Clam Boxes, Scripts and Identity: The Importance of a Physical Film

If you are of a certain vintage, going to the video rental store on a Friday night was part of the weekend ritual. The rush and hope that a copy of a new release would be available to be borrowed for just one evening was tantamount to an exceptional evening in. In those early days of home cinema normality, it was unthinkable to ponder purchasing a new release.

I clearly remember looking at the clam-boxed Footloose and being astounded to see the price as well over £100- and this was in the 1980s! Since then, we have seen the tape format become long exiled to the island of formats past, low-cost basic copies of DVDs flood the marketplace, and the omnipresence of streaming almost inescapable. Now deluxe editions of old favourites are slowly being [re] introduced to the market, in DVD and high-resolution Blu-Ray, allowing for movie fans to remember how special, and in some cases, important, specific films were to their own personal identity. These cinema standouts also illustrate how films have supplied the larger quilt of popular culture a currency of shared language that stretches between artistic mediums, time, place, and space - a lexicon that is under threat of arguably being lost entirely in a completely virtual world.


A combination of nostalgia for times past with an element of encountering something known in a different and unexpected way makes many of the new high-end film sets exciting for even the most devout fan. Key Account Manager Jodie Cox experienced this first-hand when he first saw that the Shaw Scope movies were to be released in deluxe editions. ‘I still get very excited talking about these films,’ he says. ‘It makes me feel a bit giddy and kind of well up’. Cox first watched the series made by the Hong Kong studio founded in the 1960s by real-life brothers Run Run and Runme Shaw with his martial art teacher dad as a child. Upon discovering hip-hop legends Wu-Tang Clan generously utilized Shaw samples throughout their catalogue, Cox saw the cross-cultural references provided by the series. ‘There are stories of brotherhood and the importance of looking out for each other. They are such a great part of cinematic history; so many things have been inspired by them, you don’t realise it until you are watching the original films.’ Cox describes critical scenes from several big-budget blockbusters that ‘borrowed’ liberally from the Shaws, including Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. After years of homage through the work of others, the deluxe edition features the originals with the sound and colour restored, as well as the films presented for the first time in chronological order. For enthusiasts, revisiting the beloved movies illustrates the irreplaceable connection between media and meaning, one that Cox describes as ‘almost overwhelming,’ as it ‘harks back to a lot of childhood memories.’


Bespoke editions however should be more than just great-looking and sounding versions of familiar favourites. Buyers need to feel they are purchasing something special and unique. Small production numbers of intricately packaged editions make collectors motivated to buy well-loved classics and cult releases alike, according to Petra Deacon, Creative Guru at Key Production. ‘A lot of what we make is limited to copies in the low thousands and some are numbered,’ Deacon tells me. It is a must for ‘the content to be housed in beautiful packaging,’ and accompanied by unexpected goodies complimenting the featured film, such as copies of the script, novels, posters and art cards.


The Shaw Scope release comes with a plethora of bonus features, including extra pictures, unseen footage and a bound book that Cox describes as ‘just so plush to look at.’ However, what is beautiful in a deluxe edition may be in the literal eye of the consumer, according to Deacon. She recalls a Herschell Gordon Lewis horror collection for Arrow Films where amongst the value-added pieces, fans could find ‘fake eyeballs and a sick bag.’  Perhaps equally scary is the VHS-style ‘clam-box’ presentation Deacon shares with me of a DVD set from a streaming series set back in the late 1980s but produced in the 21st century. The price? Not far off from my beloved Footloose four decades ago, at £142, proving that classic design never goes out of style.