Universal Horrors Challenge – Grapevine Video

So, I’ve known about a film and DVD distribution company called Grapevine Video for a couple of weeks now.  They specialize in releasing to DVD titles from cinema’s yesteryear which are more obscure than what everyone’s used to seeing.  That said, they fill an important niche in silent film and early talkies, releasing affordable copies of movies (printed on demand) that are often of better quality than what you’ll find in Alpha Video releases (though I admit Alpha Video has its uses).

When it comes to my procurement of materials for the coming challenge, I’ve gone to Grapevine Video no less than six times thus far.  They do great work, and accept donations to help them restore the films they currently possess and to help them in buying more.  Please considering giving a donation, as they are criminally under-funded.

You can find them by clicking here.


Quick Thoughts #1: DVDs from the UK

Here’s a new blog series I’m doing, since I have limited time and energy lately.

So, a few months ago, I discovered that I can play non-US DVDs and blu-rays on my laptop.  Apparently, you can switch regions up to five times before your laptop becomes locked on the last region to which you switched.

Example because I’m sleep-deprived and not sure I’m being clear:

We start with a default laptop coded for playing US DVDs.  Now, let’s say we watch DVDs from the following regions in this order:

  1. UK
  2. Japan
  3. US
  4. UK
  5. Japan

After the viewing numbered as “5”, the laptop would be region-locked and would only then recognize Japanese DVDs as viewable (so no more US or UK DVDs on that machine).

And this is great news for me for two reasons.

First, as a lover silent film–specifically, German silent film–this has allowed me to order items from the UK-based “Masters of Cinema”, which is like Kino-Lorber on steroids (since Kino’s releases usually come with sweet fuck-all in terms of special features and booklets) and like Criterion Collection on Red Bull (since Criterion’s versions of some of these releases come with only one commentary track instead of two).

Tangent: Why do I care about special features and commentary tracks?  Well, because I like learning, but that’s the boring, programmed, and not strictly true answer.  It’s really because I’ve been interested in these old films since I was literally four years old (thanks Grandma, thanks Dad), and have thus engaged them in so many different ways throughout my lifetime that there’s very little in themselves that’s new to me anymore.  Special features, booklets, interviews with the creators, etc. are, then, new ways in which to engage this old material.  So even if the next DVD release of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (which is still missing five minutes from its original cut, by the way) contains nothing new but a ten minute video of director Fritz Lang taking a shit while talking about how taking this hypothetical shit is harder than the entire filming of Metropolis, I’ll buy it because it’s something related to Metropolis that I haven’t seen before.  Disgusted?  Good.

Second, as a lover of money (and, thus, of saving money), I’ve discovered that most UK DVDs that interest me are cheaper than their American counterparts.  For instance, did you know that classic series Doctor Who DVDs go for $30 to $40 here in the US?  If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you did know that–and all too well, I’d wager.  And out-of-print classic Doctor Who DVDs go for much more, often racking-up anywhere from $60 to upwards of $500 on eBay, depending upon the DVD in question.  Not so in the UK.  Their classic Doctor Who DVD releases (which are identical to their US counterparts in terms of presentation and special features, mind you) rarely go out-of-print, and can often be purchased for anywhere from $10 to $20 US.

Tangent: So, quickly doing the math, let’s say I have seven out-of-print US Doctor Who DVDs that each go for $70 on eBay.  Let’s say I sell them at the going rate, which is indeed $70 each.  I could theoretically buy the UK versions of all seven of these same DVDs (which are, again, no different than their US counterparts save for the regional coding of the DVD itself) for the amount at which I sold one of them here in the US, leaving me with a net gain of $420 when all is said and done.

In conclusion: Hell yeah, UK DVDs and blu-rays.  Give ’em a try.