Color, 1986-2010 / 5+ hours
Directed by Jeff Krulik & John Heyn
Circle Collective (Blu-ray) (US RA HD)

The VHS trading community Heavy Metal Parking Lotthat flourished in the '80s and '90s in the U.S. produced plenty of word-of-mouth Heavy Metal Parking Lotclassics, ranging from shorts like Apocalypse Pooh to infamous features like Nekromantik. However, one that always stood out from the crowd was Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a 16m42s shot-on-VHS wonder by John Heyn and Jeff Krulik capturing the tailgating fans parked at the now long-gone Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland waiting for a double header show with Judas Priest and Dokken. An exuberant and often hilarious time capsule of hair metal fandom at its peak, it's a celebration of big hair, boozing, and rocking out that has yet to be equaled, with an array of outfits (including the incredible zebra body suit) that can still make your eyes pop.

Widely handed around on tapes several generations removed from the source, Heavy Metal Parking Lot ended up spawning a decades-long string of projects from its creators (as well as fan imitators) depicting mass fan culture as well as the passing of time in the original location. Not counting their eight-episode reality series, the 2022 Heavy Metal Parking Lot double-disc Blu-ray from Circle Collective presents pretty much everything you could possibly want in the best quality possible given the original, mostly lo-fi sources, with DTS-HD MA 2.0 tracks that are either mono or fairly basic stereo. Neil Diamond Parking LotNote that this limited edition (with a spot gloss slipcover designed by Johnny Ryan) is limited to 2,500 units and will not be Heavy Metal Parking Lotrepressed. The main film is presented first with optional English SDH subtitles, which not only come in handy in a few spots but will probably get turned into memes at some point. The filmmakers also provide a commentary track explaining how the whole thing came about and how they pulled it off, essentially swapping memories and chatting about the stylized video editing choices at the end. They also reveal this was culled from only an hour of shot footage, which is pretty staggering considering how much gold they have.

Also on the first disc are four more short docs starting with Heavy Metal Basement (48m22s) from 2006, which takes a very in-depth look at the insanely comprehensive collection of rock expert Jim Powell, including a ton of vinyl that's probably worth a fortune now. 2010's Heavy Metal Picnic (65m44s) which juggles new interviews with various Maryland residents with original footage of a 1985 metal bash thrown for two days, "The Full Moon Jamboree and Heavy Metal Sunday," with similarly drunken partiers cutting loose for their favorite music genre. (A young Powell even pops up here, too.) Neil Diamond Parking LotThe second most famous short here would have to be 1997's Neil Diamond Parking Lot (11m43s), which returns to the same location for a very different (but no less enthused) crowd. The sweetest and most charming short here has to be Harry Potter Parking Lot2011's Harry Potter Parking Lot (7m13s), a compendium of excited kids attending a 1999 book signing by J.K. Rowling. Obviously this one plays quite differently today given how much Pottermania exploded once the movies came out and where Rowling herself ended up heading, but as a time capsule of an entire generation of kids discovering the wonders of falling in love with reading, this one is tough to beat. Other extras include a 5m25s "lost footage" reel from Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a 2006 "Livin' the Life" featurette (18m59s) catching up with many of the original attendees (including Zebraman), a 10m7s "Heavy Metal Parking Lot Exhibit Opening" from 2016, a lengthy and often very amusing 2021 35th anniversary reunion Zoom party and reunion (124m3s) including some recognizable fashion choices, an "In Memoriam" (2m43s) for the Capital Centre showing its demolition and the fans who are no longer with us, a quick "Animated Heavy Metal Parking Lot" (1m43s), and local news coverage of the Capital Centre's last days (8m26s). "Return to Heavy Metal Basement" (28m26s) catches up with a slew of new additions to the collection, plus a Krulik-shot "Washington Capitols Time Capsule" (8m19s) focusing on Alexander Ovechkin. Also tucked away as an Easter egg is a "Dub-o-Vision" 10th generation VHS copy of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, previously seen on the self-distributed DVD release.

The second disc (a short film collection entitled "Long Term Parking") kicks off with the unforgettable Ernest Borgnine on the Bus (50m24s), shot in 1995 with the award-winning actor and his son using his 40-foot bus, the Sunbum, to cross the Midwest and chat about life along the way. Girls on Film (1m57s) Led Zeppelin Played Hereis a collection of celluloid test shots set to The Passions' "I'm in Love with a German Film Star," while Krulik and Diane Bernard's "I Created Lancelot Link" (15m17s) is exactly what it sounds like with the men behind the beloved talking chimp show reuniting and swapping stories. The brief Invocation of My Demon Bus Driver (52s) is... something, Ernest Borgnine on the Buswhile King of Porn (6m41s) and King of Porn 2: The Retirement (5m58s) profile dedicated adult material collector and Library of Congress librarian Ralph Whittington and his suburban life. The 2013 Led Zeppelin Played Here (80m11s) chronicles efforts to prove that Maryland's Wheaton Youth Center was the site for its first U.S. live appearance in 1969. It's a pretty fascinating slice of rock archaeology, and yes, the soundtrack is left intact here. Finally The Real Pinball Wizard (7m8s) from 2013 offers a portrait of Tom Hintenach Jr., who has found a calling maintaining a massive collection of pinball machines and classic arcade games in running order while folks eat crabs. Extra bonus features include "Scenes from the Last Drive-In" (3m59s) in Hillside, Maryland, "Led Zeppelin Treasure Chest" (6m6s) showing a "world class Zeppelin collector" and his archive, eight selected episodes from the web series Punk & Tomatoes (36m50s), and "You Can't Take Pictures in Here" (6m30s), with photographer Hal Schmulowitz recalling his shooting of a Rolling Stones gig at the Capital Centre. There's a little Easter egg hidden on this disc, too, and the package also comes with an essay by Don Ozzi about the main short and its impact on pop culture for the past few decades.

Reviewed on September 24, 2022