Cinephiles around the planet rejoiced when the flippable, futuristic Laserdisc format developed by Phillips-MCA was first unleashed upon the home video market in 1978 as DiscoVision, competing with other now-extinct video systems like Betamax and VHS. Gathering steam into the '80s, the hulking Laserdisc players used shining 12-inch optical discs capable of spinning at up to 1,800 rpm and delivering striking picture quality and superior audio over VHS tapes, comparable to the surviving DVD format to come. Able to pack much more data onto its Frisbee-sized platters, Laserdiscs were stuffed with extra bonus material, commentaries and interviews sometimes not included in subsequent DVD and today's Blu-ray releases. For some movie maniacs, this was the premium delivery system for true purists, allowing for tricky features like high-quality slow motion, full-fidelity still frames, multiple audio tracks and even individually accessed frames.
With the more convenient format of DVD becoming the darling of film lovers into the 2000s, Laserdiscs went the way of the passenger pigeon, though still coveted by some serious collectors. Recently there's been a resurgence of interest in the nostalgic systems and they can often be found at music stores and garage sales with a fat stack of geeky genre movies to accompany them. The large, album-sized packaging for the films gave room for some beautiful cover artwork to be used, many examples never released in the United States. While the American public never really accepted Laserdisc with open arms, nearly 4 million units were purchased in Japan in 1998, representing 25% of all sold worldwide.
Behold these incredible imports for The Thing, Predator, Star Wars, Halloween, Rollerball, Evil Dead, Dune, Legend and many more in the gallery below, showcasing the Japanese market's insatiable appetite for sci-fi, fantasy and horror classics. Laserdiscs may be out of fashion but their legend lives on!