Quentin Tarantino has countless fans all around the world, increasingly many of whom are too young to ever have rented a tape from a video store. But when those twenty-something cinephiles learn his origin story as a filmmaker, they must suspect they missed out on a valuable experience in the VHS era, whatever its inconveniences. When Tarantino broke out in the nineteen-nineties with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, he was publicly celebrated not just for those films, but for his having made them as a video-store-clerk-turned-auteur.
Indeed, it really does seem true that Tarantino’s cinematic sensibility owes something to the years he’d spent exercising his movie expertise behind the counter at Video Archives in Manhattan Beach. When the store closed in 1995, the freshly ascendant Tarantino seized the opportunity to buy up its thousands of VHS tapes. Roger Avary, his fellow Archives alumnus and collaborator on the screenplay for Pulp Fiction, bought the Laserdiscs. Though much of Avary’s collection has succumbed to the “disc rot” that notoriously afflicts that format, Tarantino’s collection has held up for more than a quarter-century.
Now Tarantino’s private tape stash provides the material for his and Avary’s latest collaboration: The Video Archives Podcast, to which you can listen on platforms like Apple Podcasts and Stitcher. On it, the two of them aim to re-create the vehemently cinephile environment of Video Archives by discussing the movies from its stock — after watching them on the actual VHS tapes the store once rented out. As Tarantino explains it, each episode of The Video Archives Podcast will feature three titles. But the conversations will go well beyond the films themselves, involving details of the particular home-video releases popped into the VCR as well as the history of the distributors that put them out.
Naturally, the hosts also get into their personal histories with these movies — which in some cases go back nearly 50 years — as film-lovers and filmmakers. Owing to the need to introduce the show itself, in the first episode they discuss only two pictures, both from the nineteen-seventies: John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s anti-establishment sci-fi comedy Dark Star, followed by Ulli Lommel’s rock-Mafia drama Cocaine Cowboys, which features a cameo from Andy Warhol. Representing a younger generation is Avary’s daughter Gala, producer of the podcast, who in a mid-show segment (and her own after-show) offers another perspective on the movies of the week. She clearly knows how to appreciate a cult classic, even if she’s never paid a late fee in her life.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.