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Portrait of a Film Geek: 1979

Portrait of a Film Geek: 1979

OK, so how many of you out there are thinking, "Why don't I take a picture of myself now surrounded by my crap so that 31 years from now I can see what I was interested in back then? Or what my hair looked like? And maybe let thousands of perfect strangers see?" Ah, I thought so. Well, none of that was going through my mind back then; this is another from a series I took to send to a friend who'd moved out of state. Obviously, I was (and still am) into film, about two years after I'd started to collect them by taping them off TV - which, unless you collected actual film prints, was the only way to do it. No DVDs, not even laserdiscs, and hardly any pre-recorded tapes that weren't porn. A couple of Atari cartridges indicate my slight interest in video games, plus there's a bunch of comic books in polyethylene bags (the carton on the middle shelf contains a supply of empties), and up on the top shelf some paper models that my friend who helped assemble them and I liked to call "Bogens." Look it up. This was taken in my video room, again on 35mm Kodachrome illuminated by bounce flash. View full size.


From the Electronics trade publication Twice Magazine, today:

Sony (Finally) Halting Production Of Betamax Tapes
11/10/2015 10:00:00 AM Eastern

By: Lisa Johnston

One of the first format wars is officially over, and Sony is waving the white flag.
Sony announced through its Japan press center that it will cease production of Betamax tapes in March 2016 — just 32 years after the Supreme Court ruled Sony could continue production of its Betamax player despite its ability to record copyrighted video.
It is also ceasing production of its Micro MV cassettes.
Sony first introduced the Betamax player in 1975.


I had the same MGM book, my parents gave me.

Book Overlap

I think I had at least 3/4 of the same books as you. I can even recognize the yellow paperback copy of Harpo Speaks! at the end of the shelf immediately above "The Art of W.C. Fields."

My sister and I got a Betamax in 1977

It cost $1,500 and was enclosed in a unit that included a 17-inch TV. The whole thing was as long and deep as a love seat, though not as tall. Blank tapes cost almost $30 apiece.

We also collected books about old movies. I recognized the Disney films book right away as we each had a copy of that one.

Oh, and I still use a VCR - a dual deck one. I wish they still made them. When I want to save a movie on DVD, I have to record it to my computer first. I have tried the VCR/DVD recorder combo with no luck.

Beta > VHS > DVD > DVR

I am still trying to get my parents to convert to DVR. My mom videotapes her "soaps" every day, and her VCR recently broke. After a lengthy explanation about why she could not just record them to DVD in the same manner, I still couldn't convince them to just get a DVR (their cable service charges more than they should for it). So they opted for a VCR/DVD combo...and she is still recording her soaps onto VHS daily. It pains me! She'd probably feel right at home with your collection, tterrace!

SelectaVision CED

Ok, you had Betamax, but if you were a real geek, you would have had an RCA capacitance videodisc player. I still have the player, and about 120 discs, including a couple of L&H collections. The thing still works, only on modern TVs you realize just how awful the picture was.

Michael and Harry Medved

TTerrace, your discussion reminds me of the introduction the Golden Turkey Awards by Michael and Harry Medved. They discussed mostly terrible movies, which does not on its own sound remarkable -- bookstores have shelves full of comical reviews of bad movies. What made their books special is that the first one came out in 1979 or 1980, and to see all these bizarre films, they had to watch them on late-night television or catch them in genre theaters, or otherwise experience them in ways that may have no direct parallel in the modern world.

My children are incredulous that when I was a child, we could not pick whatever movie we wanted, watch whenever we liked, and pause for bathroom breaks.

Geeks unite!

This reminds me of my shelf of music and car books, with special sections devoted to Buddy Holly and the Beatles. I had to pack away my collection of vinyl to make space for it all.

Beta Redux

We sold Beta tapes well into the 1980s and 90s. The buyers were almost cult like purists and very loyal. We sold both the recorders and tapes both in the store and through mail order. When we closed out our movie rental business in the mid 90s we had no trouble selling the VHS movies but were stuck with the Betas. Marketing genius that I was, we started shipping an individual Beta movie gratis with each beta blank tape order. One customer called us and asked for an inventory of the remaining titles. We struck a deal and he took the rest of them off our hands.

Good posture.

Did you find that walking round with a book balanced on you head really worked?

Seriously, as usual, a fascinating insight into what seems to me to be the recent past. For many Shorpy viewers it must be a different world.

re: Sons of the Desert

Actually, that is a Shriner fez. Hope that doesn't offend any Shriners out there. The theme for that Movie Night was hats, so everyone wore a different kind. This was one somebody had picked up at a thrift store. We watched a film noir, and later I used the photos I took of everybody to illustrate a hard-boiled detective story spoof I wrote with them as characters. Also, I did eventually get a copy of the Psychotronic Encyclopedia, but that didn't come out until 1983.

Sons of the Desert

Would that be the source of your fez? I once went to a local L&H screening and remember that was the headgear of choice; I felt so under-dressed without one! My dad however, was a Shriner so he took that sort of thing very seriously. Not me.


That is a must for any vid geek. I have one in the 3-D Puzzle variety.

Steelsome Daniel

Mr. tterace: I am heartened and reassured that you "ain't a-gonna do it without yer Fez on"

Come for the Lange

... stay for the tterence.

And actually taking a picture of myself with all my crap so I can look at it in 31 years seems like an awesome idea.

Rewind <<

Oh, man! I remember those Sony Betamax tapes when I was a kid. Good grief!

re: What??

OK, here's a recent shot of me with my present video setup. I don't think I'll attempt an explanation of anything else about this.


No Psychotronic Film/Video Guide???

Those books are must haves.

btw.....what does you current audio/video setup look like? Would be an interesting contrast between then and now.

Laurel and Hardy

Glad to see you're a big fan of Stan and Ollie. Two comic geniuses for sure!

Beta I

WOW! I see myself in that picture! I had a Sony SL8200 Betamax (still have it, in fact) and most of the movie books on your shelf! In addition, in 1976 I built a theater in my basement with Super 8 sound projectors (a Eumig and an Elmo machine), real theater seats and a screen cut from an old movie house that was being torn down. Very few full length Super 8 sound movies existed back then, and the ones that did were very expensive. I remember paying around 350 bucks for the full length version of the original Technicolor print of "A Star Is Born" from 1937! I still have around 200 Beta tapes in closets and on shelves. The first ones were K60's, labeled as such because of their 60 minute record time at the Beta-I speed, and the second generation of tapes were labeled L500 which indicated how many feet of tape the cartridge contained. My Sony SL8200 Beta machine is still fully operational after all these years! I recently played back my recording of the Bing Crosby Christmas special with David Bowie from 1977, recorded in Beta-I (one hour mode) and it still looks great! Thank you for the trip down memory lane!

Okay kid,

Would you care to tell us where you kept your collection of Russ Meyer films?

Geek Porn

Ok, where are you hiding "Hollywood Babylon"?

Lagging behind as ever

Here I was until recently, still taping movies from TV onto VHS. Only stopped in the past 4-5 years, largely due to the availability of movies on DVD at a cheap price.

Might get around to transferring some of the more interesting stuff onto PC.

re: 8

Yep. Here I am in 1973 with my Nizo.

And you looked like such a normal guy, too

Is that Tex Avery item in the back a compilation video, or perhaps another book? Although it's already clear from your name, you certainly have good taste in cartoons as well.


Ya know, come to think of it, I don't recall any posts from you with any super 8 camera equip in it.

Did you do any work with 8mm or S8?

Too Much Homework

I see that you did your homework as to which home video tape recording system led in technology. (Sony BetaMax) But marketing won the game for VHS and technology finished a poor second.

Shared Libraries

I see at least two titles that are in my collection: the red-jacketed "The Movies" next to "The MGM Story," and "Comix: The History of Comics in America" on the shelf below and to your left.

"The Movies" I must have bought on clearance when I was in junior high (and I'm old enough that no one then had heard of "middle school"). "Comix" must have been bought about 1971, when I was, coincidentally, trying to score writing assignments from Fusion Magazine (credited on the cover). Heady days.

Captured on Beta

Somewhere in my home is a cardboard box or two of Beta tapes. I also taped lots of movies off the TV. I remember blank tapes went for about $20 and a prerecorded movie was about $40-$50. I also have two dead but not properly buried Beta decks. I seem to have forgotten what the hell I am saving all this for.

The only thing worth saving is a tape of my brother on a local bowling show that shows my folks in the audience. They are both gone now, though I have their captured image on a tape I can't play. I guess that would be the reason why I don't toss the whole lot.

AV Club

Do you go to Comic Con? One of my co-workers does.

I remember here in Southern California renting videos from Tower Records (now gone) and I noticed that the retail price for current movies was often $100 or more.

As a high school kid in the early '70s, I would tape the audio of various movies and TV shows on my trusty cassette recorder. I was really impressed with that!

Classical Geek

I see four books about Laurel & Hardy, two about W. C. Fields, and books about the Marx Brothers, Harold Lloyd and Max Fleischer -- a true geek!

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