The Need To Restore Faith In DVD
I have had the hobby of collecting movies since my early 20's when I first had a decent paycheck. It started with videotapes and I amassed quite a collection ranging from classic sci-fi flicks to 80's action to horror movies from all decades. I was there for the whole laserdisc era and was ecstatic when DVDs were unleashed on the world because I finally had an affordable medium where I could see movies the way they were meant to be seen and usually get some insight into the making of the movies as well. I embraced this new medium and have since gone crazy buying up everything I could from companies like Anchor Bay, Blue Underground, and Shriek Show.
My love of horror and exploitation movies from Europe is huge and I have been in heaven seeing all the titles from Bava, Argento, Fulci, D'Amato, and many other classics being unleashed upon the world. It has also been fantastic seeing many of my favorites from my childhood and teen years coming out again and being able to see many of these movies in glorious widescreen which I had been unable to do until recently. I have also discovered a number of movies that I have never heard of through some of the better companies and have developed a love of a number of sub-genres such as the spaghetti western and the giallo that I had not been previously exposed to. The formative years of DVD came with a huge amount of positive aspects for the discerning movie nerd and I could never in my wildest dreams as a tape trader in the early 90's have imagined that so many cool movies would be widely available for my viewing pleasure. That being said, in a world where there are more great movies available than I could possibly ever watch, I have found myself slowing down dramatically in the number of titles that I have been buying and I can attribute this to three main reasons.
The first is that some companies have since become a little bit lazy in their presentation of their product. For example, a few years ago I remember that Shriek Show had released a few titles in either the wrong aspect ratio or not completely uncut. I also remember the Anchor Bay released their special edition of Day of the Dead, there were some audio problems related to the dialogue. Some other problems include soundtrack elements and music being replaced in some cases and even instances of cover art being altered (such as the missing panties from Doug McKeon's hand on the Mischief DVD). All of these types of problems have made me a little more cautious in what I am buying and I tend to research things a little more before purchasing. For example, where back in the day I would have gone to the DVD store and walked out with ten titles, I now spend time on Amazon and DVD forums looking into titles before I purchase them. If I know that the DVD of Tenebrae is slightly cut or the Friday The 13th box set could potentially be released in a more complete form, it is unlikely I will purchase the title as I figure it will get re-released sometime in the future. With the number of other titles that are widely available, why would I waste my money on something I may potentially have to rebuy in the future? This leads me to the next reason for my skepticism: the dreaded double dip.
Sure, we love the movie but does it have to have this many versions?
Night of the Living Dead is one of the most loved and respected horror movies of all time. It is also one of the most exploited and has been released numerous times on DVD. Some other titles that come to mind that are notable for the number of times they have been repackaged and re-released are Evil Dead, Re-Animator, Dawn of the Dead, Army of Darkness, and Zombie. This has also spread to the bigger companies who release movies in bare bones format with perhaps a trailer or short featurette only to release a two disc version of the same film in the future. I can't believe how often this has happened where I have been excited to own a favorite flick such as The Poseidon Adventure, The Fifth Element, Bullitt, or Daughters of Darkness only to have to buy it again to get a better quality print, more extras, or an uncut version. I have since held off on purchasing a number of titles for fear that a double dip is looming in the future.
The third reason I have held off is the Blu-Ray/HD DVD war. As home theatres become more advanced, quality is becoming increasingly important. Even though my favorite movies are from the 70's and 80's and are unlikely to look any better than they do now on DVD, I still like the occasional current movie. That being said, it is not likely that I will be buying something like Transformers or Casino Royale anytime soon because I know that it will look better on one of these high definition formats and would rather just wait. I have learned my lesson from trying to watch all the DVDs I bought when the format was first introduced on my widescreen TV now. All the titles that have not been enhanced for 16x9 television play as a rectangle in the centre of my screen and look ridiculous. As with many other titles, I will have to rebuy these to get the film to look the way I want it to.
Although some companies like NoShame, Subversive Cinema, and Dark Sky Films have built an extremely cool track record, I am still cautious of what I can buy. I think if DVD companies want to build a base of loyal consumers that will keep coming back for more, they need to take away the doubt and make us believe in their product again. Here's hoping that they do so and that they can earn the consumer loyalty back so that the hobby of collecting movies can continue to flourish. -Josh Pasnak, 9/10/07