Welcome to Black Dog’s new and (hopefully) improved blog. We aim to entertain and inform you on all the comings and goings at the store, on the big and small screen and whatever else tickles our fancy. Please enjoy responsibly.

Editing as Puntcutation

Pretty interesting video. Some amazing techniques that most folks (myself included) wouldn’t even notice.



Why a video store?


There isn’t a day goes by when I’m working at Black Dog and I hear a passerby on the street remark that they’re surprised to see that there is still a video store open. Some laugh, even chortle if you will, at the fact that we’re still here, like we shouldn’t be. I don’t really get it – it hasn’t been that long since the damn internet cleared the landscape of most of the worlds video stores. It’s not like we are a phone book company or telegram office. But as much as this saddens and sometimes angers me it always gets me to thinking, why am I still doing this? Why a video store?

When I started this company back in the spring of 1996, video stores dotted the landscape like some beautiful field of movie joy. There was nary a neighbourhood that didn’t have a video shop, even if it was just a shitty Blockbuster or Rogers or whatever chain. That’s what we had in our hood when I moved here. They were terrible stores – insanely huge with a very poor selection of movies and bad lighting – so I took it upon myself to open Black Dog and stock the shelves with, what I thought, great films. I don’t know how many times I went into a Megamovies or whatever and left empty handed and depressed. I vowed to weed out all the Dunston Checks In and Children of the Corn IVs and instead went for quality and obscure.


I think the Blockbuster down the road has 37 copies of this.

I thought that I knew plenty about movies but opening the store was a learning experience for me as well as I was introduced to many films and filmmakers that I wasn’t too familiar with – Tarkovsky, Haneke, Herzog and Argento among a plethora of others. We put a request book on the desk and that helped us, along with what we already had going, to build an amazing collection. Films like Bad Boy Bubby, Withnail and I, Re-Animator, Dead Alive, Harold and Maude and so many others came to represent what Black Dog was all about.

It was a great time for the video store and Black Dog took off almost overnight (I remember getting notes under the door when we were renovating saying “Please hurry and open!”). We ended up moving to a larger location across the street after only 3 years at out first 800 foot store (complete with astroturf flooring). They were quite fun and exciting times and we’d spend a big effort to find anything and everything we could – many a bootleg movie showed up – to fill up the shelves with great, hard to find movies. I even bought a terrible copy of Cocksucker Blues, the Rolling Stones documentary, out of the back of a van in New York city. Things were humming along.


I think it said “VHS Tapes Cheap!” on the other side.

Then in the fall of 2004 disaster struck. Just after my wife and I bought our first house (back when folks like me could afford to buy a first house) we found out that we were going to have a baby. That’s not the disaster part. Really it’s not. One early October Sunday morning a fire broke out in a secret grow-op that was, apparently (the secret part), above the store. The resulting smoke and water damage destroyed all of my tapes and put us out of business. It was terrible. I stood in the middle of the wet, acrid smelling store looked around and wept. It was terrible. But as they say every cloud has a silver lining and as we slowly rebuilt the store I was able to use the insurance money to restock the shelves with DVDs which were fast replacing the old clunky VHS tapes. There wasn’t even a question that I would re-open. I loved this business and I felt that we were an important part of the community and besides, what else was I going to do? This feeling was confirmed when Choices grocery mart down the block threw a big fundraiser to help our employees. The show of support was amazing – folks turned out in droves in the pouring rain to help us out. We felt quite loved and that folks would miss us dearly if we were gone. It still warms these old heart cockles just thinking about it.

So we rebuilt and the next year we bought out the Celluloid Drug Store (video store) on Commercial Drive and turned it into a Black Dog. We’ve been there for 10 years now.

We’ve had such a great ride and there’s so many stories I could tell – I could go on about the great all-night debauched parties we had at the store, the Saturday nights when we’d sneak beer down the alley from the Kino Cafe, the time some kid pooped in between the racks, the crazy person who accused me of being racist because of our name and wrote me a 6 page tirade that ended up with me being thrown into a volcano, the time a small but vocal group of very intense kids protested our “Nast Nazi” selection at the Commercial store, the run-ins with the ridiculous film board. I could go on about all of the great people I’ve had work for me over the years, how much it saddened us with John’s passing last year, all of the amazing folks we’ve made friends with, some becoming more than just friends, people getting married in the store and just the wonderful sense of being part of a cool vibrant neighbourhood. Maybe I’ll write a book.

As International Video Store Day approaches I look back at this amazing journey with much fondness and more than a little sadness. I know that we won’t be here forever. And that makes me a bit despondent, not just because this used to be a big part of my livelihood (or all of it) but it makes me sad for all of the movie lovers who will not have access to the amazing collection of films that we’ve managed to put together over the last two decades. How is anyone going to know that they should rent Bubba Ho-Tep or The Tenant without having us to help them along? The internet? Not bloody likely. You can have all the Netflixs and illegal downloading sites you want (nobody steals movies do they??) and all that convenience but you can’t replace the video store. Not just for the selection and access and the low cost, but for the people and the experience. I think that many of these great films will just disappear into the ether as the next generation won’t even know of their existence. It makes me sad to think that one day we will all be gone and I think as a society we will be lesser for it.


Support your local video store!

Hitchcock/Kubrick Delight!

Wow. What a cool mashup of Kubrick and Hitch. NSFW (Not Safe for Work) but I imagine that depends on what kind of work you do. But check this out.


Stop motion Goldblum.

We here at Black Dog love Wes Anderson. And we really love Fantastic Mr. Fox (it made our 100 favourite films list!). So this is some good news. Some good news yes sir!


International Video Store Day!


This coming Saturday marks the 5th annual International Video Store Day. While many of you might think, “Is that really a thing?” I can assure you that it is. As much as International Record Store Day, International Cheeseburger Day or Christmas. It’s a day to celebrate all that is wondrous and marvellous about your local video store. We’ve been at it for almost 20 years and not a day goes by that I’m not grateful to have experienced this amazing ride. I hope that we’ve been able to provide you with not only some sweet films to watch and experience, but a nice, comfortable, inviting and overall fun place to visit, hang out and get to know our staff and your neighbours. We’ve met so many excellent people (and a few sub-excellent people) and made great friends (and the occasional enemy) along the way. We’ve seen kids grow up and become fine young adults, some have passed on, some have even opened video stores of their own across the country. It’s been a great journey and while it’s been a bit of a tough slog over the past few years, we’re still able to keep the doors open and the lights on. Most of that can be attributed to you fine folks who keep visiting us to take home some great films and TV. We appreciate it immensely and we wouldn’t be here without y’all. Much love.

Drop into either Black Dog this Saturday (October 17th) to celebrate! We have a few things up our sleeves to make this a joyous affair:

We will be doing an in-store, one-day raffle for a couple of sweet prizes – a fancy new Blu Ray player and one of our much lauded $35 punch cards.

If you rent 2 DVDs or Blu Rays you can get a third at no cost (of equal or lesser value)!

Buy any 2 previously-loved DVDs or Blu Rays and get a third for free (of equal or lesser value)!

At the Commercial location, local musical hero Jason Zumpano will be spinning some cool sounds to make you movie perusal that much more enjoyable.

We hope to see you all in the stores this weekend (if not before) to help us celebrate the day of the Video Store!


We’re waiting for you!

Hail, Coens!

It’s always time to rejoice when there’s a new Coen Brothers film! These guys rarely make a misstep and have made some of my favourite flicks. Is it February yet?



Election! (not the movie)


Mmmm, Canada.

Let’s step away from chat about films for a moment and talk about the upcoming election. I don’t usually get political in my blogs and newsletters and such but I believe that this election might be one of the most important Canada has ever faced. At least it is in my 50 plus years in this country. We have a chance to steer the country away from the past horrific 9 (!) years that Stephen Harper has been PM (thank glob it’s only been 4 since he had a majority) and back to what once made this place awesome.

I could list all of the atrocities (maybe too strong a word?) that he has committed ranging from his war on the environment and scientists to his hatred of women, aboriginals and minorities, his blatant racism to his shilling for horrible international corporations. I could mention that he’s a criminal, a cheat, a bully and a coward. I could mention how he relies on fear of terrorists and other cultures to beef up his own shady power-hungry agenda. I could mention his dismal record on the economy (hello .75 cent dollar!) I could go on about how his terrifying Evangelical Christian values drives his insane psychotic lust for power. I could mention that everything he says is wrong. I could even make fun of his grey complexion, his Lego hair and his cold robot heart.  But you’ve heard all of that before.

Harper’s dream vacation spot.

I would just like to address the voters. I don’t think that I know one single person that will vote Conservative in this election. If the Facebook bubble that I live in was any indication of how the election will turn out then the Conservative party will be crushed into non-existence. But sadly that is not a true indicator of how much of Canada feels. I am astounded and dismayed when I here of folks who know all the terrible things that Harper has done over the years but they still say they’ll vote conservative because that’s how their parents voted and that’s how they’ve always voted. It makes zero sense to me. If you grew up in a house where your folks just drank Extra Old Stock and then you drank Extra Old Stock, but knew it was a shitty beer, and then tried something fantastic like a great micro-brewed Stout or even a Guinness, would you continue to drink Extra Old Stock because that’s what you’ve always drank? I think not. So why continue to vote for the same Extra Old Conservatives? And to note – the current Conservative party bears no resemblance to the Progressive Conservatives of old. This is the Reform Party but taken to an unpleasant extreme.

If this was a movie, Stephen Harper would be the big bad, the villain, the Blofeld to James Bond, Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker (but not a Darth Vader that eventually sees the error of his ways). If this was a movie you’d be cheering as Arnold or Sly or Bruce or Van Damme (yes I’m old school) delivered a roundhouse kick to Harper’s temple, set him on fire and then tossed him into the pool of piranhas that he keeps in his backyard to vanquish his enemies.

20120713_054315_120712 man on fire_300

Quick, throw him in the pool! Yes the one with the little fish with pointy teeth!

But this isn’t a movie and there’s no pool of piranhas. But we can vote. On October 19th, do the right thing. Toss Harper and the Conservatives into that proverbial pool of flesh eating fish.

Here’s a link on how to use your vote wisely.


31 Days of Halloween


Off to the dentist!

Click here to see Black Dog’s famed 31 Days of Halloween movie recommendations! Everyday for the month of October (cause that’s when Halloween is this year) we will recommend a fantastic horror film for you to discover or re-watch. I hope that these picks meet with your expectations!

Say it’s ain’t so, Steve!

As long as he keeps on keeping on making quality shows, I don’t really care if they’re films or TV. I thought (and still think) that The Knick is excellent!