Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Not-So-Secret Shame

This will probably come as no great shock, but like all the best people in the world, when I was in college, I supplemented my two-job income by bootlegging movies. I specialized in foreign and out-of-print cult films, primarily Hong Kong movies. I traded with other bootleggers all over the country, finding them through "USENET" groups and rudimentary websites. While I avoided anything commercially available in the U.S., I did make an exception by selling and trading letterboxed movies duped from Laserdisc.

Some of these terms may be foreign to you, and I understand. This was in the great, prehistoric VHS era, and I had two VCRs going non-stop for nearly seven years. The collection grew to ridiculous proportions until I had topped a thousand tapes, most of them single-titles recorded in SP mode. (Some of you out there are scoffing, but to me, this was a sizable amount of inventory.)

After I graduated, I returned to trading only. I didn't really have a lot of choice, though, as DVDs put VHS into the archives and landfills. Since the DVD revolution, I've been working to replace a lot of these titles and clear out space in the house. I've moved three times since starting this little obsession. For the last three or four years, I've tried to be diligent about weeding out the collection, particularly since I hadn't watched a VHS tape in that entire span of time. Problem is, even after weeding out, I was still the proud owner of at least 300 tapes I'd never watched and/or hadn't been able to replace.

In July, Amy "retired" from Verizon and has been on a remodeling and cleaning spree. Our left-hand closet in the living room was filled to the brim with tapes and, really, it was time to get rid of them. Except that I couldn't bring myself to just pitch them. I had an old stand-alone DVD recorder, but it's been getting more and more finicky over the years, to the point where it would only record on DVD+RWs and wouldn't finalize them to enable playing on any other machine.

Biting the bullet, we broke down and bought a VHS - DVDR combo and have spent the last week transferring, finalizing and discarding. We've only gone through about 25 so far, but it's a start. I'd forgotten some of the riches I'd had. Old fan-dubs of Jet Li's The Master and The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk; a version of The Satanic Rites of Dracula that had only been released in the U.K.; Jackie Chan's cut of The Protector (as opposed to James Glickenhaus' sub-standard cut); most of John Woo's pre-The Killer titles--it's been wonderful going through them.

It'll take a couple of months, honestly, but soon we'll have all those outdated bricks pitched and replaced with super-slim discs of love and joy.

And then I'll have to take a leave of absence from work to watch all the damned things!

1 comment:

Douglas A. Waltz said...

Sounds like fun. The 'retired' thing sounds bad, though.