My addiction started at a young age. I can still remember my first hit. One Christmas morning, a kindly relative who should have known better opened me up to the idea of film ownership. I can still smell the distinct new plastic smell of the set of VHS cases designed to look like leather-bound folios of classic literature.
That’s right. Someone bought me, an eight-year-old boy, fancy cases for my VHS 180 cassettes. Seriously, they might as well have given me crack.
From that moment on I was a collector. As the only member of the family who could set the timer on the video I suddenly found myself with an incredible amount of power; the respect would come later (alright, it never came). I would scour the TV pages of whichever trashy newspaper my Dad would bring home, and record everything I could. I’d label them up using the handy sheet of stickers that came with every cassette – combinations of letters and numerals that meant nothing without my master codebook. The Nazis and their Enigma machine had nothing on me. But soon my tapes weren’t enough. I needed more.
I started stealing tapes to feed my habit. Not from shops or anything illegal, but my actions were probably even more morally questionable. I’d use the handy spare labels from my own videos to re-badge my Mum’s Prisoner Cell Block H episodes, or my sister’s collection of videos taped from the ITV Network Chart-Show. I just needed to ‘own’ all these films – more films than I could ever watch.
Then I grew up, moved out of home, and moved in with the woman who would become my wife. To begin with we were too poor to buy videos. We spent every bit of money we had on cheap alcohol, cheaper food, and stupid things like rent and electricity. But as I started to earn more, I fell into my terrible old habits. No home-taped VHS cassettes for me anymore though, I now had more expensive tastes. Most Friday afternoons you could find me foraging through the 3-for-£10 section in HMV. Some finds led to amazing weekends (like the time we discovered The Last Seduction), and others just made us wish for the pain to go away (Requiem for a Dream). Before too long I was in deeper than ever. I even cajoled my future father-in-law to create some wooden monstrosity to house our collection. It became known as the ‘wall of video’ because it genuinely took up an entire wall of our flat.
Then I started on the DVDs. At first they were far too expensive to have more than one every few months, but soon the market was saturated and prices fell. On most street corners you can pick up a nice DVD like The Matrix for less than the cost of a cup of coffee these days (especially if that street corner has a CEX situated there).
Pretty soon even DVDs weren’t enough. I started repurchasing films I already owned on bright and flashy Blu-ray. Then came the limited edition steel book releases. I hadn’t realised that starting this film blog would bring me once more so close to the edge of destruction. And it has to stop.
At last count I have over 60 films on Blu-ray or DVD that I haven’t watched (not to mention the 40-odd films saved on my Tivo box). Enough is enough, and I am launching a self-intervention.
My resolution for next year is not to buy a single DVD or Blu-ray until all of the films waiting on my shelf have been watched. I’ll write up my experience, and I’ll be looking to you guys out there to give me strength when I am weak.
Oops, I just appear to have bought the Indiana Jones Blu-ray boxset. IT WAS REALLY CHEAP THOUGH!
One day at a time…
What to watch this week:
DVD – This week sees the release of one of the biggest films of the year – The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to his Batman series. I’ve seen it twice, and despite its flaws it is still a great blockbuster film with some wonderful performances – a fitting end to the Dark Knight Trilogy. Also out today is the Blu-ray release of the restored Zombie Flesh Eaters. It’s got a five minute sequence of a zombie wrestling a real-life shark. What more do you want?
TV – The Untouchables (1987), Thu 6 Dec, 9pm, Film4. With Gangster Squad only just over a month away from release in UK cinemas, what better time that to revisit one of its most celebrated inspirations? Brian De Palma’s loose retelling of the true story of Al Capone and Elliot Ness is dramatic, engaging, and constantly entertaining. Connery steals the show as the cop doing things ‘the Chicago way’.
Lovefilm Instant – The Ides of March (2011). New to Lovefilm Instant, Ryan Gosling is an idealistic staffer of a Presidential candidate (played by George Clooney, who also directs) in this political thriller. While it’s a little light on substance, and doesn’t have the zip of something like The West Wing, the performances alone (including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, and Marisa Tomei) are worth a look.
Netflix UK – Shame (2012). Now available on Netflix, Steve McQueen’s (not that one) film about sexual addiction starring his muse Michael Fassbender is a beautifully shot film, and a fascinating look at the psychology of addiction. Luckily (or not, depending on how you look it at) there is far more of The Fass’ naked body in this exploration of addiction as compared to my rather feeble confession above.