Monthly Archives: March 2015

Trans-Atlantic Video’s Spanish Superman VHS (1989)

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While digging through my junk collection recently, I found this old VHS of the public domain 1940s Superman cartoons. Not so odd in and of itself, I come across these kinds of tapes while out and about all the time, and I’ve got more than enough of them in my collection as it is. But, what’s interesting about this particular release is that it’s a Spanish edition. Also, it’s sealed brand new. Also, I have zero recollection of ever buying it.

What probably happened is I bought a bunch of tapes or otherwise interesting items at Goodwill or something, I found this tape while there and threw it in with the rest of my stuff, and subsequently forgot about it because something else I picked up in the haul was more exciting. That has to have been what happened, because I’d like to think under normal circumstances, I’d have some recollection of a sealed Spanish Superman (alliteration) VHS tape in my collection.

I can’t bring myself to open it. Most likely the cartoons within are the regular English versions found on any number of cheap VHS releases; I highly, highly doubt these are Spanish-dubbed. So why bother? There probably won’t be any notable differences between the content of this tape and the standard U.S. releases I’m more accustomed to. Plus, if I leave it sealed, I can stomp around and act all superior to everyone else because my Spanish Superman tape is still minty brand new. Right?

This isn’t the first time I’ve babbled about budget Supaguy tapes; back in February 2014, I looked at this ostensibly obscure release. This Trans-Atlantic tape is actually more typical of most similar releases, except for, you know, that whole Spanish language box thing. The front cover artwork, while clearly ‘homemade,’ is decidedly more competent than a lot of budget Superman videos, and make no mistake, in this peculiar field, that’s no small accomplishment.

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Look at that: the standard disclaimer about the images on the box being “color enhanced” and taken from the actual cartoons on the tape is apparently universal. Most budget cartoon tapes had a similarly-worded disclaimer. I assume “color enhanced” really means “redrawn” or something along those lines, probably to avoid any legal hassles. And in the case of Superman, you do not want to be taking any chances with that property.

I can’t even begin to speak Spanish in any adequate sense, but I can still figure out what a good deal of the wording on the box means, and for what I can’t figure out on my own, this helpful online translator keeps me from looking like a total doofus. The yellow bullet point by Supe’s foot roughly translates to “animated films,” and it looks like the cartoons included are The Underground World, Japoteurs (“Gee, ya don’t say?!”), and what I can only surmise is an old Bimbo (as in Betty Boop’s canine boyfriend, weird relationship though that was) cartoon as filler, which really wasn’t too unusual with video releases of this type.

According to the translation site, El Coche de Bimbo roughly translates to “Bimbo’s Car,” so you figure out what the hell cartoon it actually is if you need to know that badly. Stop trying to make me open my tape.

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Also apparently universal: the fairly plain-Jane back covers of these releases. Doesn’t look like there’s anything specific to this Superman tape in the description on the back; from what I can tell, there’s the standard disclaimer about these all being public domain cartoons. Plus, the listing of other cartoon tapes from the company. I have no idea what “Bill Cosby” could refer to; Fat Albert was never public domain, was it? I totally want a Spanish Popeye tape now.

Maybe I’m not giving a wholly accurate picture of this tape: while it is indeed a Spanish release of 1940s public domain Superman cartoons, this probably wasn’t something you’d actually have to leave the country to buy; more likely, it was sold in the U.S., but specifically in Spanish stores/neighborhoods. My case is only bolstered by the fact that I found it around town at all, as well as the fact that, according to the box, it was manufactured in the U.S.

So, while the tape may not be that rare/unique/whatever, considering it’s not the sort of thing I myself come across all that often (relatively speaking), well, that puts it one-up on the usual fare I’m forced to contend with on a consistent basis. After you see variations of the same thing some 100,000 times, it doesn’t take much to stand out.

It’s a cool video, and one I’m certainly glad to have. I just wish I could remember where the hell it came from.


Sylvania Hi-Fi Stereo VHS VCR Model No. VC3645GY01 (1985)

sylvania vcr 8 Hey, remember when I used to write about interesting VCRs and whatnot that I had come across? It’s sure been awhile! The reason being that while I have picked up several really good ones in recent months, I just couldn’t get sufficiently fired up enough to write about them. That changes now, because after a fairly long dry spell, I finally, finally came across a ridiculously cool VCR out in the wild that absolutely needs a place of honor (ha!) on my silly blog. Behold: a Sylvania Hi-Fi VHS VCR, model number VC3645GY01, from 1985! And it only set me back $5 last weekend! Cool winnins!

From the picture above, it may not look that interesting. I mean, sure, it has that classy black and silver, heavy duty 1980s design going for it, and it’s a 4-head, Hi-Fi stereo model, but is that really enough to get me to write about it? Plenty of other VCRs from the time period had the same characteristics, after all. Keep reading chief, you’ll see, the real horsepower of this beast is under the hood, so to speak.

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Outside appearances belie the advantages of this deck, because this thing is positively loaded with features. It all comes courtesy of an everlastingly cool fold-down door. Nope, a regular pull-down door just won’t do for the Sylvania; by pressing the appropriately-named “door” button, all the features drop down to your fingertips.

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Just look at ’em all! Besides the standard play-stop-rewind-fast-forward-pause-record options, you’ve got the ability to record in all three speeds, and even cooler, the ability to do freakin’ audio dubbing! You can adjust the audio levels, and/or fiddle around with the audio level meter display. I love the old-school tracking control knob, and even though I’ll never actually use it, the (relatively) easy-set clock/timer feature had to have been a blessing back in ’85.

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And look at that! Even more features! Sharpness control (which is a feature I absolutely love on a lot of these old VCRs), a regular TV or cable TV swich, you can even select normal or thin tape! Since I never really do any audio dubbing, I’m guessing that option was for that particular feature of the VCR?

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Something that’s really cool and which I wasn’t expecting at all is seen in the left picture above: That 1:37 isn’t the tape counter (indeed, this unit uses the old-school, 0000 tape counters, as opposed to the exact hours/minutes/seconds counters of later VCRs). Rather, that seems to indicate how much time is left on the tape. Swanky! That sort of thing was in vogue later on, but I was a surprised to see it used in a 1985 model.

The picture on the right demonstrates the slow-motion feature in action. You know, I’ve got that option on a lot of my VCRs (both VHS and Beta), and while it’s not something I ever really use at all, I still get a kick out of it being included. Go figure.

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And as if all that wasn’t enough, it’s even got an LED audio level meter, in an attractive red-and-blue color scheme to boot!

However, there are some sad failins afoot with this deck: it doesn’t quite work correctly. It seems like until it gets “warmed up,” it won’t really run a tape all that well, and when it finally does get warmed up, you get sound (really terrific sound, in fact), but no picture. Maybe the heads are shot, maybe they just need a good cleaning, I don’t know. I’m actually not too upset about this factor, though. The genuine coolness of this VCR was easily worth the $5 I plunked down for it, and besides, odds are it can be repaired in the future, if need be.

(From how I understand it, Sylvania VCRs were always just re-badged Panasonic machines anyway, which I kinda suspected in the first-place, so some parts swapping probably isn’t out of the question, if it came to that.)

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And yet more features on the back of the unit! You’ll probably have to click on either pic to enlarge them enough to see, but there’s an audio filter switch, camera remote input, right and left microphone inputs, and what really kinda surprised me, a Pay-TV knob. I’ve got a lot of old VCRs lying around, and while there may very well be a similar knob on one of those as well, I just can’t recall seeing a Pay-TV knob on any of them. And truth be told, I’m really not sure how exactly that would work. I’m guessing to record Pay-Per-View and whatnot? Or maybe used in conjunction with those old ‘special channel’ boxes? I have no idea.

And that’s all in addition to the necessary stereo RCA jack inputs and outputs.

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See, model number VC3645GY01, manufactured in late-1985. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

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I can’t even begin to guess how much this model cost back in 1985, and internet searches really aren’t revealing a whole lot of info about it or even any pictures of it, but this sure looks like it was a pretty high-end model back in the day, and high-end models weren’t exactly cheap at the time. It’s funny, a VCR that was undoubtedly several hundred dollars (at least!) back in the 1980s only cost me $5 last week, but hey, that’s the nature of electronics; it doesn’t take long for them to become obsolete. Well, obsolete to the general public, anyway. Me? I get fired up finding things like this just as much as I probably would have had I found it new in the stores back in ’85!

It’s not quite the best VCR I’ve found while out thrifting, but it’s up there, even if it’s not working correctly at the moment. No matter, because I was thrilled to come across this unit. Indeed, I wish I had more finds like it! It’s a welcome addition to my ever-growing mountain of ancient VCRs.