If you ever skipped school to zone out to stacks of rented VHS tapes, or exhausted the wealth of movies at your local video store by 1995, then this is the perfect item for you, or someone like you. Packaged lovingly to resemble an VHS tape from days gone by, the book Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box contains some of the greatest crap-rack video covers of all time. Folks are a little more discerning about what they’ll rent these days (if they rent at all) but when VHS rentals were at their peak, all you needed to rope people into taking a movie home was an over the top box design.
Harken back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when the advent of rental videos astonished the movie-going consumer who could only feed his addiction by going to the theater or watching chopped up movies in between commercials on TV. Like vinyl, here is the revenge of another analog cast-off: the VHS is once again insinuating itself into American culture, and this book celebrates the anarchic design art of those early VHS boxes.
Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box is a feast for exploitation cognoscenti, reprinting some of the most louche, decadent, minimo-pervo artwork to ever grace a VHS box, featuring such movies as From Beyond,Penitentiary II, Beast of the Yellow Night, Cop Killers, Bay of Blood, Escape from Death Row, and Cocaine Wars. Readers will be agog at the plethora of supertrash movie titles, and then move on to rediscover the anarchic box designs. Throughout, editor and cultural historian Jacques Boyreau succinctly narrates the household-piercing story of VHS: “On par with the jukebox, disco, and neon, VHS reformatted the world’s product-intake and boosted a libertarian aesthetic that conquered TV in the same way TV conquered comic books in the 1950s, and allowed us to hold movies in our hands. Posters in the lobby could advertise, even fetishize a movie; credit sequences could identify the participants, but somehow, VHS box-art ‘became’ the iconic equivalent of the movie.”
Portable Grindhouse is published in a VHS “format,” slyly packaged inside a facsimile VHS box, and contains almost a hundred reproductions of VHS art with commentary.