Wow, this huge God damn VHS collection sure looked a hell of a lot cooler in 1998. What the hell am I going to do with all these tapes? I was the biggest VHS fan ever, and even I hardly ever use my VCR any more. (At least I still have one. It’s a dedicated player too, not one of those DVD/VCR combos.) How did I even wind up with some of these flicks? Tharus, Son of Attila (1962)? Two different versions of Scream Baby Scream (1969)? What’s this one — I Come In Peace (1990)? The back of the box says it’s got Dolph Lundgren as a cop who fights a drug dealer from outer space.
Holy crap, I think I have to watch that right now. In fact, I need to watch all of these. Damn it, just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in.
Well, that right there is a pretty accurate snapshot of the VHS collection experience. You’re completely baffled by all the hunks of black plastic taking up space in your home until you look a little closer, and turn into an excited little kid again. But that’s fleeting, and you’ll return to DVDs, Blu-ray, cable and the Internet for your movie fix, and those precious tapes will continue to gather dust.
Worse still, the video quality is deteriorating, just like those smug salespeople told us they would back when they were trying to hawk LaserDiscs. I don’t remember my Muppet Show cassettes looking this shoddy. My bookcases full of videocassettes are starting to remind me of the crisper drawer in my fridge. I just put stuff in there so it can rot. Every now and then I’ll pull something out, just to see if it’s decayed enough to throw away. (Nope! Not yet! Back it goes!)
Maybe modern technology has spoiled me, but VHS quality looks like ass now. It’s like a Xerox of a movie. When did I become such a snob? I used to be able to watch two-and-a-half hours with the tracking wheel misaligned, so that the bottom half of the show looks like tall grass made out of static.
Perhaps these old tapes are collector’s items now? Enough time has probably passed. There was a time there where everybody was getting rid of their tapes, and the second-hand market for them was in the toilet, but now pickings should be considerably thinner. How much does a factory pre-record of I Come In Peace go for on Amazon right now? Sweet backflipping Jesus, $145.99? Ch-ching! Yes! I’m gonna be rich!
Oh, who am I kidding? The only people who want to buy VHS copies of crappy sci-fi movies are cinema obsessives like myself, and I’ll probably wind up buying tapes from the people I’m selling them to. I’ll end up with the same size library, and less money.
But wait; what’s this? You can buy software that copies VHS onto DVDs now? Damn it, I was almost free! Now I not only have to keep all my tapes, but I have to painstakingly copy them onto discs! Curse you, software designers, you’re giving me homework!
I picked up a software/hardware bundle called Honestech VHS to DVD 5.0 Deluxe, and the damn thing actually works. There’s a tiny little box that could fit in a cigarette package, and you plug one end of it into your VCR and the other into your computer. Then you press play, and your computer spits out a DVD-R with a copy of your movie on it. Blammo. My VHS collection is saved! Of course the video and sound quality isn’t up to DVD standard, and you have to physically play the entire tape in order to make a copy, but at least these shows aren’t gone forever.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch Dolph Lundgren fight an alien drug dealer. On VHS.