'Straight-to-video" is a term that carries a stigma, and deservedly so. So much of what emerges without theatrical release is either slasher, sleaze or sly made-for-TV imitations of a bigger-budgeted film (e.g., "Asteroid," released just prior to "Armageddon"). But here in Japan there is a surprisingly large number of decent films that never make it onto the theatrical circuit for a variety of reasons -- lack of easily bankable star-power and overbooked screens being the two most common.

Then there are movies that are rushed into release so quickly that they sink away a mere week or two later (mismarketed as a teen comedy, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" disappeared without a trace).

In these days when "opening weekend box office" is the industry's mantra and flicks are booted off the screen to make way for more product, it's almost impossible for a film to develop by word of mouth. Video, though, is another matter. Tell 20 friends about these: