Part 3 of My 100 Movies of Summer 2014
Rewind This! (d. Josh Johnson)
For pretty much anyone over 20, VHS and the magical VCR were their entrée into the world of home video.
I finally convinced my grandfather to purchase a VCR in the mid-80s. I quickly got him to get a membership at a neighborhood VHS rental store. In those days very few movies were priced for ‘sell-through’ so rental was the only way to go. I don’t remember the first movie I ever rented and honestly I didn’t get a chance to rent that often. But when I did, I was overwhelmed by the number of choices available to me. Movies I’d never heard of with box art that blew my mind. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I saw the box for I Spit on Your Grave. If you’re a dude, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
As the years went on, I still refrained from buying very many movies. I did always maintain a membership at any place I could wherever I was living at the time. And of course, I racked up plenty of late fees along the way. I started collecting heavily though once I bought my first DVD player and those habits have carried on through all the way to Blu-ray. I love my collection. I love having a movie available at a moment’s notice right there at my fingertips.
Let’s be honest though. As awesome as DVD and Blu-ray’s are, the number of movies available in the formats is just a fraction of those that were available on VHS in its prime. This is why for many folks VHS will always be the King of Home Video. This documentary is a celebration of the format and its fans.
It’s as thorough a history of the hallowed format as you’re ever likely to need. It tracks its origin, the battle with Betamax, its rise to prominence, its expansion into the adult industry and the direct-to-video market, its peak and inevitable decline, and finally its death in the shadow of the rising DVD market. Along the way, you get to meet the industry people who saw the value in a home market and pushed heavily to make movies easily available. You meet the people who ran (and some who still run) the mom-and-pop stores, making money hand over fist as anxious people lined up for the latest releases.
And you meet the fans. Those people with houses filled with those obnoxious, plastic clam-shells and those flimsy dusty slipcases. Those people who hit up every Half Price Books, every flea market, every garage sale looking for unexpected treasure. They each have their own reasons for having an extraordinary number of movies. And if you’re a collector, you can only smile. Because you have your reasons too. You understand them. You understand that totemic aspect of physical media. It ties you to a specific time, a specific place, a specific memory. Physical media is in its death throes, as the film ultimately acknowledges, but it may never ultimately die. It can’t and won’t.
Not as long as crazy old dinosaurs like me and the people featured in this fine little film are still kicking.
Rewind This! is available via streaming on Amazon Instant. But come on. Do the dinosaurs a solid and buy the DVD. Hell, buy the VHS. Yeah. There’s a VHS. How cool is that?
If you are interested in seeing what other films I watched this week you can always check out my profile at Letterboxd.
Previous entries in My 100 Movies of Summer 2014 series