I grew up in the era of videotapes, the advent of which changed the film industry completely and irreversibly. But with VHS we had no idea what we were missing. Video rarely offered special features or accurate aspect ratio (though I do own a widescreen VHS of Halloween with interviews, documentaries, TV spots and trailers that play after the movie–funny evidence of the videotape industry’s minor flailing before sinking completely into oblivion).
There are a lot of awesome things about watching movies digitally. The special features, the video and audio quality, the Easter Eggs: these things make DVD and Blu-Ray awesome. (Plus that hateful, smiley “Be Kind, Rewind” sticker is a thing of the past, thank goodness–this from a woman who spent dozens of hours as a teenager rewinding other people’s movies.) But maybe the most entertaining bit of the digital era? Bloopers.
I’ll admit it, there’s a part of me that adores blooper reels. Can’t get enough. It’s the same part that loves watching candid interviews and seeing photos of stars doing things like picking their noses or stumbling home drunk. The film industry gives us larger than life, well lighted, artistically shot, and perfectly made-up false idols. So seeing a star curse after not making the line for the 15th time, fall down onset, or even just burst into hysterical laughter, transforms me into a giggling mess, even if the movie wasn’t that good.
That said, public access to blooper reels is a recent development. In Hollywood’s heyday, the stars and studios had staggering control over their public images. Any movie person knows that Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were notorious divas (Crawford was eventually the subject of Mommie Dearest) and Orson Welles was infamously difficult to work with. But a lot of big stars of the 20s, 30s, and 40s were simply venerated: permanently coiffed and full of witty quips with which we now fill coffee table books.
I have had friends who refuse to watch black and white films because they’re “too fake” (which makes me feel like this). Well, friends, you’re missing out. It’s probably the rather stagy accent and stilted vocal style, as well as the restrictive Hays Code, that causes some to moan that older movies feel “unreal.” That’s why this “breakdowns” reel from Warner is so refreshing and amusing. (Rated PG for a few minor curses.)
And yes, I still own a VCR, mostly because some of my favorite movies haven’t yet and may never make the transition to DVD. Hey, Warner Bros, please release a real DVD copy of Angus, okay? And while you’re at it, please say screw the music rights and give us “The Wonder Years?” Thanks.