The Truth of VHS vs The Lies of DVD

We met Richard Sandling last week, as the award-winning comedian fearlessly argued for the collecting of VHS. And now? He's got the evil of DVD in his eyes, with E.T. in his corner.

Richard loves his videos...

Video is Truth and DVD is lies.

Jean Luc Goddard once said “A Photograph is truth and film is truth 24 frames a second”. This is why video is the true ambassador for film as home entertainment because it is a direct transfer from film. I am not interested in how VHS releases could be censored and cut or how films have been released as director’s cuts on DVD. This is not the truth I am talking about.

The truth I am talking about is best highlighted by Tom and Jerry and E.T. For the Tom and Jerry DVD release they are digitally editing out all the smoking so that you cannot see Tom and Jerry smoking on DVD. We still have all the domestic violence and the casual racism but not any smoking. E.T. is another example. In the film and the video version the Police all have guns at the roadblock for the scene where the kids fly off on their bikes, but for the DVD release this has been digitally remastered so that the police are holding walkie-talkies.

Also, when the kids smuggle E.T. out as part of the fancy dress party one of the kids (in the film and video) says that they wanted to come out dressed as a terrorist. This was, of course, acceptable and harmless in 1982 because America still thought terrorism was funny as they didn’t have to put up with any of it (see Back to the Future and most Chuck Norris films) but this line is cut from the post 9/11 DVD special edition release.

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Now this may sound like an over reaction on my part but I don’t know if reinventing the past in the modern image is a fascist or communist act but either way I don’t like it and it makes me feel very uncomfortable. Also, we know that film and video erodes. It is a degradable stock. Film and video are truth and yet the truth will erode, it will decay and will eventually turn to dust and cease to exist and all that will be left will be the lies, the lies of the seemingly indestructible and immortal DVD – and this is why video should be respected and revered and restored and looked after like film is.

Not every project is made on film and these projects need to be treated as importantly as film because they will otherwise disappear forever. And as much as I understand that most people would be happy in a world of 35mm cinema classics at the BFI and immaculate DVD transfers of The Matrix for their widescreen TVs and surround sound systems, there should be room for pieces of varying cultural importance ranging from the Dolph Lundgren Work Out Video that was the first thing Tarantino worked on to Shaw Taylor’s bridge masterclasses, to the third generation video copies of Leung Kar Yan kung fu films that are the only working masters we have.

These projects are just as important and valid as any Hollywood blockbuster and it is high time that these artistic endeavours were recognised and given the respect and longevity they deserve and shouldn’t be consigned to the scrap heap simply because they are VHS.

I used to think I was alone in these thoughts and opinions until I read that until it was shown on ITV, the Queen hadn’t seen The Queen (lucky her) because she doesn’t know how to use a DVD player. Prince Charles takes it even further, he hates DVDs so much he refuses to have them in the house. And considering how many houses he has and how big they are, that is quite a bold stance. So in many ways I feel like I have a royal seal of approval for my views and opinions.

I did think it weird that the monarchy would be so interested and in love with video though, because when you think about it, one is an outdated anachronism which has no real relivance or function in modern 21st century British living…and the other’s a video. (Wa-hey!)See Richard’s other love letter to VHS here. His live stand-up show, Planet of the Tapes, is on tonight and tomorrow at The Old Coffee House, Beak Street, Soho, London. It starts at 8.