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Vintage Videos : Gem of a Store in N. Hollywood Rents Anything from ‘Twilight Zone’ Shows to USFL Clips

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A band of bootleggers is terrorizing the city. Two men are already dead, and further bloodshed is inevitable.

“What are you going to do?” asks Dist. Atty. F.P. Scanlon.

Debonair newspaper publisher Britt Reid stands up behind his desk and beckons to his faithful manservant, Kato.

“The Green Hornet,” he says, “is going out on the town.”

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Nearly a quarter-century has passed since the Green Hornet roared across America’s television screens in his souped-up Chrysler Imperial, the Black Beauty, with Al Hirt playing a jazzed-up “Flight of the Bumble Bee” in the background. Now he and Kato have found a new nest, along with 22,000 other videotapes of classic television shows and films.

Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee Video is one of those side-street gems that make Los Angeles worth living in. Located on a nondescript stretch of Colfax Avenue in North Hollywood, this rental shop is hard to find, even with its garish purple facade adorned with handpaintings of Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse and Laurel and Hardy.

Inside, shelves cover the walls, rising head-high or higher. Display racks and stands fill much of the floor space, leaving room only for a bird cage and a large pillow that is a bed for Moose, the ever-sleeping dog.

Walk in on a Wednesday afternoon and you’re likely to hear a customer asking Eddie about a dimly recalled “Twilight Zone” episode: “Remember? There was a man dressed as Santa Claus.” Eddie remembers. A moment later, he finds the videocassette in a corner of the store.

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“We have all the stuff that other video stores don’t care about,” said Brandt, who opened the shop in 1976.

Said son Donovan, who pretty much runs the place now: “Who else would carry ‘The Mod Squad’?”

Although Brandt carries current movies, you won’t find multiple copies like the chain stores have. You will, however, find an entire shelf of 1930s and 1940s shorts. The shop also offers 1,500 silents, 2,000 documentaries, a large collection of animated films, cliffhanger serials and foreign movies.

“This is like a research library,” said Roger Cox, a Pasadena screenwriter who had come in looking for films with “tank” shots, which is cinema jargon for fake water scenes. “I’ll look at them and it will inspire me for something I’m writing.”

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Disney’s Imagineers--those think-tank artists, architects, animators and set designers--rent movies so often that they have a corporate account at the store, Donovan said. A Walt Disney Co. spokeswoman declined to comment because the company has a policy against endorsing or appearing to endorse anyone other than itself.

The store also has a cadre of mail-order customers across the country. For this reason, Brandt rents videos for either a half-week ($2.50) or a week ($5) at a time. The delivery truck comes by twice a day to pick up and return videocassettes.

Brandt opened the shop almost by accident. He’d been in show business for a number of years, having written music for Spike Jones and Eddie Cantor. He’d also worked in animation at Hanna-Barbera. By the late 1960s, though, he was running an antiques shop on Lankershim Boulevard.

“I was a collector of movie posters and still photographs,” he said. “The walls of the store were full of holes, so we covered them with posters and all of a sudden people wanted to buy them.”

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Once Brandt figured out that customers had a hankering for vintage movies and television, he sold his personal collection of old 16-millimeter films and used the money to start buying videotapes. That was in 1976.

Ever since, he and his wife, Claire, and Donovan and daughter Heidi have scoured video shops across the western United States for out-of-print videos. Their collection continues to grow, and they say they don’t have the heart to throw anything out.

The sports section includes everything from vintage boxing matches to “The Best of the USFL,” a 55-minute video that may surprise fans who weren’t aware that the failed football league amassed 55 minutes of spectacular plays.

The science-fiction section includes such miserable efforts as “Kronos” and “Krull.”

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“We’ve got some pretty schlocky movies,” Donovan said, “but there’s actually a demand for that.”

And for practically everything else, judging by the movies this shop rents. It can accommodate urges for anything from “Amos ‘n’ Andy” to “Hitler’s Home Movies” to episodes of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

“We need a bigger store,” Donovan said.


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