Rhino's Home Video division swaggered onto the video market in 1985 like a new boy in school who gets attention by cussing in front of the teacher and picking fights in the cafeteria. The company's first home video, Sleazemania, is still selling. It's a compilation of really bad snippets from such 1960s drive-in fare as Jailbait Babysitters and The Flesh Merchants, promising ''highlights and previews from the sleaziest, sexiest, and sickest movies ever made.'' Sleazemania sequels followed, as did a shelfful of '60s exploitation movies and Rhino's Guide to Safe Sex, a retrospective of '40s and '50s sex-education films.
By 1987, this new kid not only had friends, he had a cult audience. Now Rhino has 125 titles, many priced under $20, including the film series Teenage Theater mostly Rebel Without a Cause knockoffs from the '50s and '60s, introduced by Mamie Van Doren.
And it seems the new kid also got respect: Last year's documentary The Mamas and the Papas: Straight Shooter won the American Video Conference award for best documentary; Minute Movie Masterpieces, a tickler in which excited speed-talkers narrate the plots of 30 classic movies, earned Video Magazine's best instructional program award.
These days, Arny Schorr, head of Rhino's video division, is concentrating on classic music videos, such as an upcoming compilation of Peter, Paul and Mary footage. ''We look for artists who haven't been seen much on video,'' Schorr says, ''but it's got to be somebody with a fair amount of recognition from the '50s, '60s, or '70s. Three years from now, people will still be as interested in Jimi Hendrix and Peter, Paul and Mary as they are today. New artists will be gone.''
But the videos nearest Schorr's heart are the vintage TV shows Rhino puts out, including The Lone Ranger and Death Valley Days. ''There are some good, simple values there,'' says Schorr, explaining the tapes' appeal. ''When I see The Lone Ranger, I have memories of sitting in my living room back in Hartford eating franks and beans.''