Video Rental Chat

Following on from the book vs film thread, let’s have some video rental chat for those old enough to remember it.

  • Were you the first or last in your street to get a video? Did you have to go round a mate’s house to watch films you were too young to see at the cinema?

  • What were your best memories of seeing films for the first time on home video?

  • Were you (like us) recommended Betamax by a family member only for it to immediately become obsolete?

  • Did you (like me) go down to the video shop with a letter from your mum saying she was fine with you renting 18-rated films?

  • Did you (like me) watch a pirate copy of A Clockwork Orange with Swedish subtitles while it was unavailable to see in this country?

  • Did you sit with your finger carefully hovering over the pause button so you could edit out the adverts of films you wanted to keep?

  • Did you get caught / get away with recording naughty films late on Channel Four?

  • Did you rewind films before you took them back, or are you an absolute monster?

For those under 30, video recorders were a very low quality way of watching films in the 80’s. You could only rent them as they were too expensive to buy, and even then you had to wait until about 18 months after the film came out. If you were too young to see a film at the cinema and didn’t have a video you had to wait until it was on TV about three years later.

All video related chat below.

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Went to my local video shop the other day and asked if I could borrow batman forever, the guy said ‘no, you’ll have to bring it back tomorrow’.

This joke brought to you by Peter Beardsley/Athletico Mince.


I was the last person I knew to get a vcr (by years). Went to the local Global Video to rent stuff, remember watching What About Bob about 5 times in 2 days once (for some reason I felt the need to extract maximum value from the rental).

I still find Video+ a mysterious technology.

Oh yeah, very much this. Mum would rent something for us at the start of the week and we’d watch it over and over until it had to go back. Even though we rented it once during one summer, I could probably recite the whole of Fern Gully word for word.

Can’t remember if we were early adopters or not… We had a VHS player. I remember still living in Ireland when we had it so must have been early 80s.

There was a van that used to come to the street and people could rent videos from the guy who drove it.

When we moved to England there was abundance of video shops. Often went with a note from my Mum allowing me to rent 18s. Will never forget hiring RoboCop and my Mum insisting that she sat and watched it with me and my mate. Got as far as the ‘Bitches leave!’ scene and she grabbed the remote and made me take it back. Got Little Shop of Horrors instead. I was so embarrassed.

Oh the halcyon days of Blockbuster and their two and three day rentals.

Our local video shop had a 24 hour policy but it was closed Sundays so you could rent something on Saturday morning and return it on Monday, don’t think I watched anything more than twice.

Adjusting the tracking - did that ever actually fix a video with a dodgy picture? Never ever worked for me.

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Rented this nearly every other week as a bairn:


We had a video you put in to clean the VCR somehow? What was that about?

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My family were usually out Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning so I had plenty of time to watch rentals by myself, occasionally we would watch them together.

Remember my mum making us turn off Platoon because it had too much swearing in it.

Oh yeah! I had one of those for my tape deck too. Had a kind of felt tape in it? What a load of bollocks. I imagine my dad sourced it from the Innovations catalogue.

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I think the ‘heads’ as they were called gather dirt and dust which affected the quality of the playback.

Video cleaners had solvent on them which picked up the dirt from inside.

I miss the Innovations catalogue so much. Used to spend hours looking through them.


Was definitely a thing, when VCRS get too dirty they can’t play tapes back at all so I had to use one a few times and it definitely made a difference (from ‘unplayable’ to ‘functioning’).

first rentals I can remember were a mr nanny / waynes world 2 for 1, that was a good weekend

mostly went there to rent megadrive games though, probably could have just bought a copy of road rash for the amount of money we spent renting it out


Fair play to her that’s quite a way through it!

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Our local was run by a creepy middle aged man who constantly tried to flirt with my sister but on the upside, he had a devil-may-care attitude to certification so I watched 18s from a very young age. Hugely irresponsible in retrospect, thanks for scarring me with the baby bit of Trainspotting when I was 11, creepy man!

It’s just an algorithm that specifies a time, programme length and channel.

Yes. A lot of great tat in there.

as documented in the other thread - my folks were very late to the VCR party, my sister and I rented National Lampoons Vacation and the lost boys 1st when we finally got one

The local shop was very lax about renting 15s, think I could get away with renting 18s by the time I was 15

Before we got a video I watched them at my friends - I remember watching a very low quality pirate of the Exorcist at my friend’s (think it was banned at the time) - also watched The Shining at another friends (think that was taped off the TV though)

I didn’t see a Clockwork Orange until I was at uni - it had not had a proper release at that time (it wasn’t banned as such, but Kubrick wouldn’t allow it to be release) but the uni had a copy in the library you could borrow

Also have fond memories of buying pirate copies of Reservoir Dogs and True Romance from Camden market (they had very long delayed video releases due to concerns about the violence)

I also remember when buying a film to own on video got a lot cheaper (like £12). My sister got Top Gun, Lost Boys and Dirty Dancing and watched them over and over. She got me Aliens for my birthday and I rinsed it.