Friday, September 2, 2016

VHS Summer Week #10 - Video Grab Bag #2!

Seven Dwarfs and Friends
Amvest Video Corporation

Packaged as a cheap way to shut your kids up for half an hour, Seven Dwarfs and Friends packs some true oddities into the mix. For starters, it’s hosted by Happy Hamster. Happy is a costumed hamster who is inexplicably wearing a Michael Jackson coat. (Well, not entirely inexplicable, Happy Hamster was in another Amvest venture, a rip-off of Alvin and the Chipmunks with high pitched renditions of pop songs, at least until a copyright infringement lawsuit was brought against the company.) The cartoons are perhaps even more inexplicable.
  • The Winged Scourge: Disney’s Seven Dwarfs spend 5 minutes killing mosquitoes
  • The Thrifty Pig: A Nazi wolf (complete with swastika armband!) attempts to blow down the well made house of some British pigs.
  • Mechanical Cow: An early black and white cartoon about a nightmarish robot cow.
  • Hooked Bear: Probably the only typical cartoon on the whole tape. A bear attempts to eat some fish despite the best attempts of a park ranger

"Remember to put your mom's credit card back in her purse after ordering."
After the cartoons, Happy comes back to tempt kids into joining a club and getting an official Kid Pics t-shirt. I would to find of these for real. There's a whole weird sleazy undertone to pitch and there were reportedly many people who received nothing for their membership, and in fact had their information sold to child "beauty pageants." Amvest, you are truly one for the ages.

That’s Edutainment
Basement Labs

From the group that brought you, Night of the Living Glitch (2016)  comes a beautiful transparent cassette tape housed in a transparent case. I get the feeling that That’s Edutainment is made to be enjoyed more as an object than as a video to watch. The relative difficulty in getting the tape out of the package and the brittle plastic of the tape bear this out . Nonetheless, I persisted and was awarded with 120 minutes of warped and glitched educational videos from the 1980s backed by some atmospheric electronic music. The videos range from lab safety, how to use  AOL and a sped-up selection of b-movies. It’s a really cool combination, and is perfect for having something playing in the background during a party or event. That’s Edutainment is a great example of using VHS analog aesthetics in a modern way. Every part of the video tape experience is considered, from the physical cassette itself, to the contents within. You can check out Basement Labs here:

Behind the scenes at Outpost Zeta.

Video Aspirin
Bob Greenberg

Whereas That’s Edutainment sought to evoke the weirdness of VHS deliberately, Video Aspirin achieves it naturally.  This 18 minute video is nominally supposed to help the viewer relax through a series of  massages, counting, and an acronym that makes no sense. However, its combo of kitschy music, dated clothing, cheap sets, and video effects all combine to make something very strange. I suppose that the techniques can help, but at that same time there is something unsettling about it all. Video Aspirin is an example of how the home video market was looking everywhere for a niche to fill. It is through unusual creations like this that VHS had and still has a far reaching cultural impact. There is simply nothing like it.


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