I’m (not) going digital.
Growing up we didn’t go to video stores often, something that I absolutely regret not begging for, but when we did I would spend the first minute finding something that was cool and the every other second until we left looking at the box-art and reading plot synopses.
There’s a very different feeling to running your finger across the spines of films you own than you get spending an hour scrolling through Netflix or Amazon to find something passable before giving up and watching The Office again.
I still love physical media, and while I’m watching more movies than I ever have before I still take the time to pore over box-art and read every bit of text on the case trying to absorb it all in before sitting down to watch a movie.
What I’m afraid of is that as we move toward an entirely digital landscape is that hundreds of films will either be lost in time entirely or scattered across the dozens of streaming services that are continuing to pop up as the years go by.
I don’t dislike streaming services, I use a ton of them, I just worry that video will eventually become so fragmented that you’ll have to hop across a dozen different apps just to find everything you want to watch.
That is until all of the streaming companies realize their services are failing, decide to consolidate into big groups and we arrive back at the beginning — cable.
But I digress.
I started writing this because as I started to explore the…unpopular…movies of the 80’s and 90’s, I kept running into the problem of movies with awesome sounding premises just not being readily available online.
For example 1983’s Of Unknown Origin starring Peter Weller, a few years before he would become Robocop in 1987 and go on to star alongside Sam Elliott in 1988’s Shakedown (which is a gem).
Now I know movies about white collar families being terrorized by a giant killer rat aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I figured with George Cosmatos behind the camera and Weller in the lead role it would at least be online somewhere.
I guess not.
So like any sane person would do, I bought the DVD online from someone holding an estate sale in Indiana.
It’s not the first time this year I had to buy a movie from a private collection. In fact I waited months to find I Love Maria (1988) and buy the only copy I’ve ever seen sold online in the U.S. from a private collection in California.
In fact, I was dangerously close to ordering a VHS of the movie Murder By Phone (1982) and getting it transferred to disc and digital before finding it on YouTube.
The problem is that for every success I have, there’s another movie that’s completely lost in time and I’ll probably never get the chance to learn about it. Considering the caliber of these films it’s not truly a surprise that they’re either out of print or stuck in the 90’s ,but there have to be other people out there clamoring to watch all of PM Entertainment’s backlog right?
Tell me that titles like “Executive Target,” “Intent to Kill” or “Maximum Force” don’t perk your ears up just a little bit. Will they win any Oscars? No, but they hark back to the intense memories I have of turning on the TV to catch a Sunday action movie on UPN.
Now I’m hard pressed to find a copy of any of the films I just mentioned online legally, or illegally.
It’s a problem, and it shouldn’t be that way, but as technology progresses and the culture around watching film changes things will inevitably fade away into obscurity.
I can’t deny that as time moves forward the cream will rise to the top, and only the best of the best will remain as classics, or important pieces; but in another ten years somebody else will be writing a little story just like this about the movies that they can’t watch anymore.
VHS tapes are already becoming de-magnetized, and we’ve lost years and years of nitrite film to degradation and fires; and those are only the things studios deemed as good enough to keep.
So I’ll keep scoping out garage sales, lurking in the VHS section of thrift stores and scouring the internet for these weird little titles that the world seems to have forgotten.
I love movies, especially the bad ones.