First it was vinyl records, then cassette tapes. Ralph Apel goes straight to VHS with his screening, It Came From The VCR: "Starcrash." The poorly executed "Star Wars" clone stars David Hasselhoff and Christopher Plummer, and its showing at Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, a nonprofit art house theater, on Thursday. (Tickets here.)
It sounds like a totally hipster thing, but Apel is earnestly in love with the format. He says, "VHS tapes have blown my mind ever since I first learned that I could pause Star Wars and start back up where I left off after dinner. I loved movies so much and never wanted to miss a beat. I've never been able to let go of that love of being able to stop and analyze film."
He finds all his VHS tapes from local thrift stores ("Orange County has a large variety") and his collection includes B movies, exercise videos, religious children's propaganda, DIY tapes and even discarded home movies. "Since VHS tapes are becoming obsolete, people are donating them at a feverish pace. The average tape costs about 50 cents to a dollar, so it's really easy to get lost in a shopping spree," he says.
A serendipitous meeting with Logan Crow (who runs The Frida) brought the idea of the VHS series to life. Apel says, "Since I am hitting the ground running with this, I couldn't think of a better movie to start with than StarCrash! It has everything that you could want in a B movie. It has not so epic space battles, fake Lightsabers, leather bikinis, robots, campy effects, David Hasselhoff and Academy Award winner, Christopher Plummer."
After the jump, Apel's favorite VHS movies.
"An unbelievable action cop-drama shot on video in and around LA that deals with the death of a police officer's hooker sister and drug lords. It's got it all including a makeshift tank! The acting is so bad yet so riveting that this tops my list of movies in my collection."
"Never has a Dan Haggerty film been so confusing. It's as if the Matrix was made by a pack of apes. The movie is so disjointed that I don't even think the filmmakers know what's going on. I wish I had the time to study this movie, because I assume that trying to figure out the plot is more rewarding than finishing a Rubix Cube."
3. Sassy Wantalot's Amazing Journey to Bible Times
"Comedy skits about Bible stories that are as funny as their cardboard backgrounds. Features classic characters from the Bible such as Abraham, Moses and the lovable rapping M.C. Scriber! The puns are so awful that you can't help but laugh at them."
4. Deadly Prey
"The classic "Most Dangerous Game" story, but this time with jean shorts! This film is such a VHS classic that they ended up making a sequel in 2013, Deadliest Prey. This is the perfect movie if you are looking for guns, dismemberments and insane one-liners. When I think of bad '80s action, Deadly Prey is at the top of the list."
5. For Your Height Only
"A Filipino James Bond spoof starring the 2'9" action star Weng Weng. This movie would be boring if it weren't for the fact that every second Weng Weng is on film, I am trying to compare him to other onscreen objects. He is shorter than the door handle on a VW Beetle!"
6. The Humanoid
"Similar to StarCrash, this 1979 Star Wars clone features a villain who could stand in for Darth Vader's less cool cousin. My favorite part is that it stars two actors from my favorite 007 film from the '70s, The Spy Who Loved Me: Richard Kiel and Barbara Bach. I can't get enough of that robot dog!"
7. Robo Vampire
"Japanese jumping vampires are thwarted by a RoboCop-esque character that is pieced together with plenty of electrical tape. You have not lived until you have seen clips from this film."
"Another low-budget action film made in the Philippines and starring Richard Harrison who, at one point in his career, turned down the Clint Eastwood role in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Oops. This is a pretty run-of-the-mill Filipino action film, but between the VHS cover and the villain with the golden claw, this film is absolutely worth checking out. I really like how the filmmakers lifted Jerry Goldsmith's score to Capricorn One."
9. Extreme Vengeance
"A revenge picture in which the bad guy comes after the cop who put him in jail. A film filled with twists, turns and tons of bad acting. It's great to see a movie that contains multiple montages of LA driving in the '80s. It brings back a lot of nostalgia."
10. Babes in Toyland
"The classic Christmas story starring Keanu Reeves, Drew Barrymore and Pat Morita. I like how this movie has a lot of stars, when they weren't stars. This has post-ET Drew Barrymore and pre Bill and Ted Keanu Reeves. Pat Morita may have been the only person at the time that was currently in a successful movie franchise. That's probably why he got the "special guest appearance" credit on the VHS box. "