie theaters, not fewer, and Vidiots has come to give all us punch drunk film lovers another place to call home where we can roam the racks. Thank you! So grateful to be a small part of this evolving institution,” said Reitman in a statement.
“We’re thrilled that Vidiots is moving into this next chapter and that our unique library of films will once again be made available to the public, especially in this era of streaming where choices are increasingly limited,” said Vidiots founders Polinger and Tauber in a statement. “Vidiots at the Eagle Theatre is a truly exciting and ambitious plan that revolves around our commitment to archival preservation, education, and accessibility, while maintaining and growing our passionate community of film lovers.”
“When we first moved in together and merged our belongings, we became a two-VCR family — and this was in 2013,” said Longworth and Johnson in a statement. “VHS and video stores were integral to both of us becoming who we are, and we couldn’t be happier to support the evolution of Vidiots and its media library. In a world remade by streaming, it’s never been more important to preserve access to physical media for all.”
“Their efforts towards creating community and preservation made Vidiots legendary in L.A. and I’m so excited to see their philosophy and energy reincarnated in a brick-and-mortar film space on the East Side. I can’t wait to spend all my time there,” said Davis in a statement.
Recently, Vidiots launched a programming partnership with Alamo Drafthouse L.A. with the series “Tales From the Video Store.” Vidiots is currently presenting a monthly 16mm series with Projections at the Bootleg Theater. New programming partnerships with The Black List, The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, and Cinema Eye Honors will launch in late in 2019/early 2020.
Future programming and partner organizations include Art House Convergence, Film Independent, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Outfest, Oxy Arts and the Occidental Media Arts & Culture Department, Sundance Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, Women in Film, and Vidéothèque.
Vidiots was opened as an alternative video store in 1985 by L.A. natives Polinger and Tauber. For 32 years Vidiots served its community via the iconic Santa Monica storefront, which shuttered in 2017 in the wake of rising costs. With the support of Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures (which became a major donor in 2015, along with Vidiots customer Dr. Leonard Lipman), Vidiots was able to store its collection and devise an extensive plan for sustainable relaunch in a new home.
Vidiots’ new home, originally conceived as a vaudeville stage, first opened in May 1929 as The Yosemite Theatre. After a few short days, the Yosemite re-opened as an independent silent movie theater, and a year later it transitioned to sound. In 1940, The Yosemite became The Eagle Theatre. From 1976 to 1979, the theater ran as a Pussycat, part of the adult cinema chain. In 1983, The Eagle once again became a traditional independent cinema, and operated into the 1990s before becoming a series of churches.
With almost-10,000 square feet of entertainment and educational space, Vidiots will operate seven days a week and offer daily screenings and special programs, the full video store with DVD and Blu-ray rentals, concessions, and a light menu with beer and wine. The main theater (200+ seats, a stage, 35mm, DCP, and state-of-the-art sound) will host screenings and tastemaker events. A second, smaller screening and event space (approximately 50 seats with DCP projection) will host screenings, workshops, and receptions.
Recalling the VHS rental era when the video store reigned, Mill Creek Entertainment in January will release on Blu-ray Disc six of the time periods’ classics, featuring such stars as John Candy, Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Sporting retro art mimicking the VHS release, the Blu-ray collection includes Happy Birthday to Me, Silent Rage, Last Action Hero, Hardbodies, Who’s Harry Crumb? and Krull.
The mystery-shocker Happy Birthday to Me (1981) follows popular high school senior Virginia Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson), who survives a freak accident, but suffers from memory loss and traumatic blackouts. As she attempts to resume a normal life, something terrible is happening — her friends are ruthlessly murdered one-by-one. Will she be the next victim or is she the killer? The terrifying truth is finally uncovered at Virginia’s 18th birthday party.
The release is restored with the original soundtrack.
Chuck Norris, six-time World Karate Champion, stars in Silent Rage (1982), his first suspense film, as the tough, street-fighting sheriff of a small Texas town terrorized by a psychotic killer. He is faced with the dilemma of stopping the invincible murderer, made virtually indestructible through genetic engineering. A young group of researchers are responsible for developing the serum, and the head of the research institute is determined to continue the genetic experiments regardless of the consequences. Norris’s sheriff singlehandedly routs a dozen brutal bikers from a truck stop hangout, while rekindling an old romance with Alison Halman (Toni Kalem), a researcher at the institute.
In Last Action Hero (1993), young movie fan Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien) knows the first three Jack Slater movies by heart, and the fourth one is just about to be released. With the aid of a magical ticket, while watching the opening action sequence during an advance screening, Danny is transported into the movie. On the other side of the silver screen, Danny becomes the sidekick of Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the toughest cop on the police force. Complications arise when one of the bad guys takes Danny’s magic ticket and escapes out of the movie into the real world. Danny and his hero must chase the arch villain in the real world, a world where evil guys can actually win.
The film, which includes the song “Big Gun” written for the film by AC/DC, features a number of cameo appearances by stars inlcuding Chevy Chase, Jim Belushi, Sharon Stone, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Damon Wayans.
In the classic teen comedy Hardbodies (1984), three middle-aged geezers move into a swinging beach house and hire a young stud to teach them how to score with the local beauties. The ‘80s band Vixen and hundreds of Southern California swimsuit models co-star in the cult comedy originally made for broadcast on the Playboy Channel but picked up for theatrical release by Columbia. Stars include Grant Cramer, Teal Roberts, Courtney Gains, Kane Hodder and Gary Wood.
The sci-fi fantasy Krull (1983) explores a mystical time and place that belongs to neither the past nor the present, where extraordinary creatures of myth work their incredible magic, and where a horrific, omnipotent Beast is the ruler. Prince Colwyn sets out on a daring mission to rescue his young bride who is held captive by the Beast, but slayers and alien beings under the command of the Beast oppose him at every turn. Colwyn must first reach a faraway cavern to recover the legendary Glaive, a flying blade capable of phenomenal powers.
Directed by Oscar nominee Peter Yates, the film stars Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Liam Neeson and Francesca Annis.
In Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989), John Candy stars as the bumbling private eye Crumb. When Harry, the last of the great sleuthing Crumbs, finally gets a shot at a frontpage kidnapping, it’s only because his boss Eliot Draisen (Jeffrey Jones) doesn’t want the case solved. At stake is the gorgeous daughter of multi-millionaire P.J. Downing, a $10 million ransom, and Draisen’s mistress (Annie Potts). Attired in a bizarre array of goofball disguises, from a Hungarian hairdresser to a hefty housewife, Harry is determined to crack the case.