The current list of the 10 best-selling videocassettes includes several tapes from the animated "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" TV show.
Before the live-action "Ninja Turtles" movie became a box-office smash in theaters in March, the tapes weren't selling in those numbers. Now they dominate the weekly lists of videos for sale, making serious in-roads on Disney's "kid vid" domain.The impact of a hot movie on cassette sales was demonstrated last summer when CBS/Fox belatedly released its 1966 "Batman" movie to video stores. The feature-length spin-off of Adam West's mid-1960s television series quickly climbed into the top 10 and stayed there until 1989's blockbuster version of "Batman" landed on cassette last fall.
This summer, tape distributors are anticipating a similar situation. Hanna-Barbera Home Video has announced that it will release six cassettes of the early-1960s television series, "The Jetsons," June 28. Universal Pictures' "Jetsons: The Movie" opens in theaters July 6.
Disney's August theatrical release, "Ducktales - The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp," will undoubtedly boost sales of the "Ducktales" cassettes already in stores. And Disney's July reissue of the 1967 feature cartoon, "The Jungle Book," can only draw attention to Disney's "Sing-a-Long Songs" tape, "The Bare Necessities," which features a couple of numbers from the movie.
But the biggest video push involves Warren Beatty's $30 million Disney version of "Dick Tracy," which hit theaters Friday. The merchandising and publicity machines are pumping away, and the cassette spin-offs are already here.
Republic Home Video has the largest list of releases: four complete "Dick Tracy" Saturday-matinee serials from the 1930s and early 1940s, made up of 15 episodes apiece and priced at $69.95; four "Dick Tracy" feature films from the 1940s, priced at $29.95; and four volumes of the 1950-51 "Dick Tracy" television show, promoted as "The Lost Episodes" and priced at $29.95 apiece.
The fourth volume of this collection includes "A Dick Tracy Sampler," made up of scenes from Tracy movies and a look back at the comic-strip character's career. "Dick Tracy's G-Men" (1939) is generally regarded as the best of the serials (Jennifer Jones plays Tracy's girlfriend), while "Dick Tracy, Detective" stands out among the feature films. Boris Karloff has a featured role in the last of the features, "Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome."
Ralph Byrd played Tracy in the first serial, "Dick Tracy" (1937), and continued with the role in two of the feature films (Morgan Conway had the leading role in the others) and the television series. Byrd began shooting the network series in 1949 and died of a heart attack shortly after it went into syndication in 1952.
On June 27, Media Home Entertainment is also releasing "Dick Tracy, Detective" (1945) and "Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome" (1947), but for $10 less than Republic's price.
One day later, Paramount Home Video is bringing out six volumes of "The Animated Adventures of Dick Tracy" for $12.95 apiece. Each tape includes 10 five-minute cartoons, originally produced by UPA Productions for Saturday-morning television in 1961, plus "Crimestopper Tips." Everett Sloane provided Tracy's voice; Mel Blanc and Paul Frees did some of the others.
In addition, Disney Audio Entertainment is releasing "Dick Tracy Audio Action Adventures" on June 30. Charles Howerton does the voice of Tracy, and each cassette or LP ($7.98 apiece) comes with a read-along comic book.
Will all this stuff just end up on the discount shelf in July, along with the "Dick Tracy" pencil boxes, games, plastic cups, dolls, wrist walkie-talkies, computer games, "crimestopper kits," trench coats, T-shirts, shower curtains, drapes, backpacks and key chains that are starting to turn up?
It all depends on whether the traditionally young hot-weather audience shows up to see a once-popular star-director in a comic-strip story most kids know nothing about.