List Film

Buying films on VHS Special

It's for charity

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VHS Special

Or How I Learned to Stop Being Pretentious about Buying Films and Saved the World in the Process by Eddie Harrison

Never mind uploads, downloads, video on demand or any of today’s new fangled methods of seeing films; the cheapest way to see film must be the good, old-fashioned charity shop. With many shops offering five tapes for £1, the credit crunch is an ideal time to dust off the VHS and be adventurous. Sure VHS copies are rarely given the full widescreen treatment, but most films before 1960 weren’t shot in Cinemascope or Panavision, so most old films look just fine. And there are always rare films around on VHS that simply haven’t been pressed on DVD yet. So why not turn your passion for the arcane and inspiring into an act of philanthropy?

Fancy seeing David Bowie flirting with Marlene Dietrich in David Hemmings’ 1978 evocation of pre-Nazi Germany, Just a Gigolo? Sorry, but it’s never been pressed on DVD in this country. Or how about Edward Fox busting Rudolf Hess out of Spandau prison in Wild Geese II? VHS is the only way to go, I’m afraid. How about Michelle Manning’s underrated version of Ross MacDonald’s novel Blue City, with a great Ry Cooder soundtrack? Or Bruce Dern covering Maud Adams’ body with artwork in Bob Clark’s Tattoo? It’s tape or nothing in my book. What about Roy Schneider and Meryl Streep in Robert Benton’s taut thriller Still of the Night? Findable only through sky-high eBay auctions, so just keep digging among the Erasure albums and roller boots in your local second-hand emporium.

I could go on. In fact I will. What about Michael Apted directing Freddie Starr in sleazy thriller The Squeeze, Charles Bronson (pictured) quoting Robert Frost in Don Siegel’s Telefon, or Burt Lancaster’s apocalyptic mission in Robert Aldrich’s Twilight’s Last Gleaming? Major films, directors and stars, but available to you only if you’re prepared to expose your builder’s bum, squatting to peer into suitcases of VHS fodder. And don’t forget, tape heads: give back the ones you don’t want and you’re saving the environment too.

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