VHS tapes are experiencing a resurgence among collectors, with Heritage Auctions fetching big money for such films as “The Goonies,” “Ghostbusters” and “Jaws.”(ABC 7, June 2022)
Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in VHS Video Cassettes. Collectors have pursued sealed VHS tapes, Horror movies, and titles that never made it to DVD for various reasons such as music rights, masters that didn’t hold up on DVD, or lack of interest. VHS’s secondary market while primarily driven by collectors seeking rarities may also be nostalgic for many.
VHS Video Cassettes hold a special place in the hearts of many. For a generation the battle was VHS vs. Beta and rental tapes vs. sell through tapes (tapes you borrowed from the local video store vs. tapes you bought at the grocery store / record store / mall store). Many tapes could only be rented at the video store.
Friday nights were spent at the video store picking up movies while Sunday nights were spent returning movies to the video store. Late fees abounded and many were unkind not to rewind. VHS seemed here to stay…until DVD arrived.
I remember the first few DVD’s I owned – Chris Rock in “Down to Earth” (A remake of ‘Heaven Can Wait’), 1997’s Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (starring Brandy), and Batman (1966). It was an incredible transition and everything seemed so crystal clear and amazing. But then I bought the Transformers Season One box set and that’s when I began to see something I’d never forget – beginning with the Transformers.
The Transformers Season One box set was something I’d waited for. I loaded up the DVD and watched the first episode. The studio, Rhino, had added extra sounds and effects to the audio but that wasn’t the strange part. The strange part is the animation seemed too perfect, too sharp, too sharp, too bright. It wasn’t what I was used to.
Recently the appeal of VHS was summed up in an April Fools Day article on Extremetech.com’s website regarding the lack of interest in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Blu Ray sets:
The problem, according to Paramount executive and self-proclaimed devoted Star Trek fan Moore Moonves, is that Star Trek: The Next Generation looked too good compared to what fans were used to…“Our focus groups concluded that what fans want is something that matches the quality of what they grew up on,” Moonves told us. “If you watched Deep Space Nine or Voyager during their initial runs, you almost certainly watched it on an old-fashioned CRT or VHS tape. People don’t want to see TNG-era Star Trek in UHD. It scares them. It’s jarring and unfamiliar…”(Hruska, Joel, April 2022)
Of late I’ve really wanted to watch some videos as I remembered seeing them – not as they have been remastered in 480p (DVD), 1080p (Blu Ray) or 2160p (4k). I began to create a list of videos I wanted to seek out. Most of them were early video store rental releases:
- Frankenstein (MCA Video Cassette Inc) before the restored footage was integrated. MCA Home Video, MCA Universal, and Universal Home Video releases all restored a scene that the first release did not.
- Amazing Spider-Man (MCA Video Cassette Inc) which was an 8 episode collection of the 60’s cartoon released in 1982.
- Spider-Woman (MCA Video Cassette Inc) which was an 8 episode collection of the 80’s cartoon released in 1982.
- Star Trek: Space Seed (Paramount) which was a single episode tape released to test the market for an entire VHS release of the Star Trek TV series. Fun article about this specific release: “Space Seed”, Khan Forever Changed VHS Releases.
- Star Trek: The Menagerie (Paramount Television Classics) which was a single tape with the two episodes in an omnibus format prior to the release of the entire Star Trek TV series on VHS. The format is the same as the RCA CED Video Disc from the same collection but different from the LaserDisc which was branded as Paramount Television Classics.
- Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (MCA Videocassette Inc) which was the theatrical version of the TV Pilot. This was the hardest to pair correctly as many version had the MCA Videocassette Inc. Box but the MCA Home Video tape inside.
- Transformers the Movie (Family Home Entertainment) which was the original release of the movie on VHS. Family Home Entertainment would release it 3 times, followed by AVID and RHINO well into the 1990s. This was also difficult because FHE did the rental version, white label full speed (SP) version, white label extended speed (EP / SLP) version, as well as an EP version under AVID which all use the same sleeve and color scheme.
Each of these releases were early un-remastered flaw filled VHS quality viewing. Star Trek’s Space Seed and Menagerie in particular were notable for looking pretty close to how washed out they looked on TV in the late 1970’s early 1980’s. I tried to get the earliest of any release. It was hard work as the earliest release of these tapes are beginning to literally fall apart, succumb to mold or mildew and needed preserving.
I worked hard to acquire these and then preserve them. Some VHS are so fragile and worn or degraded that I got one play out of them – just enough to transfer them to DVD. Why would I transfer something from VHS to DVD when it’s already commercially available on DVD? Because there’s just something special about watching it the way I saw it as a kid when my Dad and I would rent the tapes from Alex Minoff’s Video Center in Lemoyne, PA – a store that had charm like the tapes themselves did.
There’s a charm to these things. People really enjoyed VHS. There was no denying it.
- When I got Frankenstein, the Ebay seller included some munchies in the box that I could enjoy as I watched it.
- Star Trek’s Space Seed featured a trailer for an upcoming film called Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, a film who’s villain originated in this episode.
- The Amazing Spider-Man was sleeveless (the tape only) but I acquired it for a tenth of what the sleeved ones go for today – because I had a sharp eye for it in a picture that otherwise featured a VHS of Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire.
It’s nice to go back now and again to see the stuff the way I remember seeing it. It’s a finite hobby as I can only think of a handful more VHS I’d like to have. Mold, mildew, dust, and other enemies of the VHS tape have limited the time and scope of this endeavor but none-the-less, I like taking my family home to the movies – just one more time.
Hruska, Joel. “Paramount Announces ‘Demastered Edition’ of Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Voyager.” ExtremeTech, 1 Apr. 2022, https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/333517-paramount-announces-demastered-edition-of-star-trek-deep-space-nine-voyager.
VHS copy of “Back to the Future” sells for $75,000, setting new auction record. (2022, June 19). ABC7 Los Angeles. https://abc7.com/back-to-the-future-vhs-auction-movie/11978249/