Playing For Keeps

  • videoarchives
  • August 16, 2022

Do you feel that chill in the air?

You must have been listening to the latest Video Archives podcast, as Quentin, Roger & Gala entered the ancient citadel of Michael Mann’s least loved film (give or take a Blackhat), The Keep! This week’s episode is full of monstrous mayhem, as the Archives gang spent a night at the museum with Peter Hyams’ The Relic, before relaxing with a cappuccino on the Café Express. I’ve got VHS covers for all these films, behind-the-scenes tidbits and more on this week’s Counter Talk…

You may have noticed we added a new closing segment to the Video Archives format! Starting this week, all the main episodes will end with Quentin, Roger & Gala awarding trophies to their favorite films, directors, actors and actresses, like any film festival worth its salt. If it sounds like this feature was introduced without much fanfare, as if we’d been doing it since the very beginning…well, originally we were! The Video Archives pilot episode had an awards segment, until we reformatted it to only cover two films. For now, this ceremony celebrating Dark Star, Cocaine Cowboys, Women In Cages, and a film that will finally be revealed next week (!) will be left for you all to imagine.

(Also, should these awards have a name, like the Oscars? Send us your award name pitch!)

Today’s episode kicks off with one of my favorite Video Archives discussions so far, a close look at a film both Quentin and Roger consider a failure, from an unquestionably brilliant director. Interrogating a fiasco like The Keep can be just as illuminating as discussing a masterpiece like Dark Star; in this film, you can see mistakes that Mann learned from to perfect his craft, and imagine the fascinating film that could have been, like Quentin did when making Inglourious Basterds decades later. (I can’t stop thinking of a version of The Keep that kept Laurie Anderson’s rejected score, which was later reused in her masterful album United States Live.)

The Paramount Home Video release of The Keep uses the film’s stunning poster, which turns the title into an imposing blocky tower – but wisely excises the overly wordy tagline:

Meanwhile, that’s not a typo - the back cover copy uses the older, more arcane spelling of Romania for added pizzazz:

Our next film, The Relic with Tom Sizemore and Penelope Ann Miller, is just a good time at the movies, a well-crafted creature feature from an undersung director. Here’s something you may have missed: the two police dogs brought in to track down the creature are named Castor and Pollux, the twin half-brothers of Greek mythology that inspired the Gemini. Is this a nod to the mythic origins of the Kothoga creature? Or an inadvertent foreshadowing of another Castor and Pollux, who would come to theaters just a few months later in 1997?

The VHS cover of The Relic promises “the next evolution in terror”; it’s very red, very blurry, and looks just like something I would skim past during my childhood video store trips:

Today’s final feature, Café Express, couldn’t be more different from the first two films - this modest, charming Italian comedy about an illicit coffee seller is an aromatic palate cleanser. The director, Nanni Loy, became famous by introducing Candid Camera to an Italian audience, and at times Café Express similarly feels like it’s capturing true life.

This Paragon VHS cover looks like star Nino Manfredi has spilled coffee right on the box itself:

The description on the Paragon box is a little skimpy; this copy has a little more detail, as long as you speak Italian:

And that’s it for Counter Talk this week! You know the drill by now – rate and review us on Apple and Spotify, and tell your friends about the show! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and stay tuned for some exciting new features coming to the website soon. Go to to pick up your Video Archives shirts, hats, mugs and stickers. (If you have any leads on acquiring a The Keep board game, please tell us!) And see you next week for an all-new film discussion on the After Show…