Thursday, November 13, 2008

The DVD Collection that time forgot

I was recently asked to share my Netflix queue by a friend and accepted, eager to expose just how many great films I didn't have on DVD.  Obviously, if I had them I wouldn't be renting them.  Also, I wanted to see how much soft porn my friend was renting.  Alas, there was none.  Still, sharing the queue made me realize there are plenty of classic films he does not own either (unless for some bizarre reason he enjoys renting films he already has).  How did this occur, this odd turn of events between two such aficionados of film.  I can't speak for my friend, but for me it happened little by little, year by year until I finally realized at least half of the movies I own on DVD are movies I don't even like, much less would ever want to see again.

When DVD players first came on the market in the nineties no one was renting the DVDs themselves.  As a result, if you wanted a DVD player (I did) and wanted to actually watch DVDs on it (this seemed a logical extension of owning the player) it was necessary to buy DVDs, not rent them.  And so I bought anything I wanted to see.  Anything.  So any new movie, good or bad, I purchased and watched.  As new responsibilities came into my life I did not feel the need to buy them anymore as they were now available for rent and money was growing harder and harder to come by anyway.   The end result is a DVD collection stuck in the nineties, with a smattering of classic titles for good measure.  

And I hate it. 

My wife and I have resolved to purchase two classic DVDs a month, one we have seen, to add to the collection, and one we have not, to watch. We don't buy anything for ourselves ever as it is, so this should be something we can afford.  It is hoped that gradually, over the course of several years, we will have a DVD collection of which we can be proud.  Of course, by that time they probably won't even exist anymore, so the whole process will start over.  But when and if that happens, I'm sticking with renting for new movies and purchasing for older ones.

I have always liked the idea of a classic movie collection.  That, for me, is movies done from the teens through the seventies.  Why?  I don't really know, I just consider the eighties on to be an entirely different animal in the history of film and while I like many movies from that time period, very few are as cherished by me as the older ones.  For starters, I'd like to own every movie I love from the twenties and thirties that's available on DVD, from A list movies like Sherlock, jr, I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang and Stagecoach to serials and B movies like the  Flash Gordon, Torchy Blaine and Philo Vance series.  Then I'd move into noir and musicals, then the social dramas and sci-fi classics of the fifties.  It's a must to own all of the Universal horror classics and of course all the later Hammer films as well.  And how about the amazing amount of great foreign films that dotted the landscape of the fifties and sixties while Hollywood started to founder?  I must have those too.   

But why?  I've seen them all so what does it matter if I own them?  Why can't I just put them in the queue when I want to see them again?  It's not logical or rational but there's something about owning the real thing.  Something satisfying.  Just recently, as I popped in my Criterion copy of The Most Dangerous Game to snag a short scene from it for my Name That Movie game on the sidebar, I felt good knowing I owned it.  "I'm glad I bought this," I thought.  Stupid, huh?  But there I was, holding the DVD box with a gleam in my eye knowing I owned a bona fide adventure classic from the early thirties.  As I watched it again, and recognized the same sets (and some of the same cast) used in King Kong, I thought, "I'm glad I own that one too." 

And I want more.  It's not just about having a top drawer collection, it's about feeling good, the same feeling one might get from owning a great work of art.  And so many films are great works of art.  I want my DVD collection to make me feel comfortable, entertained and proud.  Right now it doesn't.  In fact, to be honest, I'd be embarrassed for people to know many of the titles in my collection in its present state , and mortified at some of the omissions at their cost.  It's time to forget this DVD collection and build a new one.  One that better reflects my taste and one that time can only make better.   A DVD collection to remember, not forget.