Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Blowing the dust off the old video tapes

Sally asked, “What are you going to do with those boxes full of video tapes?”

Beginning last spring Sally and I set out to de-junk, reorganize and get our basement into some sort of shape. It looked like Fred Sanford’s house, or a reality show about hoarders. There were some large boxes full of videos, stacked haphazardly in a room along with all of our holiday decorations, and anything else for which we had no other designated spot.

I said, “Let me look through them and see what I have.” And I did. I took about half of the tapes for thrift store donations. But there were still at least a couple hundred video tapes, factory-produced movies, and even many that I had recorded from HBO or other cable channels in the '80s and '90s. I got those organized, and when it was done I found space for them on a shelf.

But I had no VCR on which to play the tapes. I haven’t had one for several years. I looked in thrift stores. I had a remote for my old long-gone Zenith VCR, so I went to the same place where I had donated the tapes, and for $5.00 I found a perfectly good Zenith VCR. The remote works with it. I even buy movies, like the ones whose covers I have scanned for showing today. At the Deseret Industries store, just about a quarter mile from my house, they sell video tapes for 50¢. So every time I go in the store I find something to add to my collection. And yes, I watch them. I watched this one today:

 An action movie, and like many action movies entertaining but silly. In real life nothing would go as smooth or as easy as these two thieves make it look. But then, that is why it’s a movie, not real life.

I haven’t watched this yet. I saw it years ago. Chris Elliott is still active, still making movies and TV. His father is Bob Elliott of the famous Bob and Ray comedy duo, so he has comedy genes built in.

 Another one I’ve seen and don’t remember. I bought it because I like both Martin Short and Kurt Russell.

Here is a classic I never tire of. I believe it is Danny Kaye’s finest movie. I have some nostalgia for it because my parents took me to see it in a theater when it was released in 1955. For years my father quoted a line from the movie, “Get in, get it over with, and get out.” It became his philosophy for covering a whole range of situations. My personal favorite is the snappy and alliterative tongue-twisters about which of two drinking cups holds deadly poison: “The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle. The flagon with the dragon holds the brew that is true.” And then there is Kaye’s turn at impersonating Giacomo, “King of jesters, and jester of kings.” ...I could go on and on.

 If it takes place in space I like it. I have seen both of these movies before.

There are a lot more where those came from. Unfortunately with these 50¢ vids I am fast replacing all the movies I gave away.

A bit of history...

I bought my first VCR in 1979, an RCA dinosaur. Big and heavy, it had clunky manual controls (the remote was actually plugged in to the VCR via a wire, and “pause” was its only function). If you remember there were a couple of formats for home video taping and playback, VHS and Betamax. My friends bought Sony Betamaxes. If Sony had licensed the technology to other manufacturers instead of keeping it all for themselves, Betamax might have been the industry standard. Anybody could license VHS, and that quickly took over. I seldom, if ever, see Betamax tapes.

That RCA cost $779 at a local discount store, Stokes Bros., closed now for over two decades. It was where everyone went for a bargain. Department stores were selling VCRs for around $1200. Even at the price I got it took me a year to pay off the RCA. There were no video rental businesses at that time. They began to open sometime in the '80s. The first rentals for a movie were $5.00 per movie for one night. That was a lot of money in the early '80s, and I went a little crazy for a while renting movies. My wife was upset with me. I wonder if any of the residue of her anger at my obsessive-compulsive disorder, renting movies and spending $$$ we could not afford, bubbled to the surface when she asked me to get rid of the video tapes.

A funny clip from The Court Jester. If you have the time you can go to YouTube and watch the whole movie, which is also available. You don’t need to spend 50¢ like I did. (My standard disclaimer: if the screen below is black it is because of YouTube, not me.)

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