Posted April 28 2004 - 08:53 AM
Well, I've got a shock for some of you — I still have somewhere close to 6,000 LDs in my collection. This is absolutely NOT an exaggeration, and is one hell of a large number of discs. (I have nearly that many DVDs as well.)
The storage of these things was rather daunting for several years, but we have it covered quite nicely these days. When we bought a new house a couple years ago, we only had three real specifics, everything else was negotiable. We required a single story home, all the doorways had to be wide enough for my wheelchair to roll through (I got nailed by a nasty genetic disease about 6 years ago… no fun), and we needed some sort of 5th bedroom or large in-house storage area to use as a LD vault. The last thing we wanted was to have these LDs/DVDs piled up all over the house, or to have shelving units in all our regular rooms and/or hallways covered with LDs. Instead, we wanted a way to have them easily accessible, yet "unseen". We found exactly what we were looking for — and our home was equipped far better than we ever expected to find ourselves (short of remodeling or installing many things ourselves). I've got the aptly-named LD Vault, a large room where two of the walls are filled floor-to-ceiling with LDs (thanks to extremely heavy-duty metal warehouse-type shelving units — regular ones can't handle the massive weight.) Plus, we have a lot of room left, and the rest of the room is being slowly converted into a general collectibles storage and display room. Pretty sweet! But let me tell you, moving these things was awful, and I'm never doing it again (which is a good thing since we have no intention of ever moving again; this is our final home.)
Over the past ten years or so (even before DVD rolled out), I have definitely parted with at least a couple hundred LD titles. These titles were purged due to one of two specific reasons — 1) it was a title/film that I absolutely would NEVER watch under any circumstances (and I still have hundreds of those sitting around); or 2) it was a "good" LD for which I now have a superior DVD edition of. Of the titles I've gotten rid of over the years, I have never regretted a single decision. Well…
okay, maybe there was one LD that I was sort of undecided on for awhile. A LD I considered keeping only due to its extreme rarity — the 1st Criterion version of "The Prince of Tides." Now, this is not the same "1st Pressing" version that was released in stores — this was their original First 1st Pressing edition that was unreleased and later destroyed. There are very few copies of this in existance, definitely less than 50, and probably less than 30. But I eventually decided not to keep a disc that I absolutely didn't like and would never ever watch again under any circumstances, not matter its rarity.
(Feel free to skip this explanation of the Streisand LD. I included it for those folks who have no idea of what I'm talking about, and can't imagine any copy of The Prince of Tides being "rare".)
Criterion worked hard with Streisand to create this disc. Eventually, everything was completed, Streisand gave her approval of the project (she had final approval on everything), and the disc was pressed, packaged and ready to be shipped to retail. About a month prior to release, Criterion sent out ~5 early review copies to the prominent LD reviewers of the day (myself included). They also sent Streisand her copies — and that's where the problems started. Streisand rewatched her LD and suddenly decided that she didn't like how she "sounded" on her audio commentary. She thought she sounded insincere in places, and wanted to change both the way she spoke and some specific details she was unhappy with. So, she demanded that Criterion allow her to re-record her entire commentary from scratch, and place that new commentary on the LD before shipping it out.
Except that it doesn't work that way. As you well know, you can't just "replace" the track on the already existing discs. You'd have to remaster, repress and repackage the entire production run. Criterion balked at this, since it would be an extreme waste of time and money, considered that B.S. has already approved the entire project and the discs were finished. Unfortunately, Streisand had the last say legally (due to her final approval rights, which were still in effect since the LD wasn't actually released yet) and they were forced to comply. In the end, Streisand redid her commentary, but she also went in a made a few other little minor changes to the supplementary material (and to the jacket). The title was repressed, repackaged, and that's the version that consumers saw in stores.
As for the original original version, all remaining copies in the warehouse were destroyed. All that remained were the 5 or so copies sent to us reviewers, a few copies given away at a Criterion Xmas party that same year, and a small box (~10 copies) that was stolen from their warehouse (by one of the workers) who sold the then-rare LDs at a local Los Angeles convention.
So, that's why I considered keeping my copy, simply because of it's extreme rarity — however. I also simply cannot stand the film, and would never watch it again under any circumstances. (Gee, can you tell how much I dislike the film?) But still, this isn't the sort of title you'd want to just get rid of to anyone. I eventually placed it up for auction, but in a manner that would hopefully ensure that it would only sell to someone who appreciated it as a unique LD collectible and as a film. And it worked out exactly as I had hoped — it went to someone I knew (he was a former reader/subscriber of an LD publication I wrote/edited). He'd been trying for years to obtain a copy of this for his collection (even from me years earlier), but it was literally impossible, since the few folks who had this would never part with it. Not only was he very happy with this, but so was I — I was able to make someone dream come true, and I knew that it was going to a very good home where it would be appreciated. (Alternatively, I could just have kept it as a rare, valuable collectible that I would never watch, use or otherwise display. What's the point?)
(That's the end of the Streisand nonesense. I return you now to the regular posting.)
But there is a very large part of my collection that I have no intention of parting with any time soon. I've got many, many titles that simply are not available yet on DVD. On small example of this is the RKO Collection — the RKO library has been in dire straights for a long time, and the majority of films are in desperate need of restoration before anything can even be released. Thankfully Warner HAS been restorating some of these titles, and some RKO releases should be out by the end of the year if we're lucky (but definitely by next year), but it's going to be years before all of the RKO LD titles are available, if at all.
Plus, I'm definitely keeping many LDs that are also available on DVD — for which I also own the DVD version. Why? Usually because the LD is different in some manner from the DVD. Such as a commentary track, a music-only or music & effect track, or a supplementary feature. There are many LDs that contain extras not present on the DVD edition due to right issues or various other reasons — such as an individual who refuses to let the studio reuse his materials (or can't), or the studio can no longer locate said materials. Then we have companies like Disney, who routinely add lots of terrific materials to their animated DVDs, yet keep leaving off some fabulous extras that were on the laserdisc sets (Tron, Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story, 20000 Leagues, etc.). of course, a lot can happen to these materials after 10-20 year, but at least I'm fully covered — so while I may have a superior new anamorphic film presentation on a DVD (when I want to watch the movie), I still have my LD to watch for the extras or to listen to the commentaries or music tracks.
And these examples don't even cover some LDs that feature alternate versions of films. How about the longer cut of The Alamo, or the director's cut of Ransom (which Disney repeatedly reuses to release), or the director's cut of The Lawnmower Man (far superior than the standard cut). Or how about the absolutely fantastic (though not quite correct) "restorations" of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (an awesome disc, although it contains some footage on the wrong places, and some alternate takes that were never included in any Roadshow print), or another super favorite 1776 (even though the "original" overture is bogus — it never existed before the LD and was actually made up by the disc's producer because HE always wanted there to be one, NOT the filmmakers; plus, the LD restoration contains some footage that the director specifically kept out of all versions of the film, but was reinserted on the LD against his express wishes — in that regard, the DVD is a more "correct" restoration of the original film, but I like the LD because of its workprint differences). I also have numerous Japanese imports containing alternate and/or longer cuts of films never released in this form on LD or DVD in the USA. Plus I have a nice collection of super rare LDs — very limited printings, extremely limited private pressings, alternate cover designs, alternate contents. I also have some studio-produced titles that were never released publically (withdrawn due to rights disputes or test samples), which are one of only a handful of existing copies. Again, I'm a rather extreme case because of the amount of titles I have, this is also the reason why I have so many titles worth keeping around.
I'm sure you folks are also wondering how on the world could someone have nearly 6,000 LD titles — not to mention having hundreds and hundreds of LD titles that I simply don't like or are otherwise utter crap? How can someone afford all those shiny platters? Am I some sort of weird, obsessive LD collector nut? Well, yes, but that's besides the point — actually, most of these I obtained at no cost. Let me explain…
Back in the mid- to late-1980s, I began professional reviewing laserdiscs, and I initially wrote freelance for a few years, and then published my own laserdisc magazine for quite a few years. When DVD's were pending, I switched over to a website format, and was one of the first reviewers to cover the new product. Because of the quality of my publication (and later website) and reviews, the studios/home video companies considered me to be the 2nd best LD reviewer in the country, right behind the big #1, Roger Ebert. Certainly made me pretty darn proud… and made all the hard work worthwhile!
Because of my specific reviewer stature, I was placed onto an "Automatic LD Comp" list from nearly every studio/distributor. This entitled me to automatically receive every single laserdisc title (and later DVD) released. Most studios only had three people on this list: Roger Ebert, myself, and Doug Pratt of "The Laserdisc Newsletter." While the studios would send some select titles to other reviewers on an individual basis, these had to be specifically requested and approved. But there were really only three of us who were considered valuable enough — from a publicity and marketing standpoint — to be placed in the permanent list to receive every LD title (and DVD) published. Several times a month, for many years, I received boxes and boxes of new releases. But along with the great titles, I also got lots and lots of crap. Such is life — you have to review the good along with the mediocre and just plain bad. So that's my far too long explanation as to why I've got sooooo many LDs and DVDs. (I swear I would never purposedly buy ANY Vanilla Ice movie or stuff like "Stop or My Mom Will Shoot" — uhhhhh… I shudder just thinking about those…)
True, I have waaaay too many titles on round shiny platters, and probably one of the largest collections arounds, but the basic theories of collecting are the same. I just don't understand why people have to immediately get rid of something just because there's something newer and/or shinier on the horizon. Just because a new video format was released doesn't mean that your current collection has been rendered completely worthless. Our laserdiscs didn't stop working the day DVDs were released! (Okay, it's one thing to say that our VHS/Beta collections were worthless when LDs became available — videotape's low resolution and linear audio simply couldn't compete with the vastly superior LD. But the jump from LD to DVD isn't nearly as drastic as videotape to LD. You're going from a high quality source to an even higher one, and the average DVD definitely looks superior to its LD counterpart. But a well-mastered LD still looks extremely good, especially if you have a really good LD player to help clean up the analog noise a bit.)
I know quite a few people who immediately got rid of the majority of their LD collections a short within a year or two after DVD's became available. And for those who kept a lot of their collection, many sold specific LD titles the second it was announced for a DVD release — or in many cases, when it was simply "rumoured" for a forthcoming release. Usually, it works out okay, but nearly everyone I know had kicked themselves for stupidly selling a LD before the DVD was released… IF it got released. Like dumping the Criterion Blade Runner for the long-delayed Warner Special Edition. Or as Nathan mentioned below, the outstanding Jaws CAV Signature Collection, where Universal's DVD chopped out half the documentary and removed some other terrific extras. Or the titles Thomas mentioned. Or the several titles that existed in longer Director's Cut on LD, only to be continually released in the standard theatrical cuts on DVD. Or how about the far too many titles that were letterboxed on LD, only to be released as budget pan & scan or "full frame" DVDs (like the many early Warner releases).
Sure, it's a fair bet that most major titles will be get a DVD release of some sort, but it's a matter of when. However, it impossible to release all the "good" or "major" titles all at once (or even the "crap"), which means it will feasible take years before certain titles are made available. DVDs have now been with us for nearly 7 years, and there are still a ton of great titles I wish I could have on DVD. There's still a huge gap when looking towards classic films (thankfully, studios are filling this in quite nicely now), or some older sci-fi/fantasy/monster flicks I wish I could get, and especially silent films (someone release some Harold Lloyd already!).
And there are cases where LD titles remain unreleased on DVD for a variety of other reasons. Such as my RKO example earlier, where the entire libary is in desperate need of restoration. There are other major and minor studio libraries out there that need restoring before any releases can even been considered. Or how about some of the small "budget" studio releases, that nobody is really doing anything with these days, such as Monogram or PRC (except in really awful PD versions). There are also many cases where a title can't be released because materials are now lost, or damaged, or a decent source can't be located. In the 10, 15 or 20 years since a laserdisc edition was released, a lot can happen to original negative, prints or other source materials.
But since I've kept most of my laserdiscs, I can enjoy many of these films now. DVD is far more popular than LD ever was even at its peak, and there are more DVD titles available today after 6+ years than there were LDs after ~20 years. But even so, there are hundreds and hundreds (if not more) LD titles that remain unavailable on DVD. And just because a title was released on LD is no guarantee that it will ever appear on DVD (or HD-DVD).
There's always going to be a new, better product on the horizon, and eventually even our dear beloved DVDs will stop being produced for whatever comes next (maybe a studio's entire library on a small round memory stick?). But just because something might be obsolete doesn't mean it stops working or should be immediately dumped. Again, our laserdiscs didn't suddenly stop working the day the first DVD was released, and a well-mastered LD can still look pretty damned good. Yes, the DVDs on average look much better, but the LD version will definitely suffice until the DVD gets released… if ever.
And don't even get me started on Lucas and Star Wars — no way I'm ever getting rid of THOSE box sets!
Anyway, I've babbled on enough. Hope I've made some valid points — of course, these are just my own viewpoints, and are not necessarily valid for anyone else.