One thing this discussion has convinced me -- I am definitely going to drop off my small pile of old
VHS machines at the Goodwill Industries store rather than dumpster them. Some film buff may need a
working player at some point.
In fact, if anyone wants to pick up a small pile of consumer VHS machines, all working, plus a 4x1
switcher/detailer for composite NTSC video, ping me off-list. Pickup only, in northern Westchester
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "J.D. Connor" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 11:00 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Old media don't die, they just submerge and wait for hipsters to "discover"
>I just want to back up what Robin and Arthur said: VHS (and even PAL) are essential for film
>archives, even beyond the homemovies or obscure, foreign, and downmarket titles from vanished
>distributors. Here at Yale, we’ve been through several rounds of tape-deaccessioning, and it is
>always striking what hasn’t been reissued, or what has only been reissued in a new version. For
>those of us interested in sound, this is especially true. I can’t even count the number of DVD
>releases of mono films in new 5.1 mixes. All this spatialization may be lovely, but it isn’t even
>close to what the past sounded like. Or take Walter Murch’s recut versions of the Godfather films
>which combined 1 & 2 as the Godfather 1902–1959 ad 1, 2, and 3 as The Godfather Trilogy. Those are
>VHS (and laserdisc for the latter), and they are an essential bridge from the 80s miniseries to
>today’s new “golden age” of serial television. Similarly, the PG-version of Saturday Night Fever is
>VHS only. Someday someone at Paramount will properly clean these up and release them in another
>form, but there are thousands more titles waiting in that queue.
> J.D. Connor
> Film Studies/Art History
> Yale University
> On May 21, 2014, at 10:26 AM, Arthur Gaer <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> I have friends who owned a small chain of art video stores. They had—and kept hold
>> of—*thousands* of films on VHS that never had a DVD release.
>> These weren’t just low budget pictures. There were lots of art films, non-narrative experimental
>> films, and *especially* lots of foreign films, often from significant directors--and significant
>> American directors who did some work with small production companies--that had a single VHS
>> release and that was that.
>> Especially with foreign films it was frequently the case that the rights would be owned by small,
>> sometimes one-off, production companies. They’d lease the rights for US distribution for a
>> limited period. When those rights expired the original rights holders had simply
>> disappeared—there was no one to negotiate with. Furthermore the original film elements, negative
>> or prints, were also nowhere to be found. They may, or may not, be sitting in warehouses
>> somewhere in the world, but nobody knows where. And you can’t make a releasable DVD when your
>> only available version is a VHS tape.
>> There can also be other impediments—music rights only negotiated for VHS and things like that—but
>> with the foreign and arty films it seems most often there’s simply no material left to create a
>> new release and no one to buy it from. And with likely sales at best somewhere around 1-3,000
>> copies nobody can really afford to track it all down let alone do the digital transfer work, etc.
>> It’s a huge problem for those doing serious cinema studies: frequently the only non-theatrical
>> version was released on VHS, and good luck finding that, let alone any 35mm prints.
>> In my friend’s case, when they closed their last store they sold something like 2,000 of their
>> rarest VHS’s to a local university film department who managed to raise private funds to buy
>> them, at a significant discount off the eBay price. They were ecstatic to get some of those
>> For the hipsters the fun in VHS may be in obscure 80s slasher and 70s asian grindhouse films, but
>> for film studies it’s actually a sole source of significant research material.
>> Arthur Gaer
>> [log in to unmask]
>> On May 21, 2014, at 9:37 AM, Robin Hendrickson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> It's not just low-budget horror or comedies that haven't made it to DVD.
>>> Consider the zillions of hours of amateur or home-made recordings
>>> people made during the VHS era, both off of the TV and using
>>> videocameras. There's gold in those mountains of VHS tapes piled up at
>>> the curb or at the Salvation Army. Lots of these VHS tapes contain
>>> recordings that are archived nowhere else and are worthy of
>>> Same goes for audio cassettes! (And 8mm films, and 35mm slides, and...)
>>> Note, I didn't say it was SOLID gold... But there are jewels to be found indeed.
>>> - Robin