Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Jerry Seinfeld's Video Shelf: Revealed!

Ever wondered what movies made up the motley collection of video tapes in the corner of Jerry Seinfeld's apartment? Well, now, after much educated guesswork, plenty of wild hypotheses and a many a crazed conjecture, ERH has the evidence that will finally lay the matter to rest once and for all. Our archivists have been granted unprecedented access to a recent find made in the Columbia Studios vault that puts an end to years of speculation, violent disagreement and bitter schisms within the fan community. The truth is here at last...

Jerry Seinfeld's Video Shelf: Revealed!

Many ‘Seinfeld’ fans have long obsessed over the contents of the video tapes nestled on the ratty shelving system that rests in the corner of Jerry Seinfeld’s on-screen apartment. For almost the entire run of the smash-hit show they were to remain tantalisingly out of reach of those desperate to know what it was that Jerry fired into the VCR in those few, precious moments when he had the apartment to himself. Was it sports? Was it porno? Was it – as many have suspected – endless repeat plays of his own stage-shows watched with a mixture of solipsistic glee, preening narcissism and egomaniacal self-preoccupation?

Well it’s now time to find out!
The arguing's over, Jerry. Over!
Recently rediscovered in the musty vaults of the Columbia Studios Props Archive while ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ production designers were busy preparing the sets for Larry David’s ‘Seinfeld’ ‘reunion’ show, the movies on the tapes in question – long considered lost, and since bequeathed to the Chevy Chase Wing of the Smithsonian Museum - will have a familiar ring to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the show. And not only do we – and future generations - now have the actual tapes themselves, but ERH has also managed to track down contemporaneous reviews for ten of these lost classics.

So let’s rewind to the Nineties, when VHS still ruled and one young girl’s strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk was captivating the hearts of viewers worldwide…

Rochelle, Rochelle (1987, Roger Ipswich)
Starring: Beatrice Dalle, Jeremy Irons, Rampton Caine, Billy Mumphry
Trailers: Private Tiddles, The Irate Pallbearer, Medoc or Bust!

A stultifying US-produced Euro-pudding that labours under an indeterminate ‘old-timey’ vintage and a grasp of Old World geography that is fairly boggling even by American standards, Ipswich’s would-be epic bodice-ripper is in fact an endless roundelay of Vaseline-lensed drawing room blather and cruelly protracted seductions that make The English Patient look like Red-Hot Dutch. Rumoured to exist purely as a tax loss into which portly Jock-rockers Simple Minds siphoned off the cream of their ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ jackpot, this slipshod tale of ‘international intrigue and high-stakes diplomacy’ is in fact little more than an a mercilessly overextended Ferrero Rocher ad in which Dalle’s increasingly bored pout threatens to ingest her entire face as she trudges from the palazzos of Milan to the ghettos of Minsk in search of her long lost twin.
Pierre Nourmand, Irish Vogue

Deathblow! (1990, Slip Digby)
Starring: Tom Selleck, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Joe Pantoliano, Charles Durning
Trailers: Rome, Open City II, Honeymoon in Hiroshima, Chump Change

A risible slab of tub-thumping Japanoia based around technologically advanced fire balloons being released into the jet stream by the Japanese military-industrial complex for detonation across the Western seaboard of the US. The only thing between mainland America and this mild incendiary peril is Tom Selleck, foreman of an experimental inflatable oil refinery off the coast of California. The 'deathblows' come thick, fast and ludicrous, while Tom has his hands full juggling peril from above with the arrival of his ball-busting wife/boss/senator (Tripplehorn) and his half-Japanese foreman (a heavily Nipped-up Pantoliano) who’s scheming away in the hydrogen filtration plant deep in the bowels of the flyaway oil platform...
Ben Okwonga, Quebec Star-Herald

Cold Fusion (1989, Grafton Wilde)
Starring: Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Wings Hauser
Trailers: Muleskinner Maude, Banker's Draft, Q-Factor

The ultimately profitless reteaming of Terminator stars Biehn and Hamilton is the only notable aspect of an underfunded post-Apocalyptic dud that’s light on action, low on ideas and heavily indebted to Mad Max Beyond Refrigidome. Essentially a McCabe & Mrs. Miller for the SNES set, it revolves around Hamilton (spunky, wooden) and her low-rent Alaskan brothel being given the glad eye by local robber-baron Hauser (wing-faced, wooden) and his overdressed banshee horde. The only thing standing in the way is itinerant lamplighter Biehn (smelly, wooden) and his arsenal of judderingly unlikely pyrotechnic gee-gaws that make poundshop indoor fireworks look like the Great Fire of Chicago.
Moss Partridge, TV Times

Prognosis Negative (1988, Iain St. John Sinclair)
Starring: Mark Harmon, Holly Hunter, Timothy Hutton, Ernest Borgnine
Trailers: Wagga Wagga, Flash Drive, The Oceanographer's Niece

A brooding courtroom melodrama told via a dizzying array of multiple flashbacks, Sinclair’s overwrought potboiler relates a horribly botched surgical procedure as seen through the eyes – and lives and loves! – of a group of freewheeling, sports-jacketed medical professionals. Perennial second-stringer Harmon plays against type as the self-serving - probably Jewish, but definitely European - surgeon who falls for the prim Iowa farm girl (Hunter) he blinded during a routine tonsillectomy; but it's when Hospital Administrator Borgnine takes the stand to deliver some sweaty, wild-eyed revelations that expose a complex – and frankly, rather absurd - web of medical, legal, political and anatomical corruption that leads all the way to the Vatican that this reviewer’s prognosis switched from negative to positively antagonistic.
Jack Morales, The Greenwich Village Gardener

“Blame It On The Rain” (1992, Dawn Silver)
Starring: Laura San Giacomo, Elizabeth Perkins, Eric Roberts, Rubén Blades
Trailers: Objective: Toronto, Jack in the Box, Extreme Genocide

Agreeably featherweight/offensively irrelevant South American-set rom-com in which San Giacomo and Perkins play rival botanists who both fall for the same man (Roberts), unaware that he is the mineral-stripping industrialist jackal behind the massive swathes of deforestation that threatens extinction for the Amazonian Sperm Beetle they have come to study. Although a notable early entry into the ‘Bespectacled Clipboard Dolly’ cycle, “Blame It On The Rain”’s musings on the changing face of women in the workplace are overshadowed by a grandstanding turn of lunatic macho posturing by Roberts, who displays a knack for comedy that touches the cloth of genius. Blades is similarly revelatory as freelance Nazi sidekick, D'arblay ffytche.
Doc O’Shea, Hepcat! Magazine

Firestorm (1997, Harry J. Uckhauser)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Barry Newman, Piper Perabo, Jay Leno, Ice Cube
Trailers: Ivory Powers, The Kids From Cabbagetown, Quadruplex 

Sickly but full-bodied environmentalist fable that would seem to be the bastard child of Laurel Canyon crystal gazing mumbo-jumbo and the kind of balls-out disaster movie that went South around the same time as Barry Newman’s mojo. Just 48 hours from retirement, hangdog LAPD Chief of Predictive Science Jack Nostradamus (Ford) discovers a genre-neutral doomsday prophecy written on the stick of his morning corndog that warns of fiery destruction for the LA metropolitan area unless carbon emissions are cut by at least a third by suppertime. Teaming up with maverick eco-warrior Newman, Nostradamus embarks on a calculated orgy of destruction to wreck the city’s infrastructure in order to save it from an only-slightly-more terrible fate - while still attempting to make it to his estranged step-daughter’s wedding on time!
Anamaria Ardilles, Tijuana Examiner

Check Mate (1998, Elia Kamalev)
Starring: Brian Dennehy, Oskar Wiesner, Elizabeth Shue, Frank Whaley
Trailers: Sandwedge Susie, The Corked Aristocrat, Track Meet 

Action-packed adaptation of Ferenc Jaspar’s classic meditation on power and corruption, My Mother Is My Kamera, that smartly updates the narrative to post-Cold War Europe. Whereas Jaspar’s original turned on a 19th Century Hungarian peasant’s attempt to regain his farmstead by challenging the Tsar to a game of chess, Kamenev substitutes said farm for a missing nuclear warhead, stolen by ‘The Tsar’ - a disfigured mathematical genius turned insane supervillain. And so it is that retired USO black ops wet-jobber Jack Keane is sent in to butcher his way through post-Wall Eastern Europe and take on the megalomaniacal mastermind at the treacherously tedious game of ‘Death Checkers’. Shot during a less bureaucratic, more enterprise-minded era, the stunning gold-plated Maserati chase through Moscow’s Hermitage Museum is famous for being entirely free of CGI, and holds the current Hollywood record for damage caused to a World Heritage Site.
Dandridge White, Waco Proclaimer
Blimp: The Hindenburg Story (1988, P.P. Wagstaff)
Starring: Joe Piscopo, Andrew McCarthy, Rob Lowe, Linnea Quigley
Trailers: The Crying of Lot 48, Spotted Dick, Infinite Displeasure

Wagstaff’s shoddy follow-up to his similarly misbegotten all-toddler production of Charles Bukowski’s ‘Ham on Rye’ takes the greatest disaster of aviation history and uses it as a lamentable excuse for Piscopo to run around shouting “Ach, nein!” in his inimitable Brooklyn drawl. It was initially presumed that Wagstaff’s decision to frame his cast in extreme close-up was an attempt to emphasise how his tightly his characters’ fates were intertwined, but he has since hinted that it was simply due to the fact that the budget dictated he shoot most of the film in the gazebo of a recently deceased business associate. For the most part, the cast all look like they are either drunk or thinking about getting drunk, while the decision to use a slide whistle over actual stock footage of the disaster at the climax of the film was ill-advised to say the least. “Oh the Humanity!” indeed.
JB Pepperton, East Yonkers Seed Bulletin

Chunnel: 32 Miles of Hell (1994, T. Barry Armstrong)
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Marha Plimpton, C. Thomas Howell
Trailers: Take the High Road, Lenny, The Lynching of Lollipop Johnny 

This slickly retooled version of the 1960 Richard Harris vehicle Annoyance at 4000 Leagues sees a diplomatic furore erupt when a coach-load of test patients for new weapons-grade anti-depressant hijack a train half way through the newly-built Channel Tunnel. Pryce takes on the famous Sgt. Wilkins character, but whereas Harris played him as a louche, skirt-chasing bounder (resulting in well-documented off-set court proceedings), Pryce opts for a bizarre, fidgety, near-catatonic incarnation of the angry lone soldier who must decide whether to join or quash this subterranean siege. Plimpton, as the ex-Vegas pole dancer en route to her new vocation as a church restorer in Lille, is the moral nucleus of the piece, and the scene where she distracts the patients with some ping-pong balls and a carefully placed rosary chain proves something of a crypto-Christian hoot! Attempts at forging a supplementary metaphorical stratum regarding deep-set class divisions in the New Europe, however, are less successful, relying, as they do, all-too-heavily on extraneous shots of Howell as a narcissistic corporate shitbag doing donuts in his speedboat while bellowing NASDAQ figures into an outsize mobile phone.
Kim Clutch, Seattle Breeze

Sack Lunch (1997, Crichton Sawyer)
Starring: Dustin Diamond, Pam Grier, Bert Kwouk, Dabney Coleman
Trailers: Careless Tentacle, Rank and File, Fever Dream Genie 

The question of how an entire family actually got in to a brown paper bag is somewhat superseded by the question of how a family constituting of an African-American mother (Grier) and Chinese father (Kwouk) were able to spawn pale-faced ass-clown, Dustin Diamond. Allegedly made for $5000, with all performers and crew accepting questionably sourced hi-fi equipment in place of their per diems, Sack Lunch is your run-of-the-mill cheapjack comedy, in that it’s all concept and no execution. Its verbose, single-location structure and melancholy undertow had some wags calling a ‘Waiting for Godot’ for the cafeteria crowd, but not even Beckett at his most indulgent would risk testing the dedication and patience of his audience to this degree. And is an eleventh hour Foucauldian polemic on the dehumanising effects of prisons really the best use of a Dabney Coleman cameo?
Alan Mack, Cropduster’s Quarterly



  1. What about "Cry, Cry Again" and "The Muted Heart?"

  2. Pretty sure "Childs Play 2" is in there. Maybe not in the reunion episode

  3. Seinfeld is very interesting show. i always Watch Seinfeld Online. Its all episodes are best. I like it so much. Its fantastic.

  4. Child's Play 2 WAS in there! I recently noticed it watching season 5! I always thought that ws interesting. Jerry doesn't seem like the type.

  5. Episode - The Frogger season 9 -episode 18 (time: 01:01 m)
    These are the titles that are clearly visible:
    Against all odds
    World cup
    pretty woman
    the crying game
    back to the future 2
    child's play 2
    secret games 2
    true colors

    1. I'm pretty sure this list is more accurate. Not really sure where the original list came from

    2. In case anyone else is interested:
      Top Shelf - Left to Right:
      Super Strike Volleyball (NES Game)
      Tetris (NES Game)
      SimCity (SNES Game)
      Benny Hill's Video Follies
      [Super Man Figurine]
      True Colors
      World Cup (NES Game)
      Pretty Woman
      The Crying Game
      Child's Play 2
      Back to the Future III (3, not 2 as Born Slippy said)
      Good Fellas
      The Hunt for Red October
      Saving Par from The Sand

      Second Shelf: there's no clear shots of the films to the left of the stereo, but to the right of the stereo system:
      Leolo (Not Leole as Born Slippy suggested)
      Against all Odds
      Secret Games 2

      Bonus Fun: The board games and software on top of the shelf:
      Battle Ship
      Monopoly 1998 New York City Edition
      GROLIER Multimedia Encyclopedia PC Software
      Magic: The Gathering; Gift Box Set

      In other episodes these board games can be seen as well:
      Doubles Chess
      Checkers (probably the Pressman edition)

      It appears as if there is an early version of Adobe Illustrator up there, but I cannot find a package that matches. Also it looks like Adobe "Screeneasy" next to it, but I cannot find a product by that name.

    3. I just tried to look at the movies yesterday.

      The one next to Copacabana is Presumed Innocent.

      And, he actually has two copies of True Colors.

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