Saturday, September 8, 2007

In Memory of Jerry's Video


I was surprised and saddened to learn earlier this week of the closing of Jerry’s Video Rerun, easily one of the best video stores in all of Los Angeles. Yes, Cinefile, Vidiots and Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee have always gotten much of the press but I’ve long enjoyed browsing the racks at Jerry’s looking for older titles that I haven’t seen yet. Plus, it was within walking distance. As with any video store, for years there have been titles that I’ve noticed and put on a list somewhere in my head, thinking that I would get to that movie one of these days. Sadly, that day won’t come for a few of those films.

I walked over Thursday evening and found Jerry himself with his wife packing up stuff. Lots of tapes were already gone. “I’m just tired,” he replied when I asked why. I’m very aware that there have been issues with rising rents in the area but I didn’t press him. He told me that they had been selling off tapes and I was welcome to look at what was still being offered. Sadly many titles, like much of the foreign section, were already gone. I could think of a few things I would get for sentimental reasons, but they didn’t seem to be there. I walked back into the horror section and, among other things, saw some grey market tapes of various Argento, Bava and similar titles around. Years ago, I would have gone crazy at the thought of tapes of some of these films being right in front of me. Now I have them on DVD. I noticed a grey market tape of the Italian version of BLACK SABBATH but the American version wasn’t there. For years this film was known through that American version, now only the one from Italy, titled THE THREE FACES OF FEAR, has pretty much replaced it since it’s what can easily be purchased on disc.

I picked out a few tapes and brought them up. Apologetically, Jerry told me that a few of them—namely GAMES and SCREAM OF FEAR—were “unavailable”, but I bought the rest of them. Nothing too special, but they did include the Hammer remake of SHE which is letterboxed and Bava’s THE EVIL EYE. That tape actually looks pretty terrible but since this was the day that the Bava book arrived, that seemed somehow significant. I made my purchase, thanked them for all the films I had rented from them over the years and went off into the night. As I walked home, I thought of various times I had rented from them through the years, beginning with Mike Hodges' PULP. It went back to several years before I had a DVD player. There were many films to see and I tried to take advantage of what they had. A lot of time has gone by since then.

The video landscape isn't what it used to be, what with so many people renting discs via Netflix. One of the nice things about living in L.A. has been the knowledge that there are video stores with an awareness of history, stores that will hang on to VHS tapes since there are many titles that have not yet been released on DVD and probably won’t anytime soon. There are still many films to see and if the only way to see them is on VHS, then so be it. Jerry’s was one of those stores, one of the best, but it’s gone now. The world is changing. Jerry’s will be missed.

15 comments:

Matt said...

Just wanted to say I always enjoy your posts. Whether they are about a piece of history, an obscure film, or a mainstream film, your writing is always entertaining and interesting.

Mr. Peel said...

Thanks very much Matt, that is much appreciated. I'll try to keep the posts coming. I hope you and anyone else reading continue to enjoy them.

Jeremy Richey said...

I really liked this post. There are several stores that I have watched close down in the past decade that really meant a lot to me. One extraordinary spot was called Video Daves in Frankfort KY. It was here that I discovered films ranging from Suspiria to The Heartbreak Kid...I really miss walking into a good privately owned video store and finding a lost treasure...I love Netflix but the magic isn't there anymore...

Matt said...

We should all list our favorite video stores. Mine is the Tower movie theater in Salt Lake City, Utah. It's a one screen old time movie theater complete with balcony, and also has a video store with quite a few obscure titles.

Mr. Peel said...

Back in the pre-Internet days when it was all about VHS it was like you taking more of a chance on certain films in the video store. There really was more of a sense of discovery. There are still some really good ones here in L.A. like some of the ones I mentioned. And a number of them are very good at stocking older titles on DVD and some even have a Criterion section.

But something like Eddie Brandt's out in the valley may, as long as they stick around, be one of the last great vestiges for films that haven't come out on DVD or, in some cases, never even came out on VHS. Once I was renting some films there and I asked the clerk if they had THE GYPSY MOTHS. He looked at me, confused, and said "You're the second person to ask for that film in the past half hour." And, as it happened, their copy had already been rented. There probably aren't too many video stores where that can happen. Thanks very much for the comments.

Anonymous said...

I went to Jerry's all the time & talked to him quite a bit about movies, & he often mentioned his wife...but I was never sure who she was. Was his wife Mary, the woman who worked the day shift? I was always afraid to ask.

I loved Jerry's so much. It feels like it closed so suddenly, but if I think back I can see little hints that they were closing months back. It's so sad to know that he's closing the last of a dying breed. I tried out Video Journeys last night, & it was so antiseptic & heartless by comparison.

Thank you for blogging on this, I feel like there should be more outcry over this.

Mr. Peel said...

Anonymous--

I think that was his wife but I'm not sure and I also never asked.

I suppose deep down I always knew the day would come for Jerry's but never wanted to think about it. I don't mind Video Journeys or even a few others in the area but it's not the same.

Not just lack of outcry, I've been surprised about total lack of awareness that this happened. People just don't seem to know the place is gone. It's a shame.

Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

I think Jerry just wanted to keep the whole thing quiet, it wasn't his style to broadcast they were closing or throw a huge going out of business sale. I just wish I'd come in the last few days it was open, but with the power out in the neighborhood every night for days, I wasn't watching too many videos.

Video Journeys is ok, I guess, but their film selection is a little more high brow/indie/hipster/ foreign...whereas Jerry's had a great emphasis on the classics & very manly movies. Giallo, martial arts, horror, comic serials, westerns, bootlegs...nowhere else has a collection like that, and no one else KNEW their collection as well as he did.

Jerry is a walking encyclopedia of film history, and I hope that someone interviews him or somehow preserves all that knowledge. I don't know where film buffs like us are going to get our quick fix anymore.

Thanks again for blogging on this. Have you seen how people are putting cards through the video slot? There are definitely people mourning the loss.

Anonymous said...

I was out of town for 3 months, got back last night, and was looking forward to renting an armload of horror movies from Jerry's today. Was absolutely miserable to see the For Lease sign in the window and have been scouring the net to find out what happened. So, thank you for the post. I'm not consoled, but at least I have some of the story.

I am at a loss for where to go now. Jerry's was great not just for their fantastic selection, but also for their recommendations, and frankly, their attitude (which I know put a lot of people off). I still remember the night I went from being an anonymous renter to a regular, after a brief but lively Bava discussion. I only wish I'd been able to rent more often and had been there at the end to thank them.

Anonymous said...

I too was out of town - for 10 days. Got back, and no Jerry's! Guess it's Eddie Brandt's or Rocket, now...but these are both a hike. I could always walk to Jerry's

Damn, no Jerry's. Damn...

-Eddie

Mr. Peel said...

I just clicked in here and saw that more people had posted. Glad I was able to let people know what happened. The other day I went past and saw that the sign had finally been taken down. It's like Jerry's is now really 100 percent gone.

S said...

I've been putting off trying to get more information about Jerry's - I guess I've been in denial, hoping to hear that he was opening up another shop somewhere else. The neighborhood's been changing so much over the last 2-3 years, and (I know this is a little dramatic) Jerry's closing feels a little like the soul of Los Feliz died. Or maybe the guts. Either way, it's crummy. I am a couple of blocks away so pass by daily, and it still depresses me each time I see the empty store.

I wonder what will go in next - any ideas? Have you heard anything? I'm betting a Starbucks, JambaJuice, or some other atrocity.

Just Me Though said...

I miss Jerry's Video. Netflix is cool but I select over the internet and it's mailed to me or I view online. Park of the fun was Jerry and his staff discussing the films and making suggestions that lead to more films you would not have considered.

Jack Hicko said...

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1445098975095.2061207.1461763965&type=1

Jack Hicko said...

My post above is five more photos of Hollywood Star Video aka Jerry's Movie Rerun aka Jerry's Video aka Movie Collectibles, aka ILoveClooney.