The death of the VHS format was bittersweet. As a horror fan, it was hard not to be excited about the potential that the DVD format offered. Audio commentaries, interviews, and, most importantly, good looking widescreen transfers had me rediscovering so many of my old favorites after years of experiencing them only on worn out ex-rentals. I could never afford laserdiscs, so this was my first chance to enjoy these types of premium features.
Still, it was sad to see the video stores go. Before Blockbuster started pushing everyone around, every little video store had its own personality. You could find different titles in every store and it seemed like the well would never dry up completely.
By the late 90s, the writing was on the wall though, and many of the best stores were closing down. The ones that weren’t bought out by Blockbuster were selling off their old stock. As sad as it was to see them go, there were some incredible opportunities to own a lot of videos that weren’t usually for sale and showed no signs of getting a DVD release.
It was almost a sport for my friend and me. Without exaggeration, we could easily leave a store with three or four boxes busting full of ex-rentals. We would sit for hours going through our finds and planning out our viewing schedules. I can’t think of many instances of pure contentment in my life that rival this feeling.
That brings me to today’s addition. Because the videos were so cheap, you could stand to be a lot less selective than usual with your purchases. Many of the movies I bought were purchased based off of the absurdity of the box. Death by Dialogue was one of my favorites out of this category. At a quick glance it’s not something that would catch my eye. It looked a little too supernatural and action oriented and I was mostly looking for slasher, sleazy, or just plain weird movies. But a closer inspection revealed a tagline unlike any I had ever seen before. Take a look:
Where do I begin with that line? Is the fact that Ken Sagoes is present a huge selling point? I guess I understand if that’s all they have, but they don’t even write, “Starring Ken ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 3’ Sagoes” or anything. They write it like Ken Sagoes himself, not his character, survived the ordeal. When I think of Nighmare 3, the surviving kids were Kristen, Joey, and Kincaid – not Kristen, Joey, and Ken Sagoes.
Not only that, but it says that he’s back (punctuated by three exclamation points). Where did he go. Was anyone missing him? This came out the year after Nightmare 3. He wasn’t gone long enough to be missed. He was also in Nightmare 4 the same year, but he, sadly, did not survive this one. “Ken Sagoes, the kid who died first in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 4’ is back!!!” doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Also, being back implies that you were there before. Jamie Lee Curtis was back in Halloween: H20, but I wouldn’t say that she was back in Virus, she was just there.
If that wasn’t enough to convince me to add Death by Dialogue to my pile, the back of the box was.
Ken Sagoes of course takes center stage here, but not in the way you would expect. He’s obviously the focal point of whatever marketing strategies Death by Dialogue has, so I’d expecting him in some action scene or showing off his acting chops with some exaggerated emotion. Look closer; instead we get apathy.
I haven’t watched the movie recently enough to know if that shot is even in the movie. Maybe it was designed this way so you knew it was that Ken Sagoes. After all, the tag line on the front was slightly ambiguous.
Having spent a bit of time looking at this box, I’m wondering how that strategy would work if applied to other actors…