My VHS Memories – A VHS Voyage

Follwing our interview with Dale Lloyd of Viva VHS, J-P Wooding looks back at his VHS memories…

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan VHS

When I was about seven or eight I enjoyed playing outside with my friends a lot but when the weather was bad or we got bored it was a real bonus if I was playing with a couple of particular friends. Why? It was quite simple really, you see they had VCR’s in their household I my family didn’t. My friends wouldn’t have felt the same way because whenever it was my turn to pick one from the selection of “non-original” films that were present (this was about 1983), I would pick the same film. To this day I am convinced that it was the first film I saw on VHS and is still in my top three all time favourite movies. I can vividly remember sitting in my friend’s front room, in the dark, watching the blue-white words imprint themselves permanently onto my memory: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Not long after this I remember seeing a trailer, again on a friend’s video, for the follow-up: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Together with repeats of the original series of ‘Trek on BBC 2 and these viewings, my affinity with Gene Roddenberry’s world began. I seem to recall watching the opening sequence of The Terminator at a friend’s house when I was no older than nine or ten. The grainy, wobbly image gradually losing its battle against the might of auto-tracking, before my friend’s father decided we weren’t yet old enough to experience the immortal lines delivered by the T-800 – those which would join many other film quotes alongside other fantastical scenes and cues of classic films.

It actually got to the stage whereby my grandparents had even got a VCR and we hadn’t. This didn’t deter me though and I even bought The Wrath of Khan and its predecessor, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, just so I could watch them there. Perhaps it was this form of “video depravity” that when I did persuade my parents to get a machine, I would assume full control of it. This is part of the reason so many of us have fond memories of watching films on video. Of course, there were bad times, like when the machine chewed the tape (hopefully not a rental as these could cost over £100 to replace). Other situations whereby you wanted to record something but you didn’t have a blank…Have no fear, grab an old tape that you don’t need anymore, stick some sticky tape over the safety tab and record away!

Some fans of vinyl say they prefer listening to the medium rather than CD as it reveals imperfections and little oddities only found with non-digital copies. To a certain degree, the same could be said about video and DVD; you may have certain beeps at the start of a tape and if, more often than not, the recording is from the telly, memorable adverts that suggest in some cases suggest things can “re-record” and “not fade away.”

Okay, things move on, technology advances at an ever increasing rate and formats get left behind, but not forgotten. E-Books are growing in numbers and popularity, but the smell and feeling of an old book will never vanish. DVD is already being swallowed up by Blu-ray, which I suspect will be enveloped by streaming and data storage, but there will always be a few on the shelf in most homes. Computer games have always been about the playability factor; never mind how life-like they are, can you pick it up and play it? The same can be said of film; it may look grainy and the sound may not cause a ripple in your glass of drink, but is the story well told? Do you believe the people on the screen? That is the challenge of a film, not is it as loud or as bright as can be, but did you enjoy it?

J-P Wooding – Follow me on Twitter.