.Awhile ago I noticed the good guys over at the VHS Preservation Society had Roger Watkin's cruelly defaced classic Last House on Dead End Street in their catalog. Already owning Barrel's now out-of-print DVD set and several import discs, I ordered it with the expectation the source of the DVD-R would be the extremely scarce Sun Video VHS. Unfortunately the copy was identical to Barrel's feature disc so I shot over a kind e-mail detailing my disappointment. They responded with an apology and offer of a free title of my choosing to which I never followed up on since the quick apology sufficed.
To get brutally honest, despite their name, the outfit is really just another in the long line of roguish rare flick suppliers that have existed almost as long as consumers had a means of viewing home video. Yet still using a DVD rip while bearing such a name just seemed to negate their admirable gimmick. However, there are understandable hurtles to providing a copy of the actual North American VHS.
First, the Sun Video carton is simply hard-as-fucking-hell to find. Unless you essentially hit the Powerball of tape collecting or know someone, prices online tend soar beyond the long defunct McKinley denomination. Then there's the matter of several different versions of the film coming from Sun Video with only one being fully uncut. The distributor didn't denote this anywhere on the box or cassette, so even if you get incredibly lucky, there's a better chance the copy is censor scissored than not.
Well, several weeks ago I received word that VHSPS rectified the situation by finally upgrading by "downgrading" to the genuine uncut Sun Video. And boy, does the presentation look like vintage analog shit of the highest half inch order. Nearly every problem that can arise from the format rears its ugly head along with a multitude of crazy print issues. Scratch and fleck damage frolics constantly across the frame always threatening to totally eradicate the picture. Some scenes which should have black shadows instead burn with electric green hues. The lo-fi sound quality resembles an ancient vinyl that was flung along asphalt and then left out in the sun.
Seeing Dead End Street the way it was experienced for decades really puts Barrel's herculean digital effort into perspective, but it also brings back the infamy the film conjured. In this greasy light, it's easier to see how seemingly no one could figure out who were behind the film and believe the wild rumors of Mexican drug cartels being responsible for "real" murders depicted. So I must extend thanks to VHSPS for living up to their name and making an important piece of this notorious piece of filth's history more readily available to those without hefty bank accounts to throw at the actual original VHS. Any fan of the film needs to have this disc sitting next to their Barrel set or if you're uninitiated, prepare for one hell of a trip.