The original Wizard Video label began around 1981 following the sale of Band’s MEDA (Media Home Entertainment) video label to Herron Communications. At the very same time, the video cassette industry was on the verge of exploding with video rental store popping up in nearly every town across the country. In the first three years of Wizard Video, they mainly used slipcases to package the cassettes. They would dabble with clamshells and book boxes for a stint, but put the infamous big box into full swing in 1984. Much of the artwork on these big boxes were original , lurid, and served their purpose: to grab the attention of possible renters.
Fast forward: February 2013, Charles Band makes an announcement that shook the VHS collecting world. A site went live, wizardvideocollection.com, where he states in a video how he discovered cases of unused Wizard Video big boxes in a warehouse from 33 years ago. Fortunately for us, he was going to sell these original boxes with replicated tapes. On the website are the scheduled release dates of the videos, 4 a month at $50 a piece (Plus $10 shipping). They are limitedly numbered and signed by Band himself.
When I first saw the new site, I found it hard to believe. Not only on the premise of finding original covers in a warehouse, but rather a bunch of factors that made me question Band’s discovery. Looking at the covers of the first 4 released in February, some things didn’t seem right. I knew that for me to know definitively whether these were in fact originals as Band claims, I would have to buy at least one and because these things cost $60 total a pop, I had to choose that video wisely. I chose, and waited for Headless Eyes.
The rest of this article is going to be done as a list of evidences, premises, or circumstances that have lead me to believe that Band has been feeding us a lie on these new re-releases. There will also be additional points or pieces of evidence in this article that were not mentioned in the videos I did on this topic.
1) The Press Release:
The press release itself is littered with inaccuracies about the history of the Wizard Video label. Some of these inaccuracies are even common knowledge among the youngest of the collecting community and yet Band and his team get the facts wrong, when he himself created the label in the first place?
a) “Starting February 12, fans will be able to purchase these original boxes with authentically duplicated VHS copies inside – at an incredibly reasonable price.”
This may not be an inaccuracy, but I can’t help but not mention this. What is meant by “authentically duplicated”? Band uses this kind of language to confuse the buyer into believing the cassettes are genuine. Does this phrase mean that the cassettes are duplicated in an authentic way? If so, does this mean there are non-authentic or fake ways of tape duplication? Or does he mean that these tapes were reproduced from the original negative or the very original master tape? This phrasing is simply intended to confuse collectors into believe these videos are original. Although he makes it more clear in his Press Release Video that these are just re-copied cassettes to fill the “original” big boxes, the statement in the press release uses crappy language to disguise from the press the fact that he’s really just duping these tapes himself with a few VCRs and probably an intern.
b) “Back in the 80’s, I thought it would be cool to release these films in the oversize VHS boxes,” explained Band. “In the short term, it was very successful - but by 1982 the trend had run its course and the titles were reduced back to regular VHS dimensions.”
This statement is ludicrous. Wizard Video did not begin to release big boxes until ’84 (Band wasn’t the first to use the big box outside the Adult industry as he suggests in his video), and they ended and reverted back to the slipcases in ’86. In ’82, they were releasing primarily slipcases (with only one rare clamshell release). In ’83, they released only 3 titles in book boxes. The above statement from the Press Release is either a typo, or intended to make us think these videos are older than they actually are.
c) “Band started Wizard Video in 1980, and was the first to release horror cult films such as Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I Spit On Your Grave in the early days of home video.”
Wizard Video never released Halloween on VHS, only on a limited run of an Atari game. Once again, this comment is intended to make Wizard Video appear more credible and historically relevant to film to the press who read this.
d) “Over a span of 3-4 years, Wizard Video published eighty titles in the large-format boxes.”
Again, another ludicrous comment. From 1981, Wizard Video released about 80 different films in total. These were NOT all big boxes. They released about 50 big boxes (including variants) beginning in ’84 with Escape. After the success with the big box, the folks at Wizard went back into their old catalog and re-released films in big boxes and sometimes with a different title. But 80 is certainly not 50.
e) “Thirty-five years after the packaging’s popularity died out, Band and his excavation team uncovered the original big VHS boxes of thirty-six of these rare titles in mint condition.”
I find it funny that the homepage states that these boxes were lost in a warehouse for 33 years where the press release extends it to 35. 35 years ago was 1978, Wizard video didn’t form or release titles until 1981. The wording is also peculiar. The big box packaging did not die in 1978, it wasn’t even around yet. Who did Band hire to write this?
f) “The Atari 2600 game boxes for Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween will be released TBD 2013 from Full Moon.”
I find it interesting that Band seems hesitant to release the boxes for TCM and Halloween. I believe this is a clue as to whether or not Band knows what he’s doing is legally wrong. Films like TCM and Halloween are protected by many lawyers, being cornerstones in modern horror history. If these boxes really already exist, then just release them, what are you afraid of? Afraid that that some lawyer is going to have the boxes examined and determined to be modern reprints?
In addition, he responds to a comment about the Atari boxes on the Wizard Facebook Page, he states:
“There are rights issues with those franchises that make it very complicated to re-release those games.”
He clearly knows what he’s doing is risky.
2) Where are the other big box titles? Why are only the rare/collectible ones available?
My initial response to the lineup on the website was, “where are all the other big boxes?” Where are Blood Brothers, Snake Hunter Strangler, Battle of the last Panzer, Mission Phantom, Avenger X, etc? Are we supposed to believe that it’s coincidental that he found original big boxes of only the more valuable and collectible big boxes? According to the press release:
“… Band and his excavation team uncovered the original big VHS boxes of thirty-six of these rare titles in mint condition, between two hundred to four hundred copies per title.”
This statement gives us clarification. Yes, Band DOES want us to believe that the 36 big boxes scheduled for re-release are coincidentally the most sought after, valuable, and collectible big boxes. If these were real originals from the 80’s, I find it hard to believe that he didn’t come across ANY of these lesser known non-horror/sleaze titles.
3) 33 years ago, they were using slipcases. Where are all the slipcases? Why only find big boxes?
This point elaborates on the previous one.
4) Band offers a monthly subscription plan, beginning with a $600 down payment.
Many people have laughed at how ludicrous this sounds, but really from a business standpoint, it’s genius. Band is using the cash made from the subscription plans to secure the financing for the printing of the future big boxes. I believe this is one of the strongest pieces of circumstantial evidence considering what we’re dealing with here. In many ways, it’s the same philosophy as a pre-order. Many distribution companies will use pre-order earnings to actually create the merchandise. This way, they don’t over-produce titles and fall in the hole.
5) Does Band have the right to just reissue these films on VHS on a whim?
Over the years, Band has developed a reputation for distributing films he has no rights to. Back when the Puppet Master series was initially released in a box set, it was almost immediately pulled because Band didn’t own the distribution rights, Paramount still had them. In addition, over the past year, he began releasing VHS Rips of films in a DVD series he calls the “Grindhouse Collection.” In the beginning of each of these DVDs, there’s a disclaimer concerning the poor quality of the video. If he truly owned distribution of these films, then why doesn’t he have better film prints? Some of these films, such as SS Hell Camp, have been released officially and their print quality shows.
But most interesting in this point, is that when Meir Zarchi, director of I Spit on Your Grave was notified of the Wizard Video re-release, his response was that in the early 80's, he had "a claim against this guy for piracy." Clearly, Band has a history of doing this sort of thing. I'm sure that when Zarchi's lawyers contact him, he'll just cut Zarchi a check.
6) How far in advance was Full Moon planning to reprint the Wizard Video boxes?
With the popularity of my two videos on this topic, new and interesting information surfaced. It came in the form of an e-mail correspondence between a fellow collector and “Leroy” at Full Moon. Assuming this e-mail is authentic and I have no reason to believe it’s not, the collector contacts Full Moon, suggesting that there would be a market for reproductions of the infamous Wizard big boxes. The email dates back to July 2012, and tells us several things.
a) In their response to the collector’s email, “its difficult to track if there is enough potential orders out there to make it worth it.” So it seems that Full Moon had been considering a re-reprinting of these videos but have been hesitant due to the difficulty of predicting the profitability.
b) In this e-mail, Full Moon never discusses or hints that there MAY be original Wizard big boxes in a warehouse. Instead, the discussion steers towards whether it is cost efficient to reprint these big boxes in a short run.
c) Full Moon was told that it was possible to create short runs of big boxes, and that some small companies were already doing it. This comes contrary to Band’s statement that these boxes couldn’t be created in a short run.
Besides these tidbits, the response from Full Moon doesn’t tell us a whole lot, except that the idea of reprinting these boxes were in fact considered by Full Moon and suggested to “those with the power” to do it.
7) Lightning Video.
From what we understand, Lightning Video licensed the Wizard Video library in 1986. During that time period, Lightning not only added new titles to the Wizard library (Headless Eyes, Dreamaniac, Blood Brothers), but also re-released some of Wizard’s older films (Astro Zombies, I Spit On Your Grave, Penitentiary). All of these titles have 2 things in common: The Lightning Video logo on the back, and the absence of tabs on the top and bottom flap.
(NOTE: some videos have the “Manufactured and distributed by Lightning Video” sticker on the bottom, which I believed were leftover titles/boxes handed over to Lightning to distribute despite the stating “manufactured.” We know these boxes weren’t printed by Lightning themselves because they lack the Lightning Video Logo and DO have tabs).
Charles Band’s response to the accusations of these boxes being faked is that Vestron (Lightning Video) reprinted these boxes, and that they were printed at various locations. But when we compare an allegedly "found in a warehouse" box by Lightning Video with an original Lightning Video big box from the late '80's, they don’t match. The new 2013 re-releases not only have tabs, but print quality is awful in comparison to the original ones Lightning created over 25 years ago (more information on this in the ‘Physical Evidence’ section).
8) Even if Lighting Video did print these new ones, then why does Band have them?
Why would a multi-million dollar corporation feel the need to send Band the extra boxes, extra boxes that Lightning themselves paid for? Doesn’t seem likely that Band would end up with these. This isn’t a strong point, but something worth considering.
9) Does Charles Band even own Wizard Video anymore?
As Band's Empire Pictures rapidly accrued debt in the late 1980s (over fifty millions worth), he was forced to sell his company along with its assets and most of its subsidiaries, including Wizard Video. Over the year,s the companies eventually find their way over to MGM. In 2012, a document is filed in California court to finalize a merger between Epic Pictures (now owned by MGM) and its previous subsidiaries. This is proof that Charles Band no longer owns Wizard Video. Unless he has a licensing agreement with MGM/Epic Pictures (which is highly unlikely based on his track record), he can no longer use any Wizard Video trademarks. I could say that by claiming these boxes were new old stock found in a warehouse, he was getting around this trademark issue, but it seems this wasn't much of a concern for him, considering he had a "Wizard Video" website built and sold newly designed T-shirts and posters with the original Wizard Video logo on them.
1) Different cardboard type and tabs on Headless Eyes repro (right).
I’ve never seen a Headless Eyes big box made with the sort of cardboard that the new ones are made of, and I’ve owned several throughout the years. I've also never seen a Lightning Video printed boxes with tabs.
2) High Res scans of repro reveals the awful print quality.
When compared to the original, the colors are off, whites have a yellow tint, and the blacks aren’t solid. Straight lines are practically nonexistent. Up close, they’re soft and even blurry.
3) The first 4 reproductions have the same exact "Wizard" logo.
The later 3 have the same logo as the first repro, Return of the Zombies. This suggests that whoever was paid to touch up and prepare these covers for re-printing, used the first video (Return of the Zombies) as a template for the other three. This theory is further demonstrated by the fact that the Demoniac release has the same bottom flap as Return of the Zombies (because both boxes are the same color, refer to the video).
4) Possible sticker residue on Headless Eyes big box?
Video stores would often put a small sticker in the lower left corner of the front cover with the first letter of the title. When looking closely at the reproduction's cover, we can see what appears to be a discoloration in the shape of one of these stickers. Once again, whoever was paid to touch up these covers for re-printing didn’t pay attention to the details.
5) Testimonials from print experts.
Following the popularity of my ‘Wizard Video’ video, experts in the printing field have come forward with their assessment of these covers.It's up to you whether you want to believe these evaluations.
"...Having not even seen your video, my friend mentioned that one tell-tale sign of modern printing would be a "lizard skin" or "beehive" type pattern seen in the fine detail. I laughed because, as your video pointed out, that is exactly what's seen on these new boxes. After our phone conversation, I emailed him a link to your video and he watched it this afternoon. He replied "it looks like to me that the images weren't properly de-screened, which shows the printing pattern of the original image." In other words, they have clearly be scanned and re-printed."
There it is guys, my assessment of the “original” Wizard Video boxes found in a warehouse. The sad part is that Charles Band lied to A LOT of people. He lied to the leading horror websites, he lied to leading horror magazines and more importantly, he lied to his fans. When I saw that the Wizard Video re-issues made the cover of Rue Morgue Magazine, I was truly saddened. Is this what VHS collecting has amounted to? A cash grab while the iron is hot? When I fell in love with this hobby nearly 10 years ago, it was because of the tremendous role that VHS played in the history of cinema, not just because of the ‘cool’ covers or because “the eighties are so retro”. A friend of a friend was told by a voice in the VHS community that I was bad-mouthing the VHS collectors at the end of my “Wizard Video” video. Was I? I feel like I’m one of the few willing to call it how it is: a hipster fad that will hopefully die, left to the collectors who can truly appreciate and admire the history and the stories contained in each of its plastic cassettes.