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As a child of the 80’s, I have a certain nostalgia for the VHS format, as it had changed the way I watched movies forever. While I don’t own anything on VHS anymore, I can fondly remember seeing titles in the format and experienced them in a way that I never could now. I clearly remember the first time that I had seen both 5 Element Ninjas and 5 Deadly Venoms, two very appreciated Shaw Brothers classics, that were both recorded by a friend of the family from a local TV station onto a VHS tape. There is nothing like that experience nowadays, with the advent of digital distribution, the higher quality of Blu-Rays and DVD’s and being able to watch things in an extremely rapid rate. While I love being a part of the present time, there’s something about that nostalgia that does a real number on me and I was reminded of all of these things and then some, while watching Josh Johnson’s Rewind This!.
An exploration into the rise, fall and resurgence of the world of VHS, Johnson does an incredible job at looking into the history of the format, its affects on film distribution and an insight to the many different collectors of VHS tapes. There are great talking head segments from filmmakers like Atom Egoyan, Mamoru Oshii and Frank Henenlotter and how their work was greatly affected by the format. Oshii specifically mentions that before VHS, there was no way to keep track of his work and one way he thought of preserving it was by recording his works that were on TV onto a VHS tape. It’s these sort of stories from various collectors and home video aficionados that make Rewind This! a film worth watching.
From Japan’s V-Cinema to the countless films that were released straight to video, the historical context that Rewind This! approaches is a very great one to explore and highlight. There are a great deal of films that have never made the transition to DVD or digital, which are trapped on the analog format, much like many things that have yet to be found on film reels lying around in various parts of the world. A good majority of these films might be ridiculous, like Deadly Prey, but there’s still a cultural significance to these films and what they have to say about our culture from the 80’s and 90’s.
While I’m in no particular mood to have anything VHS in my home or my collection ever again, it was certainly a fun way to revisit the format through watching this documentary. Johnson hits all of the right notes in this film, by talking to a great amount of people about their experience with the format, their love for it and how it changed cinema forever. There’s a good amount of kids and new cinephiles that have never dealt with the format before. I think that this would be a great way to see how things were back in the day, without having to deal with VCR tracking and many other issues of the format had.
Rewind This! is now available digitally, through Film Buff.