“VHS Video Cover Art” both a nostalgic trip & celebration of under-appreciated artists

vhs - cover art I'm not the biggest fan of Tom 'The Dude Designs' Hodge's work on posters – the bubbly, neon '80s stuff has always felt far too busy to me. He's basically the antithesis to Drew Struzan. Struzan's work is clean, uncluttered, and offers up just enough to stir your interest, whereas I've always felt that Hodge's art tries to fit the entire plot to the movie within a one-sheet's 27x40 dimensions. That said: the work from which Hodge draws his inspiration shows that the artist has deep taste. His new book for Schiffer Publishing, VHS Video Cover Art, is a treasure trove of astounding and astonishing VHS cover art from the '80s and early '90s. These painted covers are what drew so many of us into the stranger sections of the video store as kids. As so many documentarians have pointed out, VHS covers needed something to make them stand out, and those covers were a prime way of maximizing their appeal on the video store shelf. VHS - BlackRoses What makes this book interesting is that it's a collection of VHS art from UK releases, meaning that while some of the titles might be familiar to Americans, the covers are totally different. There's a lot of work by the likes of Graham Humphreys, whose work is bonkers in terms of quality and detail, and only stands to be the stick by which all of the other art is measured. Given that so many of these VHS cassettes had artwork with bad perspective, strange homages to movies to which they weren't at all related, and just perplexing choices overall (for instance, I cannot believe that so many sex comedies featured nudity on the covers), this is the sort of book over which you can repeatedly pore. Given that these aren't just the covers, but the entire VHS box, in addition to admiring the art, you can admire the way some copywriter sums up a film in just a short paragraph. Some are dead on the money, while others are out-and-out lies – a lesson many of us learned the hard way. It's great that all this text is included, because otherwise, you'd just be staring at images with little to no context for them, aside from Justin Ishmael's introduction and Hodge's opening reminisces. A big hand must go to Hodge for the way in which the book is organized. While the titles are arranged alphabetically, it's done so under a series of categories, making VHS Video Cover Art the coffee table equivalent of a trip back in time. You want to wander the horror section? Let's try and choose between The Evil Dead and Annihilator. Also, you start to notice certain trends. There are quite a few images which look an awful lot like other films. I know that Enforcer II isn't related to Cobra at all – nor does the star look anything like Sly Stallone – but damned if you wouldn't have rented the film if you liked Cobra. Similar things occur when you have facing pages showing the career trajectory of stars. Linda Blair in both Savage Streets and Savage Island? Obviously, she's found a trend. In the end, this is a wonderful collection, showcasing these VHS boxes just as one would have found them in the UK video shops during their heyday. For the connoisseur, there's a lot into which you can delve, recollecting over your youth. For the novice, there are quite a few films of which you've likely never heard, and a definite starting point for obscurities over which to obsess and search. Samples of some of VHS Video Cover Art's images, including the Black Roses cover pictured about, can be found at the book's website. You can also read an excellently in-depth interview with Graham Humphreys over at Film On Paper, which goes into great detail about his video cover art, as well as the rest of his career. VHS Video Cover Art isn't out until May 28, but you can pre-order it from Amazon by clicking here.