Photos by Anthony Sant’Anselmo
Anthony Sant’Anselmo remembers with fondness the days that he used to ride his bicycle to local video stores in the San Fernando Valley. While he gawked with wide eyes at the VHS artwork displayed on the shelves, he would fantasize with his friends about how cool it would be to have access to such a wide movie selection from the convenience of their homes. Fast-forward to the present day and Anthony finds himself raising his family in Georgia, where good food is plentiful, houses have basements and the cost of living is affordable. He has home access to thousands of films provided by an abundance of online streaming services, just like he wished, but video stores like the ones that molded him into the person that he is today are gone. “When I’m scrolling through digital posters for like two hours and can’t find anything to watch, my 12-year-old self should kick my own ass,” Anthony says. Something didn’t feel right, so he did what any rational human being would do in his position: he built his own “video store” in his basement.
MONDO VIDEO! is Anthony’s homage to the Mom & Pop video shops from the 1980s that powered his love for movies. He intentionally designed it to be like a museum experience or an art installation pop-up. “So if somebody was to come by, it would be like an awesome journey for them.” The store is not open to the public, but friends and family have responded positively to his work.
Anthony has multiple reasons for collecting VHS tapes and considers preserving them his duty. “I’ve got some space. I’m able to collect a decent amount and try to keep these tapes as pristine and preserved as I can,” he said. He finds pleasure in the ritualistic aspect of popping a tape in the player and gets comfort from movies playing in the background while he works on the “store.” Some of the movies he enjoys are simply stuck on tape. That was the case with many films that never got released on DVD, usually because of movie ownership issues or lack of love from production companies that saw no monetary opportunities in them.
His fascination for 80s pop culture resonates with the “store’s” design, stocked with several vintage props and graphics. “That’s when I fell in love with movies, music and film language. How music and film go together. I was always totally into that pop culture and it was like a feast for the senses for me,” he said. The 80s were considered the golden era of excess, decadence and flash which translated into incredible VHS cover art. “I always gravitated toward anything very visual or fantastic,” he says. “There were some really savvy marketing guys working on those films.” Anthony now appreciates films from every decade and doesn’t set any limits for his movie-watching experience. He believes that those that stick to certain decades are missing out on a lot of quality material.
Horror movies were a forbidden fruit for Anthony, challenged by his strict mother and a religious educational system that tried to keep him away from such disturbing content. “I went to a religious school that talked about burning in hell with A WORM when I was six,” he said. Anthony was into drawing and writing while school lectures provided the perfect inspiration for his creative outlets. His horror stories got the principal’s attention, who felt the need to alert Anthony’s parents about his writings. “The whole point is that they would teach me these crazy stories about hell and they wondered why I was into horror…”
At the age of 11, Anthony got his hands on a stack of Troma Films, a production company known for low budget films that combine brutal and violent imagery with comedic performances. “I watched for the first time in my life ‘The Toxic Avenger,’ ‘Class of Nuke ‘Em High’ and ‘Surf Nazis Must Die.’ It was such an education in like six hours of pure exploitation.” He describes that night as “glorious,” when he ate a bunch of junk food, “Kevin McAllister style,” and received lifelong lessons from professor Lloyd Kaufman and his production team. Anthony knew that something as ridiculous as Troma was special, but he also drew a lot of inspiration from another guy named Steven Spielberg.
Anthony’s kids are too young to fully understand the environment at MONDO VIDEO! and most of the tapes sit sideways on shelves; revealing only the spine and hiding some potentially nasty cover art. Some horror props and graphics decorate the “store,” but are placed in spots that remain mostly unnoticeable for his kids. As they get older, Anthony removes any violent or inappropriate imagery that might be visible to them before they even get a glimpse of it. Finding movies for them to watch shouldn’t be a problem though, because they will have complete access to “MONDO KIDEO!” a whole room full of movies appropriate for kids of the age of 5 and older. As much as Anthony wished that his own mom would let him watch any movie he desired as a child, he makes sure that his kids watch age appropriate stuff.
What Anthony lacked in home movies, he made up for by growing up with an 80s pop-culture icon. His father, Robert, was the co-creator of Teddy Ruxpin, the first animated story-telling toy that became one of the most popular Christmas gifts in 1985. Growing up during this time was highly fascinating for Anthony, who was already a fan of puppetry and the movie “Gremlins,” which relied heavily on similar technology. “It was just like a real big deal for me,” he says. “I just thought ‘wow, this is all falling in line with what I want to do with my life.”
He started Evil Puppets in 2005, a “cheesy” MySpace page that served as a “digital shrine to celebrate evil puppetry in movies, like ‘Gremlins,’ ‘Critters,’ ‘Puppet Master’ and so forth.” When MySpace went “belly up,” he switched to Facebook where the page has been active for over a decade. He eventually took his puppet collection (which included screen-used puppets, replicas and stunt puppets) on the road for the Mad Monster Party convention. Inspired by the filmmaking process, Anthony also taught himself as a kid how to make stop motion animation videos. Those skills would eventually help him land a job with South Park, where he’s been working for 18 years as a lip sync artist.
During the initial stages of development for MONDO VIDEO!, Anthony shared his vision for the “Culinary Horror” section with his sister-in-law, Genevieve LeDoux. She was initially responsible for writing a reboot for “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,” and while also the Producer, passed along the job to him after hearing him speak his mind about combining gastronomy with horror films. His script was approved in 2020 but production was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic, much like the rest of the world. He constantly writes movie scripts and novels, and is currently working on a couple of horror books. His novella “S.K.I.N.” was published in a horror book anthology called “Masters of Taboo” and he is currently a contributing writer for “Lunchmeat” magazine, another VHS celebration company. The teachings of a religious school may have led Anthony to different paths of success, but he is pretty satisfied with the way things turned out. When he’s not laughing at the world’s current absurdities while working for South Park or writing for other projects of his liking, he and his family can step back in time and enjoy the golden era of Mom and Pop video shops.
Watch a video tour of MONDO VIDEO! here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K12MaaCn5PU
Follow any MONDO VIDEO! updates through @mondo_video on Instagram.
Read Anthony’s interview with LUNCHMEAT at https://lunchmeatvhs.com/blogs/blog/mondo-video-is-the-best-kept-secret-when-it-comes-to-basement-video-stores-and-you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it-exclusive-video