Ignited nearly 3 months ago, the burning controversy persists about Charles Band’s Wizard Video big box re-issues. And now, with VHSCollector.com’s Paul Zamarelli creating a fervent and highly detailed video in an attempt to debunk the authenticity of the boxes, the debate has now been brought back to the forefront of the Videvore community bringing about a split of opinions.
Chris Alexander, former Rue Morgue contributor and now Fangoria Ed-in-Chief, took the initiative to contact Band about the entire ordeal, and consequently, we now are exposed to Band’s rebuttal to all of the accusations of fraud:
Clickity-click the image to be magically whisked away to Fango’s site and hear Paul and Chuck’s side of the story! Or just CLICK HERE.
I watched the Zamarelli video myself yesterday, and after it was done, my suspicions were aroused. You’ve got to admire Paul’s passion and acute attention to detail. Clearly, it’s his expertise and experience in tape collecting that enabled him to make such a poignant argument. However, the video was expressly created to prove that these boxes are fakes, and Zamarelli didn’t give much argument to other possibilities within this situation, dismissing any other argument that didn’t support his claim. This is perfectly fine, too. When trying to make a case, it’s best not to beat up on your own convictions.
But now we have Charles Band’s two cents and inside scoop as it were. And with it, we can take a full look at what’s really going on here, though even with his comments, it’s not looking too sunny for these re-issues:
The accusation is that these boxes were recently produced and are in no way original from the 80s. Band states that this is absurd, mainly for the reason that in order to reprint these boxes, you’d have to make upwards of several thousand units. One thing is for sure. These big boxes aren’t easy to make. There are high cost set-up charges involved with this type of printing, and it goes by each job. To do one is feasible for sure. Doing multiple artworks (aka jobs), each with its own set-up cost is arduous and expensive. I don’t have a re-issue myself, but I assume it’s offset printing. That said, there have been big box releases lately (think Troma’s TOXIC AVENGER and THE TURNPIKE KILLER) that have done short runs,but again it was just one short-run job. Band may not even be privy to the outlets used by Troma and New York Horror Productions… or he just might be playing it that way. It’s truly hard to tell. Either way, we know it can be done… but does Band know that? And does he know that we know?
Another valid and intriguing argument posited by Zamarelli is about the artwork itself. He shows the original scanned at 600dpi juxtaposed against the re-issue scanned at the same resolution. There is clear deterioration with the re-issue as if it was a scan of scan. Think of it the same way a VHS works: every time you dub it (in the case of the artwork scan it), it gets dumbed down a little; it loses some integrity. This is all factual and a great catch by Zamarelli. However, Band states that these were printed at various places across the world, ranging from Italy to an unspecified place on the East Coast (probably ‘cause he can’t remember – it was 25 years ago!), and when it comes to the printing world, things always vary. The final product is all dependent on the printer’s abilities and quality, and most importantly, the source material. Since these artworks were being bounced around from printer to printer, you have to wonder what the source was for these printers. Could it be that all Band had at the time was another big box that had already been printed since the original artwork was lost in a stack of papers or slipped into the yawning abyss? It’s believable, indeed. I’ve seen it firsthand, too: I worked for an indie label for years, and if we wanted to repress something, but the original art files were missing, we’d have to take from an already existing product. Hence, you have degradation and loss of clarity on the file (art). Ultimately, what I’m really driving at here is that though the blurred artwork is a strong argument, the printers did vary substantially and the re-purposing of an already existing box art to create more could have happened at any time. But the real killer here (and it seems to be the stake in the heart of it all), is the difference of the actual Wizard Logo on the re-issue boxes and how it’s radically different from those on the original boxes. Is it possible that these boxes were produced with a different logo? Personally, I think it’s doubtful. The different logo is probably the most devastating piece of evidence in this debate.
And then there’s the argument of the paper stock. Zamarelli states and shows that his original big box paper stock is much different than the re-issued version. The look, texture, etc.; it’s all noticeably different. He also details the fact that he’s had several copies of this film pass through his hands, and he still hasn’t seen one that looks or feels exactly like the re-issue, leading him to believe even more that these are phony reprints. I’d be suspicious, too. But, as I stated above, and as Band has confirmed, the boxes were printed in different places at different times. Could it be that Paul has never come across another copy quite like the recently distributed ones? I think there’s a fighting chance, yes. Do I think it kills his argument? No, I don’t. Another thing people have stated about the new versions is that it’s yellowed and smells old, true to the way aged paper should be. It’s incredibly tough to fake something like this, to create fake aging with paper. Paul does mention that Band could have went for old paper to print on, but man, if he did, that’s one devilish plot on his account… and if he’s going to all that trouble, why the hell would he create them with a clearly different logo? It’s perplexing, indeed.
Ultimately, I still don’t know what to think about it all, and at this point, I think the argument is getting exhausting. I think lots of people are fully convinced that these are fakes, and that will never go away. And I think the people that are going to buy them just want their big box any way they can get it… and they’re cool with that! If you’re angry with Charles Band because you think he’s a liar, then so be it. There’s little any of us can do except voice our opinion… I just can’t condone condemning someone because they want a Wizard big box in any regard. In the very least, they still have an awesome big box for their shelf, and a cool flick to feed to their VCR, regardless if they’ve been tricked or not… and, honestly, it’s their money. I think Paul’s detective work is highly admirable, and its information that needed to be distributed throughout the community. He makes clear and solid points throughout the video, and it’s evident that these re-issues have some fishy attributes. I know I’ll never buy one… but that’s mainly because I won’t pay $50 for any tape, really. That’s just not my style.
What is this strange world I have entered? Even my Wizard magic cannot untangle me from this web of uncertainty!!
But where my opinion differs from Paul is on new VHS tapes and community. Paul says that new tapes are junk and they are ruining the community (I realize Paul will be reading this, and if I’ve misinterpreted anything you have said, you have my apologies as a way of preface). However, when it comes to new tapes, I think quite the opposite. I think the majority of new releases are amazing, and fun, and a sign of true VHS love and spreading appreciation. Undoubtedly, there are some out there cashing in on something… and that’s an inevitable by-product of a burgeoning movement. It’s something that cannot be avoided. I choose to look to the good in it all. These new releases expand the VHS-appreciating community and give particular people chances to be creative with something they love. I never thought of VHS collecting as some sort of elite group of people where only one particular thing matters. Where only old tapes have any merit, or cut boxes are shunned. I collect VHS because I love the format and I love film. Period. I don’t care if it’s old, new, an ex-rental, or some shoddy bootleg from the 90s. If it looks awesome, contains a groovy flick and will playback (and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg), then I’m all about it. I think right now is good time to take a look at the community and realize what’s important. And that, my dear tapeheads, is love. Opinions may differ, but the passion is the same. And that’s pretty groovy.