Blast from the Past — Blockbuster Video, or What Movie Do I Rent Today?

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Remember Blockbuster Video? How popular it used to be (until the company filed for bankruptcy)? I sure do. Some fifteen or more years ago I found myself in one of their stores, wanting to rent some movies for a long weekend. I just wanted to rent a few films that my wife and I could watch in one sitting. Nothing too noisy or violent or upsetting, you understand, just entertaining and relaxing — and with a good, solid story. You know what I mean? A nice, easy to take, family-type movie.

Going to Blockbuster was always the same. My routine when I got there was to say to myself, “What movie do I rent today?” Then I’d walk around the aisles for an hour and a half, usually looking at what there was that I hadn’t seen yet, but would like to rent.

I stepped into the store lo these many moons ago and started to do my bit. First stop was the Latest Releases section. Oh hey, there’s Pulp Fiction. I hadn’t seen that one yet. I’d love to rent that. But what’s this? They’re all out! Every single copy has been rented out. How’s that possible? This store must’ve had thirty-something copies of this one movie alone. It’s definitely not your average neighborhood video emporium, that’s for sure. So how could every single copy be out at the same time? You mean to tell me that thirty other people had the same idea I had, to rent Pulp Fiction on a lazy Saturday afternoon? Why couldn’t they rent something else? Better yet, why couldn’t I rent something else?

That’s a good idea. Pulp Fiction is too violent anyway. All those guns and killings and brains and all… My wife would kill me if I brought that home.

Let’s see. What else is there to rent? Hmm, lot’s of Sharon Stone and Madonna movies over here. Madonna? Nah, too much cleavage… Sharon Stone? Nope. Too much Sharon Stone, period! All right, let’s see what else we have here… Wow, look at this! A whole bunch of Anthony Hopkins movies I haven’t viewed. What a brilliant actor he is! His movies are great, and they all have Emma Thompson on the cover. Talk about safe sex, she’s married to that other great actor, what’s his name, that Shakespearean fellow… Uh, Ken, Ken… Kenneth Branagh. Yeah. That’s it. Oh, he’s fantastic. I saw him in Henry V, Dead Again and Hamlet. He’s terrific.

Hey, wait a minute. Wasn’t he in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? You know, the Robert de Niro version? Man, I hated that film, so bloody and gory. Yuck! Branagh’s good, but he’s no Anthony Hopkins. Oh, pardon me, Sir Anthony Hopkins… And aren’t Ken and Emma divorced now anyway? At least, that’s what I saw on Entertainment Tonight. Well, if it’s on Entertainment Tonight, then it’s got to true, right? Scratch Ken and Emma off my list.

Here’s an Anthony Hopkins flick without Emma Thompson that I haven’t rented yet: Shadowlands, directed by Richard Attenborough and co-starring Debra Winger. Yeah, I heard about this film. Hopkins plays the famous British author C.S. Lewis, the one who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia stories. Wasn’t he an atheist or agnostic or something? And in the film, doesn’t he marry this American poet, Winger, who teaches him to love life and God? And then she dies? Man, why is it that every movie Debra Winger appears in she dies? Didn’t she die in Terms of Endearment, after putting up with her pain-in-the-neck mother Shirley MacLaine and philandering husband Jeff Daniels for two-and-a-half hours? What a movie life she must have! Anyway, Shadowlands sounds awfully depressing, but at least it got good reviews. I think I’ll take a chance with it. Nice, easy family-type movie.

That’s one feature down. Maybe I should get one more film in case this one bombs. Most people do that, you know. It’s called insurance. You know something? I haven’t seen a good black-and-white picture in a good long time. I’ll rent one of those for a change. Good thinking. Let’s go over to the Classic Dramas section and see what’s available there.

Well, well, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable. Now that’s more like it. I’m sure I’ll find something neat here. Hey, will you look at that! The Fountainhead, based on Ayn Rand’s bestseller about an idealistic architect. I’ve been dying to see that film in just about forever. Every time it was on TV my dad would change the channel. He wanted to see war pictures with John Wayne. And he hated John Wayne. Now why would he do that…?

Well, I like this cast — Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey — all class acts. Let’s see, Robert Douglas and Kent Smith are in it, too. Kent Smith? Who the hell is that? Oh, yeah, now I remember. He was in Cat People. Or was it The Leopard Man? Well, anyway, it was definitely a movie with felines. Ugh, that guy gives me the creeps… At least the director King Vidor’s pretty good. He did War and Peace with Audrey Hepburn. And Audrey’s “in” right now, what with Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady being released on video. Say, I just finished taking a writing course. It would definitely be worth my while to rent something literary for a change.

Well, what’s wrong with renting Breakfast at Tiffany’s? For one thing I already saw it, and for another I simply hated it. Too damn talky! Maybe The Fountainhead will be better. Still, I can’t see that quintessential cowpoke Cooper playing an urban architect. He’s the strong and silent type. Maybe he plays a strong and silent-type architect… Yeah, that makes sense. They don’t do a lot of talking at all, architects, do they? What with all those blueprints and building plans and such. They’re strictly numbers guys, sort of like accountants with T-squares: nice, easy and safe. Yeah! Great casting, King! I think I’ll rent that. Now I’m all set for these two great films. Can’t wait to get to my apartment and see them!

I paid my rental fee and went straight home with my movies. The first one I popped in was The Fountainhead. Great score by Max Steiner. Lush photography and sets — very art deco. Okay, what else is there? Oh yeah, the plot. Something about a struggling young architect who refuses to conform to others’ ideas and only wants to create artworks for himself. Hmm, sounds too cerebral to me. Let’s see if this turkey picks up when Patricia Neal comes into the scene.

And there she is! At last! Wow, what a looker she was, too! I seem to recall that a few years later she had a terrible, debilitating stroke that left her unable to talk. Her husband at the time, Roald Dahl, helped regain her speech after years of intensive therapy.

Say, this is getting pretty literary, isn’t it? I mean, Roald Dahl was another famous children’s book writer, wasn’t he? Didn’t he write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? See? I knew renting this thing was going to be good for me.

Patricia Neal & Gary Cooper (

All right, there’s Neal again, and she’s pining for Cooper. Jeez, this movie’s a mess, especially the scene where Neal catches a glimpse of Cooper in a marble quarry pit with this humongous jackhammer in his hands. Now there’s a Freudian slip! That scene left nothing to the imagination. You’d have to be blind not to read what was on Neal’s mind after that one.

She keeps on thinking about Cooper with that ridiculous jackhammer, pummeling away on some piece of marble somewhere in that stupid quarry pit, when suddenly, there he is, dashing in through her open window. Neal’s dressed for the kill, but why is she running away from Coop? Didn’t she want him to grab and kiss the hell out of her? Isn’t that why she left the window open in the first place?? Didn’t the screenwriters bother to read their own script???

Cripes, what a scene! No wonder my dad changed the channel. I would have, too. Well, it’s too late now. Boy, what else does this movie have besides phallic symbols? And let’s not forget Neal’s four-poster bed — heck, I’m really surprised that jackhammer scene got through the censors, what with rampant prudery ruling the day back then. Not like our open-minded, liberal attitudes of today, right? Makes me glad my kids aren’t around to see this. I’d have sent them to bed without brushing their teeth, I would.

After almost two hours of interminable torture, second lead Raymond Massey — the Citizen Kane-like, big-city newspaper mogul — blows his brains out in his big-city office, while Patricia Neal boards an elevator to the top of the tallest building in Manhattan to meet her lover-boy, urban-cowboy architect Gary Cooper, who waits for her as she rides up, up, up to the sky, ever higher, higher, and HIGHER. The End.

Whew, and thank goodness. Two thumbs way down for that effort. I’m glad I didn’t buy that movie. I’d probably have asked Visa to credit my account. And what happened to the strong and silent-type architect? He couldn’t stop talking. Talked all through the damn picture. Talk, talk, talk. Yup, he sure did. Not Gary’s’ best role, I’d have to say.

So what’s next on my agenda? Ah, yes, Shadowlands. But that’ll have to wait for later tonight. I’ll see it with my wife after supper, a hot shower, and a nice shave.

I can’t go wrong with good ole Sir Anthony, right? I mean, he’s an excellent actor and all. Every movie he’s been in has been great. No profanity, no violence, no phallic symbols. They’re all nice, easy family-type films, and… Hey, hold on a minute. I just remembered something: didn’t he play that horrible character in the movie The Silence of the Lambs? The guy who ate people’s livers with fava beans, and then washed them down with a good chi-an-ti? What was his name in that one?

Anthony Hopkins (

Wasn’t it Hannibal the… CANNIBAL…??? ¤

Copyright © 2012 by Josmar F. Lopes

3 thoughts on “Blast from the Past — Blockbuster Video, or What Movie Do I Rent Today?

    Fotograf Poznań said:
    August 17, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Very good written article. It will be supportive to anybody who utilizes it, as well as me. Keep up the good work for sure i will check out more posts.

    Cheryl said:
    August 25, 2012 at 12:37 am

    I absolutely love this post! I used to miss the days of visiting the video store every weekend with my parents until I got my own Blockbuster @Home. It’s a little different from the old days, but I have to admit that it’s much improved. Their site is easy to navigate so I can just type in an actor’s name or a title and I can have it sent to me in just a couple of days. One of my co-workers at Dish still has a soft spot for perusing movie aisles, so she swaps her disc at an actual Blockbuster store. I’ve yet to actually make it to a store, but after reading your delightful experience browsing movies I think I might go this weekend. 🙂

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    August 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm

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