Cardiff’s VHS Rental Shops – Part 1 – Broadway

Broadway was my main place for renting videos, and during the 1980s there were a number of great shops along the street that I frequented and loved. I’ll start my first round up of beloved VHS rental shops in Cardiff by starting at the Clifton Street end of Broadway, and finish up at the Royal Oak end. The shops I’ve covered are ordered by location rather than chronological date as to do it chronologically would be too confusing to my mind as things would jump around and overlap.

15ish Broadway – 3 Tapes For £1

The 3 For £1 VHS Rental Shop on Broadway

The 3 For £1 VHS Rental Shop on Broadway

This first location is one that I remember well – a unique little unit that didn’t have much space but crammed in great value. I’m not sure what the number of the shop is, it was for years the HQ Pool Club, before being split up into 2 units. The street numbers go a bit haywire by there, with the Roath Cons Club being 13a, despite 13 being two doors down in the opposite direction from this location. But I digress, you can see the unit in the image to the right, where at this point it was Fadez Barbers – Google Map Link.

Circa 1986 – 1989 this video shop was the only one I know of that worked on the bargain basement pricing of 3 tapes for £1 rental. This was unheard of back then, that was cheap as chips. They had a selection of premium rentals on the left as you walked in, but the rest of the shop was all 3 for £1, an offer I took advantage of many, many times. The 3 for films were all of a lower grade though, older titles, obscure titles, straight to video and generally a bit naff. That said though, I worked through the lot of them over the years. Sadly there was nothing of note for the video nasty viewer, although this was the only place I ever saw a copy of the obscure early George A. Romero film Season Of The Witch on VHS.

I think the shop’s demise came with the fire in the Broadway Methodist Chapel opposite in 1989. The road closure and damage done to the front of the store may have contributed, but I’m not actually sure it was open for a period before the fire, or afterwards. Either way, whilst not being a huge place, it saw a lot of business from my younger self and contributed a great deal to my film education, albeit for some turkeys and clunkers rather than high art.

44ish Broadway – Not Sure I’ve Imagined This One

44 Broadway, a short lived VHS store

44 Broadway, a short lived VHS store

Every other shop I feature I’m pretty sure about, but this one came as an afterthought and I’m not 100% sure I’ve not imagined it, or remembered a different video shop and placed it at this location. I think there was a shop here for a short period, mid to late 1980s but I’m not 100% sure on this one or its name – Google Map Link

I’m not sure we ever joined it either, served as we were by all the other shops in the neighbourhood – I vaguely recall it being pricier that the other places we used. I believe I may have got a poster or two from there when it was open, which was not for long. I recall it having different windows to the shop in the photo, with lots smaller panes like a Victorian style shop front, and a neon sign. That’s it though, and at the moment I’m not sure I’m correct on this one. If anyone could confirm that would be great.

29 Broadway – An Introduction To Dario Argento

Video shop to the left of Tanti's, circa 1989 - photographer unknown

Video shop to the left of Tanti’s, circa 1989 – photographer unknown

This rental place is unique here as I am lucky enough to have found an image that’s fairly contemporary to the period I was using it. Its location is 29 Broadway, although these days it’s no longer a retail unit. For a few years in the later half of the 1980s this was an ace rental place. At the time it was next door to Tanti’s chip shop, and for me was a good source of some obscure horror films – Google Maps Link. Given this was the later end of the 1980s, the place was of merit as it had a nasties tape that had slipped through the net as well as some other gems I’d not seen elsewhere before.

I’m not sure what the shop’s name was, I suspect it never had a proper name board as there’s nothing above the door on the photo from the period it was open. The only thing to give it away in that photo is the poster in the window. They had a good range of older films and new stuff in there. The nasty that they’d managed to keep on the shelf was Madhouse. I’ll always recall the day we rented it, I invited a couple of friends over to watch it. It wasn’t the goriest or nastiest of nasties by a long chalk, so there was a bit of an air of disappointment when we watched it and it wasn’t all that.

The Madhouse and Deep Red VHS covers

The Madhouse and Deep Red VHS covers

However, the feeling of watching a nasty circa 1988 was one of excitement and dread, coupled with some low level criminality. It had been a challenge getting an 18 out of the video shop at a young age, and one that was on the banned list too, so double the danger should the authorities catch us with it. Ok, it seemed like a big deal to us at the time, at least! The counter was at the back right of the shop from the entrance, and Madhouse sat at head height up above the counter. It disappeared in time, I suspect some nasty hunter like myself but with deeper pockets snapped it up and bought it off the store holder.

The other film I vividly recall from in there was Dario Argento’s Gaillo masterpiece Deep Red on the Fletcher VHS label. I knew nothing of Argento at the time. I’d seen some stills from Suspiria, but that was all I knew of him and his work. I decided to give it a go though, not sure what to expect. The tape itself was quite old at that point, a pre-cert with the 18 sticker stuck on it. First watch it instantly became a firm favourite – definitely my favourite Dario Argento and a favourite film full stop. At some point towards the start of the 1990s the shop closed and were selling off their stock. I suspect I went back to try and buy Deep Red, but can’t recall if I actually did or not, I suspect not.

29 Broadway now, no hint of its VHS rental past

29 Broadway now, no hint of its VHS rental past

I remember speaking to the guy in there quite often, and it being a bit rough and ready, though to be fair we were really spoiled for choice for a long time with this and the 3 for £1 shop being open and within 2 minutes walking distance of the house. I think it may have become a Bollywood video stockist for a while before eventually closing. Once again, I might just be imagining that period of its history. It’s funny how memory works, I can tell you exactly where the two films I’ve mentioned lived in the shop, but nothing else about it. If you look at the photo of it in more modern times, the shop front has disappeared and the it’s been turned to residential. For me though, I’ll always remember the rows and rows of tapes along the walls inside, shop window or no.

71 Broadway – ET Nasty And Others

71 Broadway, location of ET Nasty and others

71 Broadway, location of ET Nasty and others

This was a strange shop, I only recall it opening for a year or two before disappearing. The shop was next door to Sandy’s at number 73, the convenience store that we used to visit almost daily until the Sandy retired in the mid 1980s. Currently you can see the location of the rental shop, it is held by MSE Agency and Sandy’s is now a butchers – Google Map Link. That shop was always an odd location, I seem to remember it being empty more often than it was open. However, in approximately 1983 it was open as a video store, and one which had a very distinct selection of tapes.

What was distinct about it was they had a lack of top tier titles by the big VHS labels like Warners, CIC and their ilk. I’m not sure if they weren’t licensed to have them, or if people like Warner Brothers and CIC only worked with certain partners, but it was noticeable and probably hamstrung by its lack of big titles. Also, given the size of the shop, not as much was given over to the titles as could have been. Where as the previously mentioned shops had shelving running from floor to pretty much ceiling, this one had a band around the middle of the store, sort of knee height to eye level, so always felt a bit empty.

ETn (ET Nasty) VHS cover

ETn (ET Nasty) VHS cover

The lack of tapes and big store front window meant it always felt open and spacious in there, but it was the sort of store you go in and come out shaking your head because you couldn’t find anything of interest to rent. They had some obsucro horror from what I can remember, but at that point I was quite a bit younger so not at all aware of the titles they had and what they actually were.

However, there is one title that I always remember seeing in there which was the ETn video, or ExtraTerrestrial Nasty. The film ET had not been out long at that point, in fact like most people at the time I’d first seen it on a friend’s pirate video bought in from Saudi Arabia where his dad worked in the oil industry. ETn was an obscure sci-fi monster flick called Night Fright (1967) that had been repackaged and tarted up to cash in on both the ET craze and the video nasties boom. We didn’t now that at the time though, and the garish cover had me sold and stuck in the mind. I really wanted to see that film but wasn’t allowed too. Sadly, to this day, I still haven’t. Looking at its low IMDB rating, maybe that’s not a bad thing!

I don’t recall when the shop closed, it couldn’t have been there much beyond 1985 – I remember the atmosphere in there and the brightness, alongside some of the other titles they had. But that’s it, that and ETn.

153 Broadway – Augustus Barnett Off License

153 Broadway - The Augustus Barnett Off License

153 Broadway – The Augustus Barnett Off License

Now, this one I know and recall better than any others, but that’s because for a short period in the late 1980s I lived there – Google Maps Link. Ok, so it wasn’t a fully fledged VHS rental store, but we did have a carousel in there that held maybe 60 titles or so? And every month or so we’d get a box of the latest releases to put on the carousel and replace some of the older titles. This was awesome for me as it meant as well as a regular supply of new videos, I also got a steady supply of the advertising posters that came with them.

Some of the movie posters I picked up in Augustus Barnett

Some of the movie posters I picked up in Augustus Barnett

Ok, there were no video nasties here, the films were all pretty new when they arrived, no pre-cert tapes or anything overly obscure. However, over the couple of years we were there I got to see a lot of new releases for free and covered my wall with posters from some great films. About the most obscure thing that came through the shop was a film called Zombie Aftermath, which was a repackaged and renamed release of The Aftermath. I recall that cover as it was quite garish, but the film didn’t live up to it, there weren’t actually any zombies in it.

It really was a treat to have that ready made video library there. Ok, it wasn’t very in-depth, but there was enough there to keep us going when we couldn’t be bothered going to one of the local video shops. I think we left in 1989 driven out because the side of the building was falling down and the brewery didn’t want to fix it. The posters I’d picked up travelled with me back to our old house though, but the quick and easy access to the latest titles was sorely missed.

167 Broadway – Our First Store

167 Broadway - The First Local VHS Shop

167 Broadway – The First Local VHS Shop

The VHS rental place that was at 167 Broadway was the first VHS place we ever joined, and the earliest of all those featured here to open. It also had another personal connection for me as for a couple of years my mother worked there. Once again this meant regular free tapes, free posters and VHS trade magazines. I think it opened in the very early 1980s.

We were quite late getting a VHS player, and like most people at the time could only afford a rental. I don’t think we had one until about 1983 / 1984. I was only eleven or twelve at the time so my memories are hazier about this place, but I distinctly remember it being first of all in the front section of the building. Later it moved to the back end of the building with the entrance on the side street.

But those first visits, I can remember now the sheer excitement of seeing all these films available to take home and watch at your leisure. It was so exciting to me as a youngster. This place was really well stocked initially, top titles and a wide range. They probably had a good selection of the old video nasties, but I was too young to appreciate them or take notice at the time. I think the first film we ever rented there was Airplane. I don’t think I’d ever laughed so hard in my whole life when we saw it. If it wasn’t that then it could have been Any Which Way But Lose or Any Which Way You Can.

At the time then they had loads of Warner titles, films that had gone by at the cinema and lots of stuff I wanted to see. My mum would bring home films all the time, stuff I had no clue about or knew anything about. The Mad Mission films (Aces Go Places), Escape From New York, the Monty Python films were all exciting watches for us back then. And there was the stuff they wouldn’t let me watch too, legendary films like The Exorcist, American Werewolf, Dawn Of The Dead – they all stuck in my memory.

I seem to remember the amount of films they carried shrunk, and when they moved to the back of the shop they had less of a selection. I think at the time the front of the shop was taken over by another business, so the entire library was at the back of the building. I remember spending a lot of time in there, sometimes I’d go because my mum was working, and I could point out films she could bring back for us. Sometimes I go to see if they had any new advertising materials to go in my scrap book. I used to love the little trade fliers they had there with little screen shots of the VHS covers.

As for when it closed, I suspect it was around 1985 – certainly we didn’t go there any more after that time. It had been really popular for a long time and served a big area but as more shops sprung up on Broadway (as you can see above) this one just sort of fizzled out. Which is a shame, being one of the first of its kind in the area.

185-187 Broadway – End Of The Road

185-187 Broadway

185-187 Broadway

This one cropped up in the later half of the 1980s, just one block down from the previous store that I think had closed well before this one opened. At the very end of Broadway, cornered with Newport Road, this always struck me as a strange location for a rental shop as it felt like it was away from the bulk of the residential areas that the rest of Broadway accessed. It was also a pretty interesting shape of a shop as well, given its sweeping corner position.

They had a good range of titles in here, top tier and some obscure stuff as well. I didn’t use this one as much, though I distinctly remember several titles that they had there. We used it quite a bit when we were living in 153 Broadway, but a lot less after that. The shop was large inside, and thanks to the big windows very bright. I recall it being carpeted and having lots of plywood style veneer panelling on the walls. The location on the main roads always made it feel like a car could come crashing through the windows at any point.

As for the titles I recall renting there were the classic schlock horror Basket Case, a film called Big Meat Eater, and it was the only shop in Cardiff that I recall ever seeing a copy of the Alan Ormsby’s Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, but despite always meaning to check it out, it was one that always got trumped by other more salubrious titles. I didn’t use this place too often, but I think it had a pretty good innings, being a video shop through until the early 1990s. It’s still open as a shop, these days it’s a door warehouse, as you can see from the photo.

And Finally

So that was Broadway in the 1980s, a dearth of places to rent VHS, each with its own atmosphere and note. It’s amazing how often these places crop up in my thoughts and dreams, and a testament to the effect they had on me as a child. So much of my time was spent in these places as I grew up it’s perhaps not surprising that they continue to haunt me now. As I continue this trawl through these little monuments to personal entertainment, I will step away from Broadway, and around the corner into Clifton Street and Splott. Stay tuned and don’t forget to rewind the tape!

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