Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Au Revoir, Xploited Cinema
One thing I swore I’d never do when I started writing was to begin a piece with “Kids today will never understand…” and do it without its two supporting trestles, irony and mockery. But today I grant myself a special dispensation.
Kids today will never understand what it was like to love a video store. Unless you came of movie-watching age in the early 80s, there’s no way for you to have known their importance. I’ve been quite happy with Netflix, but it’s a mailing service – a corporate entity unable to give or receive emotion of any sort. And don’t get me started on the chain monstrosities like Blockbuster; their stomp and scorch policy all but killed off the neighborhood video store, allowing them to pick up massive amounts of inventory, many of which were – and some still are – out of print. The stores I’m talking about were around before all that. It may sound ridiculous, but the stores I’m talking about actually had character. Their inventories reflected the tastes of the store manager and staff; going through the aisles was like going through the massive collection of another fan. Sure, there was always the necessity of bulk purchases of the blockbuster titles, but the fun came in combing the horror section to find lots of Hammer studio titles, but less American slashers. Or maybe they would group the releases from Continental and Paragon Home Video together, as their glossy, oversized boxes seemed to create a genre of their own. I can still remember the day that Video Fleet got rid of their Beta tapes. And you could always get great recommendations; maybe my memories are becoming more idealized, but the people who ran those small stores really seemed to love movies and were actually able to recommend titles based on the tastes of specific customers.
The era of the brick & mortar video rental store is quickly coming to a close. Internet rentals and sales is king now, with a digital downloading future just around the corner. Just yesterday, I received the very sad news that one of the few e-tailers that carried on the neighborhood video store tradition is nearing the end of its run. Xploited Cinema has been around for many years, run by the amazingly knowledgeable Tony Simonelli. Xploited sells DVDs, soundtracks, books and magazines, and even HD discs from all over the world. And while they specialize in the horror/cult arena, their incredibly wide ranging catalog covers Bergman and Kurosawa as well as Fulci and Bava.
It was always possible to buy bootleg DVDs from any one of a hundred grey-market sellers, either online or at a horror convention, and their quality ranged from poor to downright crummy. Xploited only sells the genuine article; while it’s easy enough to order UK discs from Amazon UK, it’s unlikely that they’ll have Tony’s detailed notations, telling you what you need to play it, or what this particular version has that others may not. And in the unlikely event that you had a question that wasn’t addressed on the page, Tony was always happy to answer any questions via email. But just as importantly, Xploited was dependable – if they said it was “in stock”, it was, and all my orders (and there were many) shipped immediately and safely.
The bad news can be found here. They’ll still exist for the immediate future, but catalog titles aren’t going to be restocked and there will be no more new releases. The news came as a double shock because just 2 days before hearing of their closing, I received my most recent package of goodies from them. For the sake of posterity, and to show just how wide their product net was cast, it was:
1 x [REC] (16X9 PAL REGION 2 RELEASE)
1 x THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (BLU-RAY)
1 x ESCAPE TO ATHENA (BLU-RAY)
1 x COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT (16X9 PAL REGION 2 RELEASE)
1 x THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER (16X9 PAL REGION 2 RELEASE)