Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Review: ADJUST YOUR TRACKING: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector ""

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: ADJUST YOUR TRACKING: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector

ADJUST YOUR TRACKING (2013; Dan Kinem/Levi Peretic)
"Why VHS? Why Not?"
What can I say, this documentary just spoke to me. The filmmakers, Dan Kinem(of VHShitfest) & Levi Peretic certainly know how to put together a loving & clever tribute. From the very opening frame(the sound of a VHS tape being loaded into a VCR) through the lovely FBI Warning, you can immediately tell you're in the hands of some folks that have a true and deep, undying affection for the format. Even the lower thirds for the film are done as the sticker labels from VHS tapes. And the font they use for movie titles and such is the same as that "adjust your tracking" font that VCRs used have. There are also moments of VHS glitching placed strategically throughout. All these details are not only very nice touches, but they also make the doc feel organically "VHS" in its own right. It's wonderful. I'm of the mindset that you can really carry a whole lot of favor with viewers (such as myself) if you take time with the details like this. That and having interesting interview subjects of course. And this documentary absolutely has that. It is a lovely mix of vintage advertisements for VHS, movie footage and very enjoyable entertaining characters, collectors and filmmakers.
Being a collector myself, I'm of course gonna be a sucker for something like this. The movie does a solid job of translating what it is to be a collector and demonstrating(through passionate description) those things that really excite collectors and serve as inspiration to keep them going. One big factor in in favor of VHS being relavant is that it's the only way to see literally thousands and thousands of films. Something like half the number of titles that were available on VHS ever made it to DVD. So when video stores so eagerly(and almost gleefully) jettisoned their VHS inventories, they made innumerable movies unavailable to be seen by people anymore. That's always made me a little sad. I mean, not only am I part of the generation that saw tons of formative films on VHS, but I also worked in video stores for 8 or 9 years so I was even more attached to the format. I remember buying my first VHS tape in high school(THE TERMINATOR) and being so excited to have it and to start a collection of movies. That being said, I have let most of my own VHS tapes go. This documentary not only makes me wish I hadn't, but it almost inspires me to wanna start collecting tapes again. At one point, Zack Carlson(author of Destroy All Movies) is talking about some of the 1st tapes he collected. He mentions Trent Harris' amazing film RUBIN & ED as a tape he picked up for fear it may not come out again(and it hasn't by the way). I adore RUBIN & ED. It's a fantastic little cult-buddy-road-comedy thing. It's sad that more folks can't see it, but those of us who have adore it. Zack Carlson is just one of my favorite people to listen to talk about anything, but especially movies and VHS. I've interviewed him twice myself and he's contributed movie lists to this very blog. See, as Zack the film in general points out, there's so much good stuff out there movie-wise that is VHS-only. I think people these days have the impression that only crappy action and horror movies are the things relegated to VHS exclusivity. They think that all the "good" must have been brought over to DVD. The hardcore movie fanatics know the truth. Why would studios care about a quality film that nobody remembers anymore except a small percentage of movie watchers? There's just so much stuff out there that will never seen a DVD or even an Internet stream. Another cool topic they cover is favorite old video release companies such as Wizard Video, Vestron Video and a host of others. The mere flash of some of these companies' logos brings a smile to my face(Media Home Entertainment used to be a favorite of mine along with Vestron). The folks interviewed are all characters and cool folks I'd love to hang out with. They are very proud of their collections and happy to discuss favorite parts of said collections and how they choose to organize their stuff. There's even a dude with a video store(complete with shelves with genre title toppers from an old store) and a checkout counter in his basement.  I'm a movie t-shirt collector myself, so I couldn't help but notice some of the threads these guys were wearing. Some of the cool movie t-shirts I spotted:
-'Stephen King Rules'(MONSTER SQUAD)
Some of the people interviewed for the doc include the previously mentioned Zack Carlson(Destroy All Movies), Phil Blankenship(of the midnight film series Heavy Midnites), Lloyd Kaufman, 42nd Street Pete, Dimitri Simakis(of Everything is Terrible), Louis Justin(of Lunchmeat VHS & Massacre Video), Bryan Connolly(also of Destroy All Movies), Mike McPadden(author of Heavy Metal Movies) and many many more. Lots of interesting individuals.

Anyway, this documentary just reminded me of all the great stuff still out there on this format and it is sincerely pleasing to know is this dedicated group of people dedicated to preserving the memory of those movies and VHS in general. ADJUST YOUR TRACKING is just a glorious little movie in and of itself that clearly a lot of love and care was put into. A fantastic tribute to and celebration of a great format that served us film fans well for years and years and continues to do so to this day.

ADJUST YOUR TRACKING is currently playing festivals and being toured around right now, but I highly recommend it and recommend you keep an out out for a screening in your area!
There are dates through the beginning of November right now, but more are in the works!
 If you would like to book Adjust Your Tracking, please email criterionmaster1 at

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1 comment:

Robert M. Lindsey said...

This looks cool. I've watched docs on collecting 78s, 8-tracks, and albums, but haven't seen one on collecting a movie format yet.