Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector

Turns out there is a market for some of those forlorn tapes


Press "play," then pause. This new documentary from Dan M. Kinem and Levi Peretic looks at the world of obsessive VHS-tape collectors, who search through the stacks of now-forlorn video cassettes seeking treasures.

First, there's a recap of VHS history, from its "miraculous" advent in the 1970s (record TV to watch later!) and its glory days supported by mom-and-pop shops and a public hungry for home-viewing content, through Blockerbusterization and finally, a near-vanishing of the format. 

Various interviewees nostalgically recall clam-shell cases and terrible cover art, the quirks of the format, and the huge world of entertainment that opened up when zillions of movies and other recorded fare were easily available on VHS. Today, they troll flea markets, eBay and assorted grubby stores seeking to rescue tapes from oblivion, and build their gigantic collections.

The filmmakers mostly interview a subset of collectors, those guys (it's almost always guys) who focus on low-rent, direct-to-video horror films. Most seem motivated by innate obsessive tendencies and a desire to own all the video nasties they were kept from renting as youngsters. You might also be surprised to learn that one usurping technology — the Internet — has facilitated a boom in select VHS genres, with some vintages tapes now re-selling for hundreds of dollars. 

It would have been interesting to hear from other sorts of collectors — say, fans of home-shot videos, or oddball instructional tapes. But obsessive collecting has many universal traits that can be extracted from this parade of junk-gore enthusiasts, and this film is loads of fun for fans of VHS, not-quite-dead formats and films about hard-core collectors. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the directors.

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