Monthly Archives: September 2013

Panasonic Desktop TV & FM/AM Radio, Model No. TRF-438P (1984)

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Alright, I guess I’m going to find something awesome every time I go to Goodwill. Bad for saving money, good for my blog. Even without a blog, I would have bought this thing right quick. A quick trip to  the aforementioned Goodwill tonight, with the vague goal of finding a new used book, resulted not only in new reading material, but also this: A Panasonic desktop television, with FM and AM radio, manufactured 29 years ago in Sepetember 1984. Yeah, I couldn’t not grab this thing. There was really no other option but to practically trip over myself running to the checkout counter with it, violently shoving every poor bastard without the good sense to step aside out of my way. Needless to say, victory was mine.

(I didn’t really violently shove people out of the way, but should anyone have tried taking my desktop TV thing away from me, they would’ve had a mean sucker punch waitin’ for ’em.)

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I’ve found a few TV/radio combo units in my time, including a big ass Sony Watchman I think I’ll have to drag out and review soon. I’ve even come across the little handheld units, but I’m thinking this is the coolest one, by far. A lot of that has to do with the fact it’s from the 1980’s, right in the sweet spot, 1984.

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The front panel is quite possibly the world’s most-susceptible-to-fingerprints-surface, but nevertheless, this is a sleek lookin’ beast. Works well, too. Majic 105.7 FM comes in clear as day, even without the antenna extended. The clock shows up on the TV screen, both with the TV on or off. It can be slightly dimmed or turned off completely. Expected but helpful.

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Since everything’s digital now, naturally I’m not picking up any channels. Now supposedly, since they’re not digital (yet), you can pick up WAOH TV-29/WAX TV-35 with just an old-school antenna, but I know from experience that the signal doesn’t come in around here, not through that method. That’s why I spent the early part of the 2000’s Son Of Ghoul-less (damn rabbit ears). Still, you better believe the idea of watching Son Of Ghoul on this thing is coming dangerously close to making me do some kind of bizarre touchdown dance. Let’s wait until I actually make it happen, though. Since there is an external antenna jack, and a couple other methods of inputs, it may actually be possible to hook a digital converter box up to this. I don’t know, because frankly, I have no experience with digital converter boxes. Never had one, never had the need for one.

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At first, I was a little confused as to why the TV screen was set so far back into the unit (to be completely honest, upon first glance, I thought someone had actually removed the TV screen entirely, but I soon figured it out. It doesn’t take your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter long to get his bearings). Turns out that there’s a mirror in there, reflecting the clock, basically superimposing it over the TV screen. That may be a sketchy way of describing it, I know, but I did my best to show in the pics how it works. The left picture shows the time and how it’s not actually on the TV screen as you’d first think of it (an obvious necessity, since the TV has to be off to have the radio on, and vice versa, and it’s nice to have the time present during all of that). I tried to show the angular mirror set-up in the right picture. Damn this thing is badass.

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All the helpful features you’ve come to expect from your clock/radio-type devices are at your finger tips. The mere press of a button turns your Panasonic desktop entertainment system on or off! Revolutionary! In all seriousness, I was a bit surprised it uses this style of on/off buttons, and not the more expected on/off switch.

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See, I wasn’t lying! September 1984! Being a name brand and having a built-in television, I would guess this probably cost a few bucks back then. Not saying it was a $1000 set-up or anything, but I doubt it was only $30, either. It’s a very solidly built unit that still works like a charm. I’ve had good luck with Panasonic products in the past, and this continues the trend. Them folks put out some good stuff, yo.

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Costing a mere $4, this is my third Goodwill score in just over a week. Gotta be careful, because your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter is many things, but rolling in dough he is not. No matter, because I now have a cool desktop TV/radio, and I love it so, so much.

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Curtis Mathes VHS VCR Model No. KV753 (1984)

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Alright, as I said in my Memorex S-VHS VCR post from earlier today, the Goodwill I got that at had a GE VHS VCR from 1984 that I had my eye on but passed up. Well, despite the crummy appearance of the VCR, my Northeast Ohio Video Hunter instincts got the better of me and I went back for it tonight. Unfortunately, that VCR really was in pretty nasty shape, so I passed it up again. That’s okay though, cause I found one I Iike even more…

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A Curtis Mathes VHS VCR, Model # KV753 from 1984, complete with DDDDolby! Like my S-VHS find earlier today, this was the bargain price of $5. Also like my S-VHS find earlier today, it appears that the door that went over the selectors is looong gone. Unlike my S-VHS find earlier today, my Curtis Mathes VCR appears to work.

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This fella was in the same electronics section my S-VHS VCR resided in, but I missed this one earlier today because someone was playin’ mind games and put a large dome-like light contraption (seriously, I don’t know what the hell it was) on top of it, thus obscuring your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter’s view. DIG?

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This unit is the same age as the GE VCR I went back to maybe buy, but besides the added bonus of not being covered in a battery acid-like substance (best case scenario), this VCR has the old-school channel selectors I love so, so much.

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3 = WKYC (NBC), 5 = WEWS (ABC), 8 = WJW (then CBS), 17 =  I.D. is escaping me (helpful, right?), 19 = WOIO, 23 = WAKC (ABC), 25 = WVIZ (PBS), 43 = WUAB, 49 = WEAO (PBS), 61 = WCLQ. Don’t know what 2, 4, 6 & 7 indicated.

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You can tell it’s ancient when it has the channel range selector on the top.

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There’s my two new acquisitions from today. They have nothing much to do with each other, but there they are, like pals. Combined, these two guys only cost $10 + tax, which is a small price to pay for this particular form of happiness. Also, it occurs to me that I don’t think I’ve ever owned a Curtis Mathes product before. Certainly not a VCR, at least.

So, there, another one for my steadily growing collection of old VCRs.

Memorex S-VHS Hi-Fi Stereo VCR – Model No. 16-705

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Look what I picked up at Goodwill today! An S-VHS VCR! I’ve never come across one of these “out in the wild” before! And for the low, low price of $5, no less! Goodwill is great about cheap VCRs, I’ve found some real winners there before. Today, they also had a Hi-Fi VHS VCR by GE from 1984 for the same price, but considering there was what looked like battery acid on the front as well as rust around where the tape loads, I didn’t even bother plugging that one in. Nevertheless, there’s a small part of me that still regrets not picking that one up anyway. But, I’ll survive; I bought a very high-end Panasonic Omnivision VCR from 1986 that works like a dream at the same Goodwill (also $5, if I recall correctly) last year, and since that’s not only my all-time favorite VCR “wild” find, but also my favorite VHS VCR period, well, in my mind there’s nowhere to go but down from there.

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Anyway, my newly-acquired Memorex S-VHS VCR. According to a bit of online research, this is apparently a “Model 35,” though all I see listed is the model number, 16-705. Looks like there was a door over the selectors on the front that is now missing, and there’s no date on it, but judging by the plastic casing, I’m guessing early-to-mid 1990’s, possibly late-1990’s (when did they stop making S-VHS units?). As a rule of thumb, I don’t like buying VCRs that new. By the 90’s, many VCRs were being made more on the cheap than they were in 80’s. So much so that with some of them, if they died, it was almost easier just buying a whole new one rather than having the old one repaired. That’s my general perception, though one of the best VCRs I ever bought (new) was a high-end VHS/DVD combo unit by Sony in 2005 that still creams anything you can buy new nowadays. So yeah, there were definite exceptions to my little rule. I’m guessing that because this is an S-VHS unit, it most likely cost more than your average VHS VCR back then (I mean, how could it not?), but I doubt this particular unit was any better than the models introduced in the U.S. in the late-1980’s. Don’t quote me on that, though.

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I was under the impression that S-VHS was just the VHS equivalent of the Super Betamax; that is, you could use regular VHS tapes to record programs in a higher quality than a normal VHS VCR. But, it seems that’s not quite the case. You needed specific S-VHS cassettes to take advantage of the improved recording quality. According to Wikipedia, you could use a regular VHS tape, and the recording would look a bit better, but it would also become unwatchable after several months. Keep in mind that I have no first-hand experience in using an S-VHS VCR, I can only go by what I’ve read, so if I’ve got something a little wrong, go easy on me.

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Alas, this unit may not work. Whatever tape you put in, the machine spits right back out, thankfully without eating it. Now, this may be because I don’t have any S-VHS tapes, only normal VHS cassettes, and the VCR recognizes that (however, from how I understand it, the machine should be able to *play* regular VHS tapes). Since there were differences, albeit apparently small differences, between the builds of the two cassettes, this makes sense. However, upon plugging the VCR in, it makes an audible ‘whining’ noise, which changes pitch slightly when “power” is pressed. I have no idea if this is normal for these VCRs or not. I knew about the machine spitting the tape out before I bought it (of course I plugged the thing in a grabbed a random tape lying about to test), and I actually put it back down, but my love of old VCRs got the better of me, and (obviously) I ended up buying it. Like I said, I’ve never come across one of these before, and cheap casing or not, I do actually like the look of the thing.

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If this was a VCR that took regular VHS tapes but recorded in higher quality, I would have considered having it repaired and regularly using it (it has S-Video inputs! I could hook this up to my usual “recording” TV if I wanted!), but as it stands, it’s just another cool addition to my ever-growing VCR collection.

Batclips DVD Review

The $1 DVDs you sometimes find in the checkout aisle of grocery stores or in forlorn sections of major retail joints are often hit-and-miss. After all, there’s only so many public domain movies, TV shows and cartoons that can be released over and over again. Often, the companies presenting the umpteenth release of a given film to the public have to rely on creative cover art to trick unsuspecting passerby into thinking a particular DVD they’ve got collecting dust on the shelf is in actuality the feel-good, must-have hit of the holiday season. My favorite examples? Releases of John Wayne’s public domain 1930’s B-movies that feature cover art made to look like it’s for ‘real’ John Wayne movies. Why, certain people could very well be tricked into thinking Randy Rides Alone is of the same cinematic quality as The Searchers!

That’s not to say I don’t love the $1 DVD section at stores, though. In all honesty, I will happily rummage through the budget titles before I even think about glancing towards the ‘real’ big-time DVD releases. I know what I’ll find there, but the $1 section can be like a neverending grab-bag of surprises. You can find some truly awesome titles if you’re willing to dig past a lot of junk discs. An example of budget DVD greatness? Batclips.

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This one seemingly came out of nowhere when it showed up in $1 racks a few years ago, but don’t let the cheap price fool you. This is an awesome DVD and absolutely worth the dollar (it’s hard to beat a buck anyway, but given some of the material presented, I can easily see them charging a bit more and not being called out on it). The cartoonish artwork and rather odd tagline on the front cover may lead some to think this is a cut-rate documentary on the origins of the Batman character, but it’s actually about 30 minutes worth of material pertaining to the 1966-1968 Batman TV series starring Adam West (as well as the 1966 film based on said series and starring said badass). Let me clarify that this is often listed as Bat Clips, with a space between the two words, but the spine and description on my copy both call it Batclips, no space, so that’s what I’m calling it, too (I only mention this because while doing my research on this DVD, the spacing issue did indeed mess with my search results).

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Due to legal problems, the actual 1966-1968 TV series has, thus far, not been officially released in any format (though the 1966 movie has). But believe it or not, for those craving some 60’s Batman, this DVD actually holds some genuinely interesting tidbits. According to the back of the packaging, this was put out by Treasure Box Collection, which is one of those companies that has released a ton of movies, TV shows, etc. out as dollar DVDs. Or were they one of those companies? I heard they went out of business, and the single website link I found was dead, so…? Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any DVDs put out by them lately. Is it just my area, or have they closed up shop?

Either way, their products usually (always?) featured the “Platinum Collection” band across the top of the artwork, ostensibly meant to give the package a more “collectible” aura. And I’ll tell you right now that unless “Digitally Remastered” is just a fancy term for “transferred to a digital format,” well, lets just say this isn’t exactly Criterion Collection quality here. In fact, it appears the entire contents of the disc come transferred straight from a VHS source, complete with the video imperfections that are inherent to the format. That said, everything here is entirely watchable, and “Digitally Remastered” is a term thrown around so often regarding budget DVDs that it really doesn’t mean anything anymore. Just don’t go in thinking this to be comparable to something Kino had a hand in, okay? As you’ll see in a bit, the picture could be sharper, sure, but why nitpick the picture quality of a $1 DVD? There’s some really terrific, really unexpected stuff here, and damn dude, it was a dollar.

Also, my copy is in a regular plastic snap DVD keep case, but apparently Batclips was later reissued in a thin cardboard sleeve, albeit with the same artwork (that version apparently has a running time of “Approximately 60 Minutes” listed, though no mention of a running time is anywhere on my copy, and besides, the DVD is only about half that length). I haven’t seen that “edition” in person, however, and indeed, I haven’t seen Batclips available locally since, well, since around the time this copy was in stores. Does that mean the sealed Batclips I have stored away will one day be worth $1000?! Or MORE?!?!

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“An inside look at a superhero phenomenon?” is, to me, a bit of an odd tagline. At first, I thought the question mark at the end was a typo (typos being fairly common with $1 DVDs), but considering it’s found on the front and back of the case and on the disc face itself, it seems they were trying to give the impression this DVD would dig down and deep into what makes Batguy tick. Alternately, it also makes it sound like the DVD is going to be some kind of dirty laundry tell-all documentary, though of course it’s not.

The description on the back cover actually isn’t too far off. Aside from the mention of “posters” (which I don’t understand since there’s no picture gallery or anything on the disc, unless they’re talking about the covert art, which is found on the case, disc, and menu screen) and the phrase “…more Batmania than has ever been assembled in on [sic] DVD before” which I’m guessing is a bit of an exaggeration (unless we’re talking budget DVDs only, in which case they’re probably right), the description is really pretty accurate. Honestly, I was expecting much of it to be BS, but the DVD does indeed live up to the promises made on the back, more or less.

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There’s the front and back of the DVD itself. Thankfully, it’s a factory pressed silver disc, as opposed to a DVD-R or something, thus ensuring years of Batclips lovin’.

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The real jewel of Batclips is found right at the beginning of the DVD: the 7 minute, unaired Batgirl promo used to sell ABC on a third season of Batman. Not only is this completely unexpected, but it’s also a step closer to the actual episodes of the series that have so far been barred from official release. The pilot is set up like a mini-episode of the series, complete with narration and “Pow!” exclamations during fight scenes. The story goes that the ratings for Batman had fallen so much during the second season that ABC was questioning whether they wanted to bring it back for a third. So, the producers made this short pilot introducing Yvonne Craig as Batgirl. ABC was impressed enough with the pilot to give season three a go, and Batgirl became a regular castmember and fellow crimefighter to Batman and Robin.

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For a seven minute “episode” that was never intended to be seen outside of wherever this was shown to ABC execs in 1967, it’s pretty entertaining. Then again, 60’s Batman can do little wrong in my eyes. The gist of the pilot is that bad guy The Killer Moth and his henchmen are hanging out at the library, where Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara (BATGIRL) works. Batman and Robin show up to kick some Moth ass, and quickly wind up in a predicament. Batgirl lends a hand. One funny scene, during a brawl with The Killer Moth’s henchmen, has Batman chatting with Batgirl, occasionally turning to punch out a bad guy, and then casually turning back to the conversation.

This pilot is the sort of thing you wouldn’t be surprised finding at a fan convention or something, but it showing up on a commercial DVD is definitely eyebrow raising. Where did it come from? How did Treasure Box Collection get it? How were they allowed to release it? Has Batgirl lapsed into the public domain, or is it a grey area legally? Batclips wasn’t exactly sold under the counter, and while it’s not really seen on shelves nowadays (not around here, at least), it was pretty widely available at the time (dollar DVDs tend to get around, y’know?). The only copyright found on the package is one credited to “Dan Dalton Productions.” So, I take it Mr. Dalton is one of the chosen few in the position to release this stuff? I mean, God bless him for making this DVD happen either way, but I’d hate for anyone to get into any trouble. Maybe that’s why Batclips is seemingly so scarce on DVD nowadays, or worse yet, why Treasure Box Collection appears to be incommunicado? Did Warner Bros. or DC Comics or whoever the hell owns all this stuff put their foot down?!?! Tune in next week, same Bat time, same…oh, never mind.

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From there the DVD swings into a 1972 public service announcement by the U.S. Department Of Labor Wage & Hour Division. The subject? Batgirl hasn’t been getting equal pay because she’s a girl, and thus isn’t sure if she wants to save Batman and Robin from being all blowed up. The PSA features Batman series stars Burt Ward as Robin and Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, as well as NOT Adam West as Batman (Bats is instead portrayed by Dick Gautier, though he adequately looks and sounds enough like West to keep the mega-fans at bay). Batgirl claims she’s been working for Batman “a long time,” but is paid less than Robin for the same job. I never really thought Batgirl worked for Batman, but was rather a separate but kindred crimefighter, right? Then again, they needed something to set the PSA in motion, in which case I’m all for some inaccuracies if it means getting Bats into it. Batman’s response when Batgirl states men and women are to be paid equally for the same job by the same employer? “No time for jokes, Batgirl!” Damn!

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Next, we’re presented with not one but several trailers for the 1966 Batman feature film. One of them is even partially in Spanish. They vary in length, and while they’re certainly neat to see, the “samey” nature of them quickly wears a bit thin. Featuring Adam West and Burt Ward in their respective characters announcing the upcoming film and the benefits to humanity it features, the stable of villains in it, as well as the required action shots, it’s all very cool, but some would say a little would have went a long way here. I guess Treasure Box Collection or whoever initially put this thing together was determined to use everything they had?

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There had been some movie serials in the 1940’s, but 1966’s Batman was the first full-length, color Batman film. It retained a lot of the campy fun of the series, albeit with a higher budget, allowing for some additonal Batgadgets and whatnot (which were then used in the series). An all-star assembly of villains (The Joker, Catwoman, The Penguin and The Riddler) also made this, in theory, the Batman movie to end all Batman movies. Frankly, I love it, but as previously stated, 60’s Batman, in TV or movie form, can do little wrong in my eyes. Obviously, this film is a quantum leap away from the 1989 Tim Burton film and it’s 1992 sequel, not to mention the Christopher Nolan films of recent years. If you’re not a fan of the 1966-1968 Adam West series, the feature film version probably isn’t going to do much to change your mind.

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After finishing up with the movie trailers, a 30-second promo for the series is seen. There’s no station I.D., date, timeslot or voiceover, so I can’t tell if this was meant for the original airings of the TV series or for later syndicated broadcasts. It features Commissioner Gordon calling Bruce Wayne on the Bat Phone, and then Batman and Robin swinging into action. There’s plenty of room for a local voiceover, station I.D. or timeslot to be inserted, so, I don’t know. I’m guessing this was for local airings after the series ended, but I could very well be wrong. I do know that in the early/mid-2000’s, before your NEO Video Hunter had wholly begun to collect his own material (something I now do absolutely exclusively), this promo was making the rounds on the internet, and if I recall correctly, it was listed as a 60’s spot. Which brings up an interesting point: I have a feeling that all or at least most of the material on Batclips was probably circulating (perhaps together, perhaps individually) in one form or another before Batclips collected it all into one convenient package. Maybe it was all the turf of fan-made comps available exclusively at conventions and the like, or maybe there was an official (or semi-official) VHS release at some point in the past. I don’t know, I have no proof, I’m only speculating.

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And that brings us to the most oddball section of Batclips: the personal appearances portion. First up: Adam West, in character as Batman, making a personal appearance at what seems to be a car show or the like somewhere. From the looks of the fashions seen in the crowd, this was maybe the late-80’s or early-90’s, and there seems to be a date on the banner hanging behind West that might say 1992, but the video quality is so soft that it’s really hard to tell. This was very clearly filmed with a home camcorder, a fact made all the more obvious by the picture and sound quality.

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It would be easy to make jokes about this, but the fact of the matter is that Adam West, Burt Ward and Yvonne Craig were all severely typecast by their roles in Batman, and whenever film or TV work was scarce, making personal appearances at conventions, car shows, store openings, etc. was a good way to pay the bills. Furthermore, West is never anything less than completely engaging and personable. He stays in character as Batman, makes jokes, speaks freely with audience members, and perhaps what impresses me most, clearly states that he’s not going to leave until every member of the audience that wants an autograph gets one. See that book he’s holding above? He tries to get the lady who brought it to read a scene with him, which she declines. I actually own a copy of that same book (a collection of older comic stories put together in the 1960’s to capitalize on the then-hot TV series), and I think if I’m ever fortunate enough to meet Adam West in person, I’d like to bring my copy to be autographed. Or, I could always bring, you know, Batclips.

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Next up, more camcorder action from the sidelines of some talk show that was apparently hosting a Batman cast reunion, complete with a recreation of the set. As evidenced by the crewmembers often obstructing the view, this was probably not an official outtake of whatever show this was.

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This part of Batclips works as a curiosity piece, but unlike the Adam West appearance prior, much of the sound is unintelligible, the camera is often moving, crewmembers are sometimes in the way, and there’s just no real rhyme or reason to any of it. I can safely say this is the least watchable part of the entire DVD. Don’t get me wrong, it’s interesting to have, if for no other reason than to have the cast all together on one stage, but it’s not something most people will want to watch over and over.

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The DVD ends with a 17-second kinda-animated sequence intended for…well, I don’t know what the hell this was intended for,

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The sequence starts off with the stick of dynamite (or is it just a firecracker?) blowing up, and then several Batman-esque action cards being shown before cutting to that probably-not-professional-drawing of Batman, who for whatever reason is thinking of his own logo (or possibly just a regular ol’ bat). it’s a real non-sequiter of a sequence, and I have no idea what it was meant to be a part of. The clip has some age to it, that’s for sure, so maybe it was meant for the movie theater and/or drive-in circuit, perhaps from some point in the 1970’s? I have absolutely no basis for that guess, just a gut-feeling, and just like that promo I was talking about earlier, I could very well be wrong.

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So there you have it, Treasure Box Collection’s DVD release of Batclips. It may look like an unassuming budget DVD, but man, it’s waaay cooler than you’d expect it to be, especially for only a buck. When this was purchased, multiple copies of Batclips were easily found at the same grocery store this copy came from, but since then, the DVD has apparently become scarce. At the time of the writing, there are only three used copies on Ebay, and one used copy on Amazon, and, get this, they’re all priced around $30! Granted, sellers can ask any price they want, but the point is that if this were still in some kind of wide-release (relatively speaking, I mean), both sites would in all likelihood be littered with both new and used copies at a much wider-range of prices. So, I wonder if legal actions were quietly taken when word of this release reached the respective copyright owners? Or, maybe because the film elements aren’t as widely available as other public domain movies on dollar DVDs, when Treasure Box Collection went under (*if* they went under), releasing a similar collection just isn’t as easy for other companies, especially since Dan Dalton Productions is supposedly in charge of the content. Of course, I have zero evidence that any of this is true, once again I’m just speculating, but it’s sure interesting to think about.

No matter, because I can say that as someone with some experience in budget DVDs (dubious honor that may be), I’ve never seen anything like Batclips, before or since. You can find some neat releases in the $1 DVD section, but from my viewpoint, Batclips is honestly the best disc I’ve ever found at that area. It just goes to show you, don’t pass up those cheap DVDs, because you never know what you’ll find!