27th Jun2013

‘Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS’ Book Review

by Phil Wheat

Port-Grind

From author Jacques Boyreau comes Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box. Released by Fantagraphics Books, the tome is a trip through the good ol’ days of VHS, looking back at what is very quickly looking like a lost art.

Back in the 80s I used to spend hours perusing the shelves of my local video shop in awe at the wonderous and lurid artwork that stood before me. Those were the days when you only had the box art and synopsis by which to judge the quality of a film, and more often than not you’d end up disappointed as the film was never as good as you imagined from seeing the cover. With Portable Grindhouse author Jacques Boyreau has captured lightning in a bottle once more, offering up that same feeling of wonderment – only this time its in the palm of your hand.

Each VHS tape takes up two pages – the one on the right features the cover artwork while the left features the back cover of the box with the obligatory synopsis. Some of the VHS boxes on display appear to be worn or faded from being left out in the shop window and there are more than a few with stickers denoting price or genre, both of which really help capture the feel of an old video store. Portable Grindhouse gathers together a wierd and varied collection of VHS covers from the US  and covers a wide variety of genres. Yes, the book does predominantly cover those films many would consider trash, b-movie, or grindhouse, but it also features some of the more esoteric videos that have been released over the years – including a Gary Coleman safety video and a VHS tape on how Norman Schwarzkopf won the Iraq war! Its an eclectic mix, and one that works…

If you’ve read The Art of the Nasty or Darkside’s Video Nasties you’ll know what to expect from Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box. Whilst this is a very American take on the subject matter there is still a lot to enjoy in the book – and its fun to look back and laugh at some of the more ridiculous artwork that accompanies some of the schlocky movies included in this tome.

If you’re a movie fan you can do a lot worst than track down a copy of Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box, it’s available tobuy now at Amazon.

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