Friday, 5 August 2011

199: V is for Vastidity

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The A-to-Z of the GFFA.

I've got quite a few Star Wars DVDs. I've got more VHS videos, though.

The reasons for this? Well, the tapes were released over a longer period of time. The first UK release of SW on VHS was in 1982, 22 years before the original trilogy found its way (officially) onto DVD. While there have been multiple releases of the DVD sets, a few of them have been essentially the same discs in different packaging. This is arguably the case for VHS too, of course, but 20th Century Fox were usually good enough to re-master/tweak the film inbetween releases. And the covers! With all the artwork that's been produced for the Star Wars saga over the years, there's been no shortage of new covers for each release (sometimes with wide-screen and full-screen releases having different artwork entirely).

Row 1 of the Star Wars VHS Collection. Click for bigger.

But why keep VHS versions of movies I've got on DVD now? Why not just move the collecting onto a more up to date medium? Well, obviously I started with the tapes before the advent of DVD, so there's an old-school aspect to it.

There's something about a VHS tape that's more tangible than a DVD. In pretty much the same way that a vinyl record is more 'real' than a CD. Obviously, the record analogy isn't perfect as vinyl does have a better sound than CD if played on decent equipment. The same can't be said about VHS in any way. And the practicality of DVD in terms of physical space, disc-space and useability pretty much hammer home how horrible VHS is by comparison. But it's about having that old-school object in your hands. There's more weight, more substance, more shelf-space required. A collection that's only middling looks more impressive when it takes up more room, which spurs a collector on and gives the encouragement that's needed to continue.

Row 2 of the Star Wars VHS Collection. Click for bigger.

But ultimately: it's an achievable goal. VHS is no longer being made, so there are a finite number of releases out there. In 1984, I had all but two of the original Kenner/Palitoy figures. When I started collecting again in 1996, I quickly realised there was no way I would be able to be a completist with the new line. Apart from the fact that variants started appearing, store and convention exclusives proved difficult to buy, and ultimately there were just too many figures for my disposable income. I still bought many of course (and still buy a few now), but I had no illusion of ever ticking off every box on the list again. The home video releases, on the other hand, were way more sparse in terms of frequency, and more affordable as such. There's also less of a stigma about displaying them on your shelf than toys (although once you get past 10 tapes, the geek stigma's kind of back again. And I display my Star Wars figures anyway, so y'know).

Row 3 of the Star Wars VHS Collection. Click for bigger.

So if you figure that there's a home release of the Star Wars trilogy every three years, that's not much of a basis for "a collection" is it? But then there are the making-of videos. And the fan club exclusives. And the Ewok movies. Oh, and the Droids and Ewoks TV cartoons. Plus international releases if you can get hold of them (I have a working NTSC VHS machine courtesy of a friend who worked for a year in the US). There is, indeed, scope for a proper collection in Star Wars VHS tapes. And once it gets past normal and through geek-stigma, it comes out to a place where even people who know very little about SW look at your shelves and go a bit slack-jawed in admiration. Because that many different releases of anything is to be commended.

Row 4 of the Star Wars VHS Collection. Click for bigger.

The first one I bought for The Collection was the 1994 full-screen release of ANH. I actually didn't have a copy of Star Wars at home until then (look, we didn't have a video until late 1989, okay?). Obviously, I've made up for this since then. I bought the tapes one by one, not as a set, then I was given an earlier (1990) set by a friend because they were in widescreen. Looking at the six tapes sitting on the shelf, I thought 'that looks quite nice. I'm not going to go mad though, and buy one of each different version, because that would be silly!'. Then in 1997, when I had the 1995 set added to the fold, I did precisely that and started hunting down previous releases in second-hand record shops and the like. In fairness, Ebay has contributed more than its fair share in terms of locating hard-to-find tapes, and is the only source I really use these days.

Row 5 of the Star Wars VHS Collection. Click for bigger.

So, it's official releases (including promo tapes and ex-rentals), mainly through Lucasfilm, but there are a few 'related' and 'unauthorised' items there. I've now got to a point where it may not be complete, but it's as near as dammit. Certainly for the UK releases, I think I've pretty much got that sorted now, although if you spot anything missing in the pics, let me know and I'll put it on the want-list. The trouble is, there really isn't the market for VHS any more (even a couple of the charity-shops in our town have stopped accepting tapes now), and it's not becoming "rare", it's just that no-one's bothering to sell it any more because no-one's buying. Especially not the more common releases which you see listed on Ebay for 99p (not selling) right next to an identical set listed for £19.99 (because the person who listed it didn't bother to research the going rate for his "ever so rare" auction item).

Row 6 of the Star Wars VHS Collection. Click for bigger.

So while the DVD (and BluRay) collection gradually expands, the VHS one slows to a crawl as a testament to a bygone age. The first complete home release of Star Wars sits proudly on my shelf next to its successors. And they gather more dust than the DVDs, but they look way more impressive.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• Photos and videos appearing in this blog post are for informational and reference purposes only, and no ownership of copyright is claimed or implied by me. The intellectual and physical copyright of such material belongs to its creators and owners.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.


  1. Very nice SW VHS collection!
    Did you notice that the SW ANH VHS tapes vary in length from
    121-124 minutes with the official length as 121 minutes?
    Would any of the 124 minute non-special edition SW ANH VHS tapes include the Biggs Darklighter reunion scene with Red leader saying he knew Luke's father?
    I just wonder about that.

  2. Hi Boinger,
    Not to the best of my knowledge, but I put time differences down the PAL/NTSC frame difference. VHS machines are also notorious for running at slightly different speeds. Not visually noticeable, but enough to add a minute or so to a movie.
    That said, you've set me thinking so I'll probably check out the earliest ones now :p

  3. I was just looking at the 124 min NTSC VHS tapes for the time discrepancy that could mean a possible addtional scene added.
    Recently, I was able to watch some of the bluray SW deleted scenes on youtube before the videos were banned.
    For decades, I thought my memory was playing tricks on me until I saw the SW ANH special edition include the Biggs and Luke scene. But, I knew that I watched Red Leader talked about knowing Luke's father during the Clone Wars when I first saw that movie in 1977 in Winnipeg. And, now I see that exact scene on the SW bluray video clips. Maybe, I also saw that scene on one of the video tapes?

    Here's another website I found who displayed his SW video collection.