Tag Archives: laserdisc

Blockbuster-Branded Batman & Robin VHS (1998)

batmanandrobin2

I get excited over the weirdest stuff. For instance, take this thrift-store-find from a few nights ago; I was legit stoked to come across it. Maybe it’s because I’m a Batman Batfan and totally remember the massive hype (and even more massive letdown) that was the summer 1997 release of this movie. Maybe it’s because I miss the all-but-dead video rental store days (and have been looking for something to pay tribute, albeit belated, to the now-gone Blockbuster). Or, maybe it’s simply because I already had a Blockbuster-branded copy of Batman Forever and in my weird little world this compliments it nicely.

Aw, who am I kidding? It’s all of those. And more?

Despite the fact the movie is one of the worst things ever, I have an inexplicable fondness for the film. Well, not really for the film per se. More for the time period and where it falls in my lifetime. Going further into all that would be a huge digression, so let me stay kinda on track here. Batman & Robin: I remember the release, I remember (and sampled) the Taco Bell tie-in promotion, and I remember the revelation that it apparently made theater-goers cry. I wouldn’t know, though; we tried to go see it, but the only available-to-us showing was sold out, so we settled for, I’m pretty sure, Men In Black.

(I’ve kinda made up for not seeing it in theaters, not that it matters, though: this is my actually my second copy of the film on VHS, and I even have the stupid thing on DVD and freakin’ Laserdisc. Now if I can just find a Betamax copy, my collection will be complete*.)

Despite there being other Batman movies released to theaters in the 1990s, Batman & Robin feels the most overtly 1990s-ish to me. No doubt that’s due to my memories of that summer of ’97. At any rate, the fact remains that I have a copy of Batman & Robin with Blockbuster stickers slapped on it, and on the freakin’ VHS format to boot. Thus, it goes without saying that I am currently experiencing an all-encompassing 90s rush that’s threatening to drive me straight-up nutz; it’s taking every ounce of my energy to refrain from playing a Smash Mouth CD** whilst watching an episode of Boy Meets World. That’s what everyone was doing in the late-1990s, right?

batmanandrobin3

I’ve seen the film, and it lives up (or is it down?) to the reputation it has acquired. It is not a good flick. Yeah, I know, big revelation. That said, I find it more gloriously entertaining than the higher-regarded Batman Forever, even if that entertainment is only derived from how jaw-dropping bad it is. I cannot believe this was a major Hollywood production. But, look at the damn tape. I don’t care what you say, everything about it is 1997 in a nutshell. Don’t ask me to explain, because I can’t (and considering the movie can and probably has been used as a torture device, maybe that’s a good thing).

The pic above is worth clicking on for a super-sized version, because the description on the back is kinda out there (yes, I know the Blockbuster sticker obscures some of it). My favorite part is the mention of “New very special effects…“, as if these special effects are substantially more special than your usual , run-of-the-mill special effects. I love this tape.

Also, “From our Batfamily to yours“? That’s adorable Give me a break.

batmanandrobin4

According to Amazon, the VHS was originally released on October 21, 1997. Upon first finding this tape and seeing that January 6, 1998 date printed on the sticker, my initial thought was “so soon after release?” But, I figure, there were probably plenty of copies put up for rental following the release date, then once the “fervor” died down, nearly as many put out for sale. Plus Christmas sales, plus johnny-come-latelys, etc., and well, 1/6/98 actually seems kinda late to the game. Also, 1/6/98 was when this copy was presumably put out for sale, it’s not a sale date. So who knows when Blockbuster finally unloaded this burden video. Anyway, it was put out for sale in ’98, which is why the title of this post is dated “1998” and not the probably-more-accurate “1997.”

My aforementioned copy of Blockbuster-Batman Forever features all of the same branding, except it also features a cute little sticker on the front proclaiming the low, low bargain price of only $4.99. Batman & Robin features no such pricing identification, and the sticker on the back, as evidenced by the photo above, is silent on the matter. I don’t know what “*” means in regards to what some unlucky video purchaser paid, but I assume it meant “cheap.”

batmanandrobin5 batmanandrobin6

Oh now that’s just precious. Remember the days when Blockbuster was the go-to place for not only the hot new movie hits, but all of your entertainment needs? I’m pretty sure we rented more video games there than we ever did movies. Nevertheless, the sticker brings back serious memories.

Back in the late-90s when I started doing the whole Ebay thang, there were some VHS videos that were going for what we I call “the mighty dollars.” DVD hadn’t quite taken off yet, and thus VHS was still the predominant format. That market would eventually drop hardcore, but at the time, if you had a copy of the M*A*S*H series finale or Giorgio Moroder’s restoration of Metropolis on VHS (or even better, Laserdisc), and they were in halfway decent shape, you stood to make a good chunk of money fast. Well, collectors being collectors, rental store stickers such as the ones on this tape were seen as detriments. Not that I’m arguing with that; if you’re spending $40-$50 for a VHS, preferably it should be in the best shape possible. I don’t recall ever being too bothered as to whether a tape had stickers/fading/etc. or not, as long as I got what I was going after, but that sort of thing could and did affect prices for other collectors.

Nowadays, I really don’t mind finding these kinds of markings on tapes (obviously). They add a nice bit of historical value. I’ve got an ancient VHS copy of Jaws with Fotomat stickers all over it, and I actually care more about those stickers and the earlier release date than I do the movie (I know, I know, it’s a classic, but I just don’t like Jaws nor any of the sequels nor any of the countless rip-offs it spawned). This copy of Batman & Robin could never be described as “mint” or “fresh outta da shrinkwrap,” but since copies are plentiful and generally worthless (for so, so many reasons), these Blockbuster stickers add a whole different dimension to the thing, one that many may tend to overlook.

Plus, there’s a lot of people that would claim that the Blockbuster stickers on this thing are worth more than the movie itself. I’m not gonna argue that, either; Batman & Robin is really bad.

To be completely and totally honest, and this shows just how friggin’ strange I am, I’ve specifically been looking for a copy of Batman & Robin just like this to go with that previously-mentioned Batman Forever, if only because they represent the 1990s rental store period so well. Since copies of the film are plentiful and Blockbuster stores were plentiful, I’m kinda surprised it took me as long as it did to actually come across one. Victory is mine?

batmanandrobin1

There it is, a Blockbuster-branded copy of Batman & Robin, from back when people relied on video rental stores and before the internet became so widespread that it went and spoiled everything for movie studios/tape manufacturers that were hoping against hope that potential-purchasers hadn’t heard just how unrelentingly bad a movie was/is.

‘Course, I’ve just written over a thousand words about a film and the VHS release of said film that, for all intents and purposes, isn’t really worth it. This begs the question: the hell’s wrong with me?

(And hey, look, the last owner was indeed a friend and rewound when he or she reached the end! Thanks, Blockbuster!)

* = I know full well there’s not a Betamax release of Batman And Robin, settle down.

** = While I do indeed have an extensive music collection, I don’t actually own anything by Smash Mouth.

Pioneer Laserdisc Player Model No. LD-V6000A (1989)

ld1

Found, forgotten and dusty in an oft-overlooked secret alcove of Time Traveler last night, my good pal Scott straight up gave me this incredible beast: A Pioneer Laserdisc player, model number LD-V6000A from 1989. It’s admittedly not in sell-able condition (I’ll show why in a moment), or I would have cleaned it up, slapped a price tag on it for Scott and put it out for the world to admire. I certainly don’t need another Laserdisc player, but this is the exact kind of electronic I’m a sucker for.

ld2 ld3

The remote is loooong gone, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to fast-forward or rewind from the unit itself. I’d think those would be standard features for a player manufactured as late as 1989, but hell, I don’t know. Compared to VHS and Betamax VCRs, I don’t quite know the history of Laserdisc players as backwards and forwards as I probably should. Which is puzzling, because I’ve got mounds of useless information on pretty much everything else.

A quick internet search on the LD-V6000A brings up multiple mentions of it being an “industrial unit.” Is that a code word for “enormous SOB?” Because that’s what this thing is. Granted, Laserdisc players were never the smallest things in the world, but compared to my other LD units, this guy is somewhat bigger and considerably heavier, undoubtedly because those are consumer models. There go my hopes of using the LD-V6000A as a kite. It’s not as hernia-inducing as my Quasar VCR, but it’s certainly not something you’d want to juggle, either (supposing you were interested in having the world’s most-moronic circus act, that is.)

ld9

See, manufactured in 1989! Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

ld4

Somehow I didn’t notice the mention of “industrial” on the back until I was looking at this picture. How did I miss that? I should pay more attention to these things. So, what exactly constitutes an “industrial” Laserdisc player? Is it all the additional doo-dads on the back, heavier casing, A cord you’d need bolt cutters in order to sever? I assume this sort of thing was generally more available to businesses and schools, as opposed to what you could buy at your local electronics store? This is new territory for me, so please explain with patience and understanding, kindly reader.

(That last sentence just may be the most idiotic thing I’ve ever written on this blog.)

Cosmetically, the LD-V6000A isn’t in bad shape at all. A little cleaning and this sucker would be loaded, cocked and ready to rock. So, why wasn’t it suitable to be placed before a hungry public that you just know would be fighting tooth and nail over it?

ld6

Because upon pressing the appropriate button, the disc tray refuses to slide out. Now, I’ve had plenty of vintage electronics with motorized disc trays that nowadays require a little prompting on the user’s part to get movin’. It comes with the territory, and indeed, my second Laserdisc player (which was also my first actual working one) needed a little help to get going in that area. So, the fact that the LD-V6000A’s motorized disc tray isn’t operating at optimal performance isn’t that big of a detriment. A little prying should do the trick…

…Except that isn’t remotely enough. Nope, this disc tray won’t come out for anyone or anything. I mean, it really doesn’t want to work. Something in the mechanism must be full-on broken.

I’m not about to let a mere Laserdisc player dictate what I can and can’t do. So…

ld7

Throwing caution to the wind, I yanked on the tray with all mah might, negligible though my strength may be. And I tell ya, you’ve got to REALLY pull on the tray door before it’ll give up the ghost. Nevertheless, from the picture above, you can see I was successful. Me: 1, LD: 0. Makes me feel like a big man.

In all fairness, I knew all this before I even brought the thing home. We tried it out in the store, ripped the tray out of it’s residence, and so on and so on. And we did put an LD in it, and it did indeed sound as if it ran. So, taxation of my muscles aside, that was a good sign, I guess. Then again, you never really know for sure until you hook it up proper.

The problem there is that I don’t have the right cables to hook it up proper. Scroll back up and look at that pic of the back of the unit. I have AV cables for the audio outputs, but the picture output doesn’t use those. I wasn’t prepared to invest any more time or effort in this thing other than what was immediately available to me. So, I plugged the audio cables into the front of my VCR, figuring that if I heard sound, I’d call it a success.

ld8

There was a good chance that even if the player didn’t work properly beforehand, the sweet, sweet voice of Phil Collins would snap it back into shape right quick. Ideally, I would have busted out my Bruce Springsteen Video Anthology 1978-1988 disc for this purpose, but that would have required back-breakin’ disc diggin’, and my interest in this whole thing was waning far too seriously for that.

Against all odds (get it?! BWAHAWHAWHAW!!!) and to the shock of millions dozens, I did indeed hear the appropriate sounds one would expect from a live Phil Collins Laserdisc. True, I couldn’t see the picture, but it didn’t sound like it was skipping or anything. Cautiously, I’ll file this one under “Workin’, yo.” I’d have never expected it to work, especially considering the motorized tray is all kinds of out-o’-order, but I guess it wasn’t an industrial strength LD player for nothing, huh?

ld5

There it be. It’s kind of a regal beast, ain’t it? Well, maybe “regal” isn’t the right description. I think “imposing” fits better. And what’s more imposing than a Laserdisc player that could easily flatten a car? I think next heavy snow, I’ll find a hill and use this thing as a sled.

Off in the distance, you’ll notice a portrait of Elvis, his visage watching over the LD-V6000A. It’s his birthday today, you know. I promise you I didn’t plan it that way, either. Twas just a happy coincidence.

Really Old Japanese VHS Copy Of Mothra Vs. Godzilla!

zillatape1

Through the magic of box-digging (and boy, I had to do some serious diggin’ to root this one out last night), look what I has been done founded: a really old Japanese VHS release of 1964’s Mothra Vs. Godzilla, aka Godzilla Vs. Mothra, aka Godzilla Vs. The Thing. I picked this up in the Summer of 2001 during a visit to the G-Fest Convention in Chicago. There was a Japanese mall nearby in which I also picked up some vintage Japanese Ultraman tapes, but this particular video I found at the convention itself. I (and by “I” I mean “parents”) paid $25 for it. Too much? Not enough? I have no idea, but I do know that after several intensive hours minutes of online searching, I couldn’t find pics of any identical tapes anywhere out there in internet land.

zillatape4 zillatape5

Unlike the Ultraman tapes, which I picked up more or less because they were something neat that I probably wouldn’t be coming across again anytime soon (traditionally, I’ve had pretty much zero interest in Ultraman, save for a period of time when I was verrrry young and some channel somewhere was playing one of the iterations of the franchise), I really, genuinely, instantly wanted this Godzilla tape. Let me explain: I still really like the original run of Godzilla movies from the 1950’s, 1960’s & 1970’s, but back then, I was a huge fan of all things ‘Zilla. I had to have been, since G-Fest, a convention dedicated to all things ‘Zilla, was in Chicago. That is, not exactly a 45 minute drive from Northeast Ohio. And man, G-Fest was like the end all, be all of everything that I liked at the time. I even got my VHS tapes of Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah and Godzilla 2000 (which we actually picked up at a Blockbuster in Chicago because I had neglected to pick up a copy prior, which I know may tarnish my former-megafan credentials, but so be it) autographed by the respective people involved with said movies.

But, I digress. Anyway, that’s the tape’s spine in the pics above. The smart money is on the film’s title being written on it. At the bottom of the spine is what I presume the cost of the tape was in Japanese Yen. Is saying “Japanese Yen” redundant?

zillatape6

Since I neither speak nor read Japanese, I have no idea what any of this says or when this tape came out, but I’m guessing it was released at some point in the 1980’s. I get the impression this was a Japanese rental, and the somewhat degraded video quality seems to bear that out. Then again, most 100-year old VHS tapes don’t look that great anyway. At any rate, the tape is, as has been established, a Japanese copy of Mothra Vs. Godzilla, and it was put out by Toho Video, as one would/should expect. That being as it is, all of the dialog is, fittingly, in Japanese, and thus incomprehensible to me. No dubbing, no subtitles. Listen, I just barely passed French in high school, so don’t go asking me to learn a new language now. It’s a lost cause; an incapability I have learned to live with.

zillatape7 zillatape8

So, anyone read Japanese? Click on the pics for an enlarged version and tell me what this all says! I hope my pictures display the writing semi-legibly. Have the past 12 years been a succession of sleepless nights due to my inability to learn the Japanese language? That’s for me to know and you to find out (but seriously, if anyone can translate anything in this post, please give us the lowdown in the comments). I think it’s safe to say the back of the box contains a description and various copyright info. I mean, some things are universal, aren’t they? Watch that not be at all what the back of the box contains, just to spite me. Wouldn’t be the first time a tape played mind games with your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter.

zillatape9 zillatape10

There be the videa itself. I always dig the grey flip-doors of older cassettes, further evidence this is quite possibly from the 1980’s. Unless Japan did things differently, which is something I really have no idea about. The clamshell that houses the tape opens from the left, rather than the right as they do here in the states.

zillatape13

There’s the side-label of the tape. I assume it simply reiterates the film’s title and other pertinent information. The level of wear on this label further leads me to believe the tape was a former rental in its homeland, but that’s based strictly on a gut feeling; there’s no factual basis for that thought whatsoever.

zillatape11 zillatape12

Lookit this! Original inserts! Fronts and backs! They both look they could be mailed away. What for? I have no idea. The one on the left looks like some kind of warranty card, but the one on the right I haven’t a clue. Was it for the Toho Video catalog, perhaps? Or maybe it’s for some swanky item that couldn’t be had otherwise? Someone has to have the skinny. Considering this tape is probably fairly scarce nowadays, I’m guessing these cards are even rarer finds. To be honest, I had completely forgotten about them until I opened the clamshell for pictures. They were hidden under the tape, so good thing I had the desire to photograph the tape’s spine, or you may have never seen them.

Now for some actual video content…

zillatape14

This is the first thing seen on the tape (beyond the standard blank black screen that is commonly found upon the start-up of most commercial tapes, I mean). I’m guessing it’s copyright information; “Don’t go copyin’ this tape!” and so on.

zillatape15

The title, appropriately in Japanese. Perhaps the first screencap is a mention that the film is presented in widescreen, a fact that pleasantly surprised me. I was expecting a fullscreen edition, but widescreen is always welcome. I’m not sure how well my pictures show it, but as previously mentioned, there is some tape degradation, which, really, you have to expect. It’s an old tape, after all. Happily, it’s an NTSC VHS, meaning I can play it here in the U.S. with ease. No resorting to any funny business to get this fella running!

zillatape16

Another look at the widescreen process, condition of the print, etc. Seems like a pretty nice, colorful print to me.

For those not in the loop (as we hepcats say), Mothra Vs. Godzilla is a 1964 entry in the Godzilla series, the fourth overall. As you may assume from the title, ‘Zilla fights Mothra, who is, fittingly, a big ass moth. It’s not just a good Godzilla film, but also, I feel, a good film, period. I’ve always loved this movie, from the first time I saw (and taped) it on Joe Bob Briggs’ MonsterVision (remember when TNT played good stuff like that?). I’m pretty lenient towards any Godzilla film from that original 1950’s to 1970’s run anyway (with the exceptions of Son of Godzilla and Godzilla’s Revenge; I’ll take goofy Godzilla Vs. Megalon over either of those any day), but even so, Mothra Vs. Godzilla is just a real strong, entertaining movie on its own. If you haven’t seen it, you’d be well-advised to purchase your own copy, preferably one with dubbing or subtitles in the language most understandable to you. Me? I’ll hold onto this Japanese VHS for dear life, but if I want to actually watch the movie, I think I’ll go with Joe Bob’s airing (come to think of it, I should probably get around to converting that tape to DVD sometime). Oh, and I have an old Paramount VHS of the U.S. version, too. Just thought I should throw that in somewhere.

zillatape2

One final close-up of the front cover. Man, the more I look at it, the cooler it is. Nice and colorful, certainly eye-catching and appealing. I dig it, baby. Then again, I’m a sucker for stuff like this. This is a tape I’ve always been proud to own, but it was only upon digging it out last night that I remembered just how undoubtedly cool it really is. I got some neat things at that 2001 G-Fest (including a stylin’ original Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster lobby card), but I think this tape was ‘the big find.’

(I just did another internet search, and still came up with nothing on this tape. So, seriously, if anyone has any info about it they’d like to share, post it in the comments! Please!)