Old-fashioned videotape movie night not all that great

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I’ve been looking for a specific, older movie, but could not find it on DVD, Netflix or Redbox.

It wasn’t urgent that I get it right away, but each time I went to a store where I thought it might be available, I looked for it.

My wife, Sharon, and I finally found it, but in VHS videotape form. That’s the way we used to rent and watch movies, for those of you who may be too young to remember. Video rental stores urged us to “be kind and rewind,” and if we didn’t, we heard about it from the clerk.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about AM radios, then about 8-track tapes, and now, here I am writing about VHS movies. I didn’t plan it this way. It just so happened that I found the movie at Half-Priced Books in Pearland - on tape.

Next to the used videotape movies were the record album racks. I had to browse through the selection, and I found an album that I liked.

The tape was in mint condition. This may cost a little more, I told Sharon, because it looks as good as new. There was no price tag on it, so we just took it up to the counter.

“It’s 50 cents,” said the clerk. “All those videotapes are the same price.” The record also was 50 cents. “It’s a deal. Wrap it up. I’ll take both,” I said.

What a grab. One person’s junk is another’s treasure.

We decided to make it a movie night. I would hook up the old VCR to the big TV in the living room and watch it, the way we used to when the kids were little.

There was only one problem. We could not find the VCR. We must have put it in storage, thinking that we would not need it again. It’s been awhile since movies were recorded on VHS tapes.

We settled for watching a movie on Netflix and recorded shows of House Hunters International (that way I can skip the commercials). But the following night, we were set to go because the VCR had been located and connected. Old-fashioned movie night, here we come.

But problems occurred almost immediately.

I had to adjust the screen width to suit the old TV format. Then I noticed that the color was not all that great, and the picture not all that sharp.

The sound had to be channeled through the TV speakers because the VCR player had to be hooked up to the TV via RCA plugs. That cut out my sound bar, but so be it. It was sort of nostalgic to watch a movie this way, so I was willing to make some sacrifices. Life is hard sometimes.

Is this really the way we used to watch movies at home? No HD picture, which we’re now taking for granted?

Eventually I got used to it, and the movie was quite enjoyable. I plan to watch it again, but not for another week or so. The wide screen Blu Ray version DVD is on the way. I found one online.

The VHS tape will now be stored and become a conversation piece, along with that 1960s Geiger counter in mint condition my brother-in-law recently gave me as a present. But that’s another column.

Nostalgia is nice, but a bright HD picture and full sound are nicer.