Playing The Fool Killer

  • videoarchives
  • January 31, 2023

An incredible customer comes to the Video Archives Podcast! Joe Dante, the director behind Gremlins, Piranha and Innerspace, joins Quentin and Roger on a picaresque journey through the post Civil War south with Servando González’s The Fool Killer. Then, they’ll spend a night in the hospital with New World Pictures’ The Young Nurses, before visiting the Dutch countryside in My Nights With Susan, Sandra, Olga and Julie. I’ve got VHS covers and an extra-nerdy VHS fanfare breakdown this week on Counter Talk, so let’s dig in…

The Fool Killer was Joe’s recommendation for the podcast, and it’s a Night Of The Hunter-esque Southern odyssey, criminally underseen despite some exceptional talent in front of and behind the camera. It even got its own Burt Bacharach/Hal David-penned title song, sung by Gene Pitney (crooner of such other movie title songs as “Town Without Pity” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”). The song was cut out of the movie soundtrack itself, but it’s well worth tracking down if you enjoyed the film.

The front cover of the Fool Killer VHS is arguably a little leading, capitalizing off Anthony Perkins’ ‘Psycho’ turn by showing him wielding an ax:

The back cover leads with the venerable Leonard Maltin, underrating the film with a three-star review:

The Young Nurses was the fourth in a cycle of ‘nurse’ films released by New World Pictures; in total, five would be released between 1971 and 1974. As Quentin explains on the episode, these look like erotic films or sex comedies when you see them on a video shelf, but outside of a few de rigeur nude scenes, they usually aren’t particularly sexy, telling slice-of-life stories with an ensemble of young working women.

The Young Nurses’ VHS box understands what makes these pictures sell, however. The first three sentences of the synopsis all include the word ‘sex,’ and you’ll need to listen to the podcast to hear Joe explain how the tagline should be pronounced:

This week’s third film, “My Nights With Susan, Sandra, Olga & Julie,” is a mouthful of a title – but it’s actually shorter than the Dutch title, “Mijn nachten met Susan, Olga, Albert, Julie, Piet & Sandra,” which squeezes in two more of the players in this erotic cat and mouse game from Dutch filmmaking team Pim and Wim. Who cut Albert and Piet out of title billing in the US release? Perhaps some aggrieved American graphic designers trying to fit the title onto a poster. Listen to the episode for more details on an incredible dead body performance, and Pim de la Parra’s association with Martin Scorcese.

As Roger notes, the poorly designed “My Nights…” cover looks like it’s for a film called “Private Screenings,” but that’s actually the name of the VHS release label. If I have a secondary gripe, it’s that a hayride would not be my vehicle of choice into ‘hidden erotic pleasures.’ Sounds uncomfortable!

Here’s a Video Archives production detail you may not have noticed (and I’ve seen a few listeners ask about this) - the music that cues Gala’s entrance into the discussion of each movie is the VHS opening fanfare for that tape’s video company! Today’s episode is unique in that it features three VHS labels we haven’t included on the show yet. Let’s go through each of them this week, so you can visualize the state-of-the-80s graphics accompanying these cues as you listen…

The Eddie Brandt’s collection includes a very rare 1980 Fool Killer VHS release on Republic Pictures Home Video; it’s never been rereleased. Republic Pictures, with its stately eagle logo, was a smaller film studio that specialized in Westerns and B-pictures, including The Quiet Man and Johnny Guitar; in 1967, it was sold to NTA, who would eventually release the Republic catalog on home video.

I cheated slightly with this one – the Fool Killer VHS was released in 1980, and the original Republic Pictures Home Video logo was one of the rare VHS label logos with no accompanying music. For the podcast, I used the 1993 update of the logo, which does have musical accompaniment. It’s extremely simple, a rush of air fading into a synth F note that becomes an F chord, but it’s better than no music at all!

The Young Nurses was released on VHS in 1986 by Charter Entertainment, the low budget side label for Embassy Home Entertainment (which itself was briefly owned by Coca-Cola). Charter released titles like Kiss Of The Spider Woman, Crimewave, and the rest of the Nurses films. The logo features the blocky chrome Charter letters flying into place against cool-toned color bars:

According to the invaluable Audiovisual Identity Database, the music cue for this logo, a whooshy arpeggio interrupted by a sawtooth chord, was a piece of library music titled “Music, Billboard #2” that also appeared in some Hanna Barbara titles and the video game Worms: Armageddon. Even anonymous stock music can have third, fourth and fifth lives across media if it’s memorable enough.

Finally, let’s talk about that confusing Private Screenings label on the “My Nights…” tape! Private Screenings was the adult-themed sister label for Media Home Entertainment; as noted by, nearly all Private Screenings releases were erotic films from Sweden, and often included beautiful women on the cover that did not even appear in the film within. “My Nights…” is Dutch and not Swedish, but indeed, the women on the VHS box are never seen in the film.

That Cooper Black Private Screenings logo flies onto screen with a trail before each release, This is my favorite of the music fanfares this week – it reminds me a little bit of Sirius by The Alan Parsons Project played at double speed.

Today’s Merch Spotlight comes courtesy of Phil G from New Jersey! He says “You guys have a really rad podcast. I am having a blast trying to find these great hidden classic films to watch before I listen. Thanks for the awesome show!”

If you aren‘t subscribed yet, check out Joe’s awesome podcast with Josh Olsen, The Movies That Made Me! You’ll hear a lot of incredible filmmakers and creative people talk about the films that inspired them. And if you haven’t subscribed to The Video Archives Podcast yet…how did you even make it here? Subscribe, rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and Amazon Music, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram! See you next week on the After Show, where we just may get to more of your burning questions…