Living on Video: Cruisin’ High (1976) and Street Trash (1987)

Video Store 1987

Time for a new feature, this one inspired by Lefty Limbo’s find above. He nails all the signs of the times in his post, and between us I think we identified all the visible movies, except for the one at the bottom left corner of notorious Psycho rip-off I Dismember Mama (the title spoofs I Remember Mama, a 1944 Broadway drama adapted for the screen in 1948). We put the year at 1987 based on the Witchboard and Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors counter displays.

I worked in a video store at the time, and I watched every one of these movies multiple times, customers be damned. (Once, for somebody’s birthday, we had a slumber party in the store and watched Videodrome and other “racy” fare after the parental chaperone nodded off.)

For most people interested in non-mainstream films, the VHS box was the only thing to go on when deciding what to rent. Sensational art (a detail of the theatrical poster) and creative blurbs often were the difference between profit and loss. A video wasn’t like a book or a comic—you couldn’t have a peek inside and see if it was worth your time and cash.

So I’m going to post full VHS cover spreads—what you would have seen while perusing the empty boxes on the aisles—of flicks from the era.

Cruisin' High

“In their brutal world, survival is the only grade that counts.” “Check out the scene at CRUISIN’ HIGH… gang warfare is the passing grade!” A little tear of appreciation just formed in the corner of my eye.

Cruisin’ High was originally released as Cat Murkil and the Silks in 1976. (Find a short and sweet review here.) The term “inner city,” with all its negative connotations, entered the vernacular between ’75 and ’85, when street gangs and violent crime were at their peak. Vigilantes were in (Guardian Angels, Bernhard Goetz, Dirty Harry, Paul Kersey, Mack Bolan, The Punisher), and the very concept of gangs scared the living crap out of all the people in the suburbs who promptly rented the movies designed to exploit their fear. “Warr-ee-urrs, come out to PLAY-EE-AAAY…

Street Trash

In Street Trash, the owner of a liquor store finds a stash of bad booze in his basement and, humanitarian that he is, sells it to the area winos. Problem: the bad booze literally melts the bums. It’s fantastic, a minor horror classic. The blurb is clunky, but the ingeniously trashy art makes up for it. Dude is melting into the toilet, people!

(First image originally via Pinterest; VHS cover images via VHS Wasteland)

3 Responses to “Living on Video: <em>Cruisin’ High</em> (1976) and <em>Street Trash</em> (1987)”

  1. 1 leftylimbo May 1, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks for the link back! That’s so cool that you worked at a video store back in the day. I always dreamt of doing that (or working at Amoeba Records). I meant to add to my post that the small neighborhood shops were sometimes the best places to find obscure and weird flicks.

    In Westchester there was a tiny spot called VideoTEC, which I used to normally pass up for The Wherehouse. One day i decided to drop in just for the heck of it, and it turned out that the guy who ran the place was a total moviephile, into anything and everything out there. He introduced me to a whole bunch of indie flicks which I would’ve never found at The Wherehouse. And it’s not like he was a movie snob, either…he was really friendly and easy to talk to.

    I think he was actually happy to run into someone who was looking for something different. Nearly all the people that came in to the shop were looking for standard fare, or the latest and greatest blockbusters on tape. Some of the tapes he would hand me were totally dusty from sitting on the shelf, but they were a treat to watch.

    Speaking of VHS tapes and dust: man, whoever designed those clear plastic “tape protector” sleeves (the ones that you squeezed on the spines so that the tape would come out) must’ve made serious $$$ from that.

  2. 2 2W2N May 1, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    We were in the suburbs, so really the only thing we had to go on was these boxes. Luckily for me, I could just take movies home after work (it’s not like Dawn of the Dead and Battle Beyond the Stars were flying off the shelves) and see what they were all about.

    There was a liquor store next to the video store, so we would lock the door, pop over for candy and Coke, and pop back into work. Five years I had to wear those goddamn braces.

    • 3 narvo September 18, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      Wow, 2 years later and I made mention of that VIDEOTEC store again on another post. Hey, what can I say, that place really made an impression on me. I wonder where that dood went though. Can’t remember his name…

      Anyways, revisiting this post, you couldn’t have said it better when you said “the VHS box was the only thing to go on when deciding on what to rent.” Bigtime, especially when it came to non-mainstream films. Wow. I just took a look at the box covers you posted above and it all came back to me. I want to make framed posters of all those movies!

      Your whole “lock the door and pop over to the liquor store” quip is straight outta Clerks. Daheck?! You’ve gotta have a bunch of stories about working at the video store. Share, share!

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