In Praise of the VCR
We modern movie fans take a lot for granted. We have at our disposal a great and magnificent tool that would've been considered golden perfection to film fanatics a few decades back. We use it everyday and only really appreciate it when it's broken or during a power outage. Of course, I'm yacking about the videotape recorder. Our little buddy, the VCR.
What's amazing, though, is that most of us are just scratching the surface of our VCR's potential. We use it to time-shift an episode of "Letterman," or slam it into record to grab that clip of the guy with the weird nipples from "Beyond Bizarre" that we've just got to show our friends. And, yes, we use it to play the best and brightest from Blockbuster. Yet I've got to admit that I, like a lot of film buffs, don't really use it much for its best purpose, that being to watch old movies from by-gone eras. Sure, I've rented High Noon and The Magnificent Seven and others like it. I've got copies of Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, and a dozen other wonderful classics. But, I really don't make it a priority like I think I should.
Now and again, I catch myself breezing past the classics aisle at Mack's Movie Ranch -- and I slow a notch -- but typically, I hustle on over to New Releases, hipcheck the ponytail dude mulling between Under Siege 2 and Supercop and pay my three bucks for the latest of the late, 'cause I've...got to keep up! Keepin' up is a friggin' rat race, and the film distributors know they've got us hooked like a crack addict in Compton. They have that gauge set just right, so that as soon as we start to complain, "I've seen all these already..." they have a new one waiting there with bells on.
However, I am hereby vowing that one day soon -- maybe this weekend even, I will tromp into the store, completely ignore the new stuff section and go grab some golden oldie, and head back in time to another existence. I'll sit back at home and imagine myself in a crowded theater, somewhere around 1952, and I'll be munching my 25 cent popcorn, and watching some pretty good little flick -- something like, Fargo (yep, a Fargo from 1952), or Viva Zapata!, or Ivanhoe. I've never seen these films. They may not be as good as Ransom or The Nutty Professor (yikes, I picked two remakes...) or they might just blow me right off my seat. It's a royal opportunity to find out.
I also hereby vow that I will appreciate the fact that I can do that. I can spin some retro film through my tape player and wax nostalgic. Better yet, I can study the classics in a way that Truffaut and his "Les Cahiers" crew would've killed for: frame by frame. I can spin through The Third Man time after time, and feel the hair on my neck stand electric when I see that killer moment when Harry Lime makes his incredible first appearance. I almost start to weep when I think about the idea that old-time film fans would only get to see a moment like that ONCE, unless they paid full price to see the film again! And, god forbid, once the film was out of circulation, they might NEVER see it again. I can't imagine being a film fan without the benefit of the VCR. Can you imagine never seeing The Last Picture Show, 'cause you were too young when it was in the theaters and you don't live near a revival house? Can you fathom getting only one shot at seeing Costner's "I believe in..." soliloquy from Bull Durham, or never getting to watch an exploding head from Scanners in slow motion? Heck, without the VCR, there would be no "Mystery Science Theater 3000." (Don't argue with me, Misties, 'cause you know darn well that Mike and the robot gang come up with their best jokes in advance by watching those lousy movies on videotape. Yes, they are geniuses I'll admit, but they do their homework.)
Anyway, I hope that I keep my vows, and I hope that we 1990s film fanatics will start to appreciate just how good we got it. In fact, right this minute, I'm gonna march out and go give my VCR a big sloppy kiss...just for being there.
Get "reel" soon,
To go give Dr. Daniel's VCR your own sloppy kiss, click here.
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