Great Things About VCR Players

For those old enough to remember (and just reading this will be enough to make some people feel old) , VHS (or Betamax for the Yanks) was the dominant form of home movie entertainment for several decades before DVD became affordable. The big, clunky, poor quality, easily broken lumps of cheap plastic may not be much by today’s standards but for a while they were all we had. Not only that but they were the reason we could watch movies at home.

During the 1980s VHS players suddenly became cheap enough for everyone to have one. This brought about two massive shifts in the entertainment industry. First, people could record television shows straight of the TV (even though it was technically illegal) beginning the first opportunity we had to break free of scheduling. Second, and most important, it meant we could easily watch movies at home. When video libraries started springing up throughout the suburbs a flood of entertainment entered our lives.

Then Laserdiscs arrived on the scene and we kinda ignored that silliness. DVDs arrived shortly after bringing with it the convenience of VHS but with better picture and sound quality. We never looked back. But the thought occurs – is there anything that we’ve lost since making the jump? Let’s take a look…

(Btw the answer is yes.)

Such quality!

Start Where You Left Off

You’ve only got time to watch half a movie. You press stop, turn off the VCR and come back the next day. You power up the VCR and press play – the movie picks up right where it left off! Sure there’s plenty of DVD and BR players around that will save your spot for you, but what if you want to watch it in the different VCR player? This may seem like a minor problem, but for some people it’s a big hassle. Having studied and then taught film for over a decade I remember how easy it was to switch between different films during a presentation when the tapes were already cued up. Now if you try to switch between different films using DVDs you have to sit through the unskippable warnings, messages, menus, scene selection screens…it’s time consuming and frustrating.

Coming Attractions

When a new movie is on the way there’s a few different ways that the distributors can get our attention. News spread over the internet, the employment of big name stars and intrusive marketing campaigns over social network sites. Back in the day the avenues were fewer and narrower. When a new movie was on its way it would have trailers playing in cinemas and at the beginning of rental videos. These rental video previews were the number one place where people saw new trailers and you wouldn’t get a choice in what you got. Whilst this doesn’t sound very good, it did mean that you would wind up seeing previews for movies you may not have encountered otherwise. And it was rad. You may rent out a new movie and before you’ve even seen it you’ve got five more titles on your ‘must-watch’ list.

Technology was manlier in the 70s.


Yes this option is available on DVD, but it’s hardly a smooth function. Even on the lowest speed the scan function on DVDs usually isn’t worth it, especially when you’re looking for a specific moment. Minor quibble, but still a nuisance.

Video Nasties

When the home video market opened up it created a new form of distribution that was much, much cheaper than cinema. Suddenly all the movies that couldn’t get a into the cinemas because they were too violent, sexual, unmarketable or downright crap. Every slasher movie could now have a seemingly endless parade of sequels, experimental films could find an audience and the nastiest footage ever committed to film could be enjoyed in private. A new generation of film fans were searching out the hidden gems and the so-bad-they’re-good films such as Troll 2. Without the home video market we may never have seen such cult favourites as The Boondock Saints, Bronson and Dog Soldiers…and that would be a bleak world indeed.

I don't want to live without them.

On the other hand, the affordability of DVDs, their smaller size for easy storage and awesome picture and sound quality greatly outweigh the few benefits of VHS.