At the time that I joined the staff at The Bits, Blu-ray was a fairly fresh home video format. It was only about four years old and I had immediately welcomed it with open arms. I was a bit of a junkie for home video. I still am, but in those days, there was more disposable income and more chances to discover something new. When I was younger, I’d pore over titles at my local On Cue, Media Play, and Suncoast Video stores looking for this stuff, particularly from companies like Anchor Bay and Elite Entertainment. In those days, titles like The Evil Dead, Re-Animator, and The Wicker Man were getting deluxe Laserdisc and DVD releases with cool packaging and extras. It was such a glorious time to be a collector. At the same time, major studios like 20th Century Fox were jumping on the bandwagon and we were seeing lavish home video releases of the X-Men franchise, the Alien series, The Simpsons, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
By the time that Blu-ray came along, the major studios weren’t as interested in creating deluxe editions of their properties anymore. Financially, it made no sense to do so. A mostly bare bones DVD of Fantastic Four or Superman Returns would sell just as much as a loaded special edition, so why bother? As a consequence, many smaller films were falling through the cracks. Enter the sublicensors, the backbone of the home video industry. It was nothing new, of course. Companies like Media Home Entertainment, Vestron Video, Image Entertainment, and The Criterion Collection did their fair share of sublicensing for Laserdisc, VHS, and Betamax back in the 1980s before major studios decided to cash in and set up their own home video companies. Taking up where labels like Anchor Bay left off were Shout! Factory, Twilight Time, Code Red, Blue Underground, Severin Films, and later Vinegar Syndrome, Synapse Films, Grindhouse Releasing, and Scream Factory.
This is about where I came in. It’s fair to say that cult titles, including horror, sci-fi, and action films, have basically been my bread and butter during my tenure at The Bits. I’ve reviewed most of the big titles, but also many of the lesser ones—some that even I hadn’t been privy to. As such, I’ve seen the quality of these releases go up and down, depending on which company had what film and how much money and time they were willing to spend on it. Nothing is black and white, and every major home video company has had missteps along the way, some more than others. However, it’s easy to forget that not that long ago, finding a VHS copy of Suspiria was no easy task. Before the Internet, video stores, specialty shops, and catalogues were your best bet for finding those hard to come by releases.
In essence, the age we live in, where you can hop online and order your favorite film in much better quality than what was available in 1986, is astonishing. I know that’s a little difficult to understand for younger readers, but trust me. We’ve got a good thing going here and we need to continue to sustain it in all of its different factions. Supporting physical media is supporting film, plain and simple. Streaming has its positive aspects, but physical media will always be the perfect way to experience films at home. As such, I, along with my cohort Bill, will continue to steer the ship and highlight the many great and not so great releases as much as we can.
For my time at The Bits, I thank all of you readers for the constant feedback and support, as well as Bill for giving me a shot at serving the needs of my hobbies in the best possible way. I also want to thank the many home video labels and folks in the industry who we continuously hear from for their help, and we hope to keep covering their releases for as long as this ride lasts.
- Tim Salmons