Erol's Video Club is going into the video publishing business -- with an eye, perhaps, toward financing commercial films someday. Next week the chain will introduce "Get Rich Quick by Beating the Odds," a one-hour video on lottery, bingo and sweepstakes strategies that will be available exclusively at Erol's outlets until the end of next year. List-priced at $19.95, the tape will sell initially at an introductory rate of $9.95 (even less for club members).
The tape stops short of saying which numbers to pick, but does recommend ways that viewers can increase their odds of winning (by playing the often-neglected "second chance," for example) or of increasing their winnings if fate smiles on them (by avoiding lottery numbers that are statistically proven to be popular among bettors). Says writer-producer Debra Gonsher, "We don't promise that you'll be a winner, only that you'll be able to play smarter."
While this isn't the first time a video retailer has had exclusive rights to a tape, it is certainly being tried on a larger scale than ever before -- Erol's is, after all, the nation's largest-volume video chain. And this could be only the beginning, according to VP Ron Castell, who says the chain is looking into buying feature films on an exclusive basis. A number of producers already have offered movies for that purpose, he says, "but none of them has been anything we'd be interested in -- most of them we wouldn't carry in the first place." After a few more years of growth, however, he doesn't rule out the possibility that an independent producer might be able to raise money to make a film by selling exclusive video retail rights in advance. "Today it probably wouldn't be worth the expense, because I don't think we're big enough," says Castell. "But a year or two or three from now, it very well could be."
Foreign Fest Five masters of the film medium are represented in the latest additions to the International Collection of foreign-language films from Nelson Entertainment. A total of six French, German and Swedish classics make their video debuts next week in their native languages with English subtitles. Two come from Ingmar Bergman: 1944's "Torment," directed by Alf Sjoberg, with a Bergman screenplay -- his first -- about a love triangle that ends in murder and revenge; and "Summer Interlude," a 1950 drama about a ballerina who's lonely at the top. "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse" cost director Fritz Lang his job as the head of the Nazi film board when Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, ordered the film banned shortly before its 1933 release; it didn't make its U.S. debut for 10 years. G.W. Pabst's "Westfront 1918," from 1930, delivers a powerful antiwar message in its dramatization of the World War I French attack on the German front. And from France come Max Ophuls' "La Ronde" (1950), starring Simone Signoret, and "The Eternal Return," Jean Cocteau's 1943 adaptation of the Tristan and Isolde legend. The tapes are priced at $29.95 -- low enough that your video retailer has little excuse not to carry them.
Say Cheese! The coming holidays provide a perfect opportunity for home video enthusiasts to capture their families on tape -- if they plan ahead first. So says Rob Huberman, coauthor with Laura Janis of "Video Family Portraits," Heritage Books' guide to the creation of family documentaries. Huberman advises video shutterbugs to get their subjects to talk on camera about specific topics agreed on in advance; the book provides extensive sample questions on a wide variety of topics to help loosen up the camera-shy.
Still, getting all the details of the interviewees' life stories is less important than "capturing their expressions, their individuality," suggests Huberman. "You want to get a video record of the life and spirit of the individual." And if you're renting equipment just for the occasion, he says, make sure you practice ahead of time in order to avoid technical mishaps, and spend the extra money to rent a tripod -- if the cameraman gets tired of holding the camera it shows on the tape, and there's nothing worse than watching a picture with the shakes.
Say what you want about shredded wheat, but its patriotism has never been questioned, and Nabisco wants to keep it that way. This is the month that shredded wheat boxes were going to feature an offer for a custom exercise video starring Jane Fonda, but the deal went sour after Nabisco encountered angry protests over Jane's pre-leotard activities during the Vietnam war. Nabisco bowed to the pressure and pulled out. Jane, meanwhile, has signed on to do at least two more exercise tapes with Lorimar.