As a retro gaming site it may seem strange to see a review not related to gaming. The Video and Gaming market have close links, so accepting the challenge to review this book was easy oh and this book just oozes retro appeal.
It’s not very often a book comes your way that inspires excitement, intrigue and delight these days but, the VHS Video Cover Art gallery book, is one such book. The book cover itself is a work of art in its own right which gives you a sense of what to expect before you even open the book.
It captures that amazing nostalgia of what it was like to have one of these VHS tape boxes in your hands to marvel over before inserting the tape into your VHS recorder. This is all represented by the front cover of the book. Presented and produced by English designer Thomas Hodge of “The Dude Designs,” the book measures in a big 11.5” x 9” expanding to 22.5” when fully opened. The print quality is fantastic as hardback books go with a beautiful gloss hardback cover bound together with a stitch binding containing a beautiful satin silk page printing of the highest quality. Beautiful!
Upon opening the book, you’ll discover that the publisher, ”Schiffer Publishing,” has included the nice gift of a bookmark so that you don’t lose your way throughout the viewing experience of the book. The inlay is presented with a nice homage to all the VHS company logos watermarked against a matte black inlay. VHS nostalgia is what the book is all about, reminding the reader of the classic images we all remember. It even has a great image of a VHS tape with the warning of “Please Rewind Film” label to get you warmed up for what is ahead which I thought was a brilliant touch. The foreword is written by Justin Ishmael, the CEO of Mondo, who gives an insight to what inspired him to begin collecting and creating these amazing pieces of art that were encapsulated in plastic boxes we all know and love from our childhood. In the introduction he reminisces about his love for VHS and Movie poster art as a whole. This is followed by Thomas himself detailing his career choices in design thanks to VHS video cover art which indirectly led to the creation of this book.
The book is broken into six sections including Action, Horror, Kids, Thriller, Sci-fi and Comedy. Within these sections there are contained two VHS video cover art pictures (Box Art) across a two page spread making it perfect to keep the book in a landscape format. Each Section or chapter contains a whopping 51 images of classic old school VHS video cover art for you to ponder over, which is an incredible feat to have in a single book in my opinion. This is tailed off with acknowledgements to both “Viva VHS” and “Video Collector” and all whom contributed to the book’s production or provided the original VHS cover art for inclusion. The book is pure nostalgia. I know I keep mentioning that word but it’s the only way to describe it. If you lived during that period of time back in the 1980’s where you had no internet, no online reviews to call upon, or IMDB (Internet Movie Database) you know it was the incredible artwork that fought for your attention at your local Video Library (known here in Europe) or VHS Video Rental Store in the USA. It was this artwork that convinced you that you had seen that one movie and that you had to do it now! The hilarious thing about these fabulous works of art, in many cases, is that they represented scenes that were supposedly part of the actual film but ended up nowhere to be seen when you finally watched the movie once you got back home. So, in a way, they cover art sort of conned you by creating a false sense of enjoyment or expectation. The questions, of course is, did you care? Hell no! It was something great to watch on your VHS recorder with either friends or family! This is what makes this book so great in letting you see what they got away with back then.
It seemed to be a huge fad back in the 1980’s to either, mirror big film company VHS video cover art, or add some guy with a massive explosion going on behind him while he holds a massively big gun taking out entire armies with cars blowing up. This was done to create excitement and interest and, while looking through the book, you’ll realize just how much they actually did this! As a kid, though, you knew you had to see that movie. The real shame here is for that nameless artists that produced nearly 80% or more of the content will never be fully acknowledged for their contribution to these amazing images. I think this is a travesty in its own right but, on a good note, at least these will live on within the VHS Video Cover Art book along with the company who released the film and the year they were released.
Despite all its incredible content, this book is not without its flaws. There were a few things I felt should have been included. Firstly, there is no content index listing the films by title at the beginning of the book or listing its sections. This is something that I would expect for this type of book. I reckon, though, that this was done intentionally to give the reader the excitement of finding out stuff using a “move-along” approach. Though this might work for some, it really didn’t work for me. As a designer and Photoshop evangelist, I was distracted when I noticed some of the cover art has not been cleaned up to its original state in some places. This is something I personally wouldn’t have allowed but I think Thomas was trying again to achieve and maintain these VHS covers in their original intended state for the viewer. I know it’s a small nitpick but it’s something I felt needed to be mentioned. Overall this book is an ‘80’s old school fanatic’s wet dream and, if you loved VHS video cover art back then, this is a must for your collection. You need to get it right now! You won’t regret it.
I highly recommend you check out their other books as well as you won’t be able to get such high quality books, at the amazing prices they offer them, anywhere else.
Creator of forth coming Coin-Op:Arcade Guide and creator of the Atari Gamer Magazine and the Atari ST Gamer Magazines. Retro gaming expert & fact finder.