I still go to the video store. And yes, it’s still called a Video Store. We rent/borrow DVDs – we do this because it’s convenient. The store (the last of its kind still standing in our town) is just down the road/just around the corner. And though I never meant for this to happen – I’ve hooked my 7yo son right into the world of DVDs. He watches loads of movies, collects them, keeps a list of what he’s seen and has a watchlist of what he plans to get to. And yes, it’s all very leaf/tree and not falling so far away – but I don’t think I forced this life onto him.
My parents didn’t force movies on me. But we were always allowed to watch them – I have no idea how it started. But just earlier today – as part of a trip to the local video store (or “the movie store” as Oscar calls it) I ended up in a conversation with the chap behind the counter about the death of video stores and he had been doing research into NZ’s video shops…looking into when they were a thriving thing. And as this conversation put on its anorak and spotted some trains a memory was triggered: The first VHS tape our family rented – and watched as a family – was Beverly Hills Cop.
My aunty was the early-adopter in our family. We took a Saturday afternoon drive to see the microwave she’d won in a competition. We clapped as the eggs were scrambled by invisible zapping rays. She was also the first in the extended family to have a VHS player – and the legendary Green Frog Video Store in Napier even had a separate room for Beta tapes.
Scrambled eggs and scrambled memories of many movies watched in Napier during school holidays, weekends and overnight stays – we’d sneak in what we could of the films the adults were watching and we’d delight in watching weird and wonderful things. Some we were meant to see (The Dark Crystal) some were probably weren’t (King Frat).
So flash forward a year or two (or three) and finally we have our own VHS player. It even has a cordless remote!
And though I can’t remember the name of the video store that popped up in Hastings – the first of many – I can picture us all tearing through the front door early on a Saturday morning to rent a film. You had to go early or the best ones would be gone – and we watched things like Back To The Future and Trading Places and Romancing The Stone. If we were unlucky we’d have to sit through an Out of Africa but sometimes we got to see something a little bit naughty.
The very first film we rented was Beverly Hills Cop. I’m thinking we’d seen Trading Places over at my aunty’s place already. Anyway, mum asked the video store clerk if it was appropriate. And he told her that there was a lot of use of the f-word in the first ten minutes.
So the decision was made that we could rent it and that I’d sit outside the room while they demo-ed the first 10 minutes. Then they rewound it and watched that 10-minute opening scene again with me.
I loved the film. Instantly. Eddie Murphy was hilarious.
The soundtrack was cool – and I had the album on vinyl (still have it). Years later I’d realise there’s really nothing particularly great about the soundtrack – beyond its iconic theme. But songs like Neutron Dance and particularly The Heat Is On were big deals back then.
I’m not sure I watched the movie again until the days of DVD – by then I’d collected its sequels and I watched them all again. And the first one holds up, I reckon. But maybe it wouldn’t mean anything if you hadn’t first seen it back in the day. There’s a slowness to the formula of those 80s films that would probably just seem so cheesy and grating to a lot of first-timers.
But today I thought about Beverly Hills Cop again – and in a new way. I was there in the store with my son. He was about the age I was when I saw Beverly Hills Cop. He was renting Avengers: Infinity War. And I was watching it with him – to keep a vague count of the swears (whatever it was it was less than he hears around the house on a normal day).
It’s funny how times change. And how they don’t.
I’ll miss the video store. Eventually. I don’t source all my movies from there. I still get sent DVDs to review – I told someone that this week and they laughed. I stream. I’m a Netflix-er and I have Lightbox. I have YouTube Premium. I find things if I can’t find them elsewhere. And one of the best places to find things – when you cannot find them elsewhere – is the movie store. If you’re lucky enough to have one.
We are. For now. And today the guy behind the counter gave me a strange, happy memory. Me and my folks and my brother ploughing through comedies on Saturday nights in the 1980s. The big event. After sport. Mum would make popcorn, sometimes even some hard-setting fudge. A cup of milo. Dressing gowns and slippers. The promise of staying up late. Maybe a spaghetti and cheese toastie even.
Sometimes it was the double-header of a family movie. Then bed. Then a post-midnight wake-up to watch a test-match of rugby in the middle of the night. I’d stay awake as long as I could. And sometimes it wasn’t very long at all.
Should I watch Beverly Hills Cop again? Oscar won’t be interested. Katy wouldn’t care. Maybe one day I’ll sit through the first one again and hope that it doesn’t disappoint; hoping too that it doesn’t make me instantly want to snatch up the sequels.
But I went down the wormhole in at least one way today. Reading about the Stallone rewrite of the original script, the years in development and that Mickey Rourke was the original guy touted for the role. After him it was Stallone, and James Caan, Richard Pryor too. Even Al Pacinco. But Murphy – a star of SNL and of a couple of break-out movies and his own big stand-up comedy career – was the one to get it in the end. It sent his career through the roof.
We had to work hard for that information back when I first watched Beverly Hills Cop. Now I won’t remember what I just wrote in the paragraph above by tomorrow.
I’m wasting words now. I have no idea what the point of this was – beyond the fact that Beverly Hills Cop is, on some level, one of the big movies in my life; one of the most important movies of my life. And I learned that on a day when my son announced how upset he was that he’d have to wait to see the final Avengers film. It’s finished at the theatre. It isn’t on DVD quite yet. That wait – it could be weeks, months even, is torturous to him right now. But in a minute, or even less, he’ll be planning his next movie-franchise obsession. Nostalgia will never haunt him. But he will cry when the local “movie store” closes.
Movies of My Life started life as a series of posts on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook page