In the past, I’ve mentioned by general dislike for ‘newer’ VCRs; that is, anything mid-1990’s on-up. Of late, however, I’ve had a softening of heart regarding these obsolete beasts. True, I still prefer decks from the mid-to-late-1980’s, but I guess I can live with the newer, cheaper models. That said, I haven’t had a good, ‘old’ VCR find in the wild for some time now, so maybe my resolve is just weak. I’m an enigma that way.
…Wait, did I seriously just say that my resolve is weak in regards to VCRs, and that somehow makes me an enigma? That’s dangerously close to the stupidest thing I’ve ever written on this blog, and that’s really saying something!
I found this sucker at Goodwill last night for the low, low price of $6, which truthfully was a dollar more than I would have preferred paying, but it really has been quite awhile since I’ve bought a VCR, any VCR, from the joint, so screw it. The deck is, as the title so aptly states, a Zenith VRL2110 VHS VCR. I have no idea what year it’s from; there’s no date to be found anywhere on it. I’m gonna say “circa-1995.” Could be from a few years earlier, could be from a few years later, or I could be dead wrong from the get-go. There’s just no way to be sure.
What I am sure of is that, regardless of when it came out, this certainly isn’t even close to a high-end VCR. If anything, this model sort of exemplifies everything that makes up my (usual) reluctance to purchase decks from this era of VCR: cheap plastic casing, no special features whatsoever, and the sixth-sense-like feeling that just looking at this thing cross-eyed during playback will cause it to eat my tape with so much reckless abandon. Also, the facts it’s clearly marked as having only 2-heads and it is not a stereo VCR are also red flags. they didn’t stop me from buying it though, so what am I even complaining about? Plus, it’s not like there weren’t cheaper VCRs in 1980’s.
‘Course, it’s a Zenith, a brand I’ve had good luck with in the past in regards to vintage electronics, so that’s a good thing. A low-end Zenith VCR is still a Zenith VCR, after all. I can live with 2-heads, but I do really wish it was Hi-Fi.
It may be made of plastic, but it does have a cool rounded look to the front of the unit that I find appealing. Also, I’m mildly surprised it records in all three modes: SP, LP and EP. For a deck clearly intended for the decidedly more frugal purchaser, I would have expected only SP and EP. The front brags about on-screen programming, but since no remote was included, those features are evidently forever barred from my usage. Oh the pain…oh the torture…
See, Zenith, VRL2110. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. If you didn’t believe me, you could have looked at the front of the unit, but I guess that would have been too easy. Nothing I do is ever good enough, is it? I thought I had a picture of the A/V jacks on the back, but apparently I don’t, and I refuse to drag the VCR out for another picture taking session. Simply put, it only uses the yellow and white jacks, no reds. Trust me on this.
I can whine about how cheap the thing looks all night and/or day, but that would be ignoring the figurative elephant in the figurative room: does the sucker work? I have no shortage of tapes to use as test subjects, but a title I purchased along with this VCR last night will serve that purpose nicely…
An ancient, 1984 copy of It’s A Wonderful life, from back when that title was public domain (it’s not anymore, is it?) There’s something about Video Film Classics and their big giant clamshell boxes that always make me snap them up with lightnin’ quick speed, despite their artwork being of only the most generic quality. Plus, I really, really like It’s A Wonderful Life, and the sheer number of old budget copies I have of it is, quite honestly, semi-embarassing. I mean, it’s not like I have a hundred or anything, but there’s probably enough to last me a lifetime.
The moment of truth. Will I soon be delighted with classic Christmas images and the everlasting adorableness of Donna Reed, or will I be crushed beyond belief when the damn VCR chews the tape beyond the point of no return (he asked as if he didn’t already know the answer prior to this post)? Also, isn’t the lil’ red light on the power button cute?
It lives, it lives! And aside from fast-forwarding and rewinding, which, thanks to there only being 2-heads, is pretty tough viewin’, it works pretty good. It’s a nice surprise, considering it really can be difficult to find VCRs of this particular vintage in working condition. ‘Course, as previously stated, it ain’t exactly a high-end model; this is not a machine you’d use to make the best possible DVD conversions of VHS tapes, but it’ll do in a pinch.
As for It’s A Wonderful Life, there are worse prints out there, or at least were out there. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it looks nicer than I’d have guessed it would. Maybe it looks even better when played on a higher-end VCR. Or maybe the screencap above is an accurate representation of the tape’s quality. I now see the folly in my choice of testing (i.e., I should have used a flick that’s a bit newer and high-res.)
There it be, my Zenith VCR from 19–. Is it the best VCR in my collection? Hardly. Is it the most notable VCR in my collection? Not even close. Will I ever use it again? Who knows. And yet, for some odd reason, I really don’t mind plunking a cool $6 for it. It means no harm, it’s just out there doin’ it’s thing, despite the numerous odds stacked against it. Maybe there’s a life lesson for all of us, buried deep in there somewhere.
Or maybe I just had no idea how to end this post.