VHS Lives On Through Mail-Order Arthouse Rentals

By  |  Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 4:09 pm

johnnyguitarNetflix it’s not, but a new mail-order rental service from Chicago-based Facets Multimedia has something for the super-dedicated indie niche.

The Facets service rents DVDs and, more interestingly, VHS tapes of independent, experimental and world films, and launched last month with little fanfare, Video Business reports. While Netflix and Facets overlap a bit on the DVD side, some of Facets’ offerings are so obscure that they only exist on VHS.

Among these films are Johnny Guitar (1954), a campy cult film about two women trying to control a frontier boom town; The Devils (1971), a film based on Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun; and The Emigrants (1971), about a young Swedish family setting out to America. Not all the picks are that obscure: The Cable Guy and Caddyshack are among the lighter fare offered on VHS. For DVDs, you’ll find import rarities such as Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale (2000) along with mainstream titles like 2006’s Oscar-nominated Babel.

Facets hosts over 30,000 titles in all, 500 of which come from the 26-year-old company’s exclusive release and distribution catalog. The volume and wide appeal of the films is important, because it’s conceivable that someone with enough offbeat tastes could rely on this service instead of Netflix and still satisfy an occasional mainstream urge. Pricing is competitive at $8.99 per month for a one-movie plan and $14.99 for two movies at a time, with a variety of other packages and prepaid options available.

I’m wondering if a service like this will catapult VHS to the status of music’s vinyl records. Sure, you can’t make any arguments for video quality, but maybe there’s a tactile satisfaction to sliding one of those bulky tapes into the player and fiddling with the tracking button.

 
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  1. Anonymous Says:

    Campy, cult film? There’s nothing campy about it and Joan Crawford is great opposite her undying love, Johnny Guitar. Too bad it ain’t on DVD and with Facets service that means that there’s only two places to get this flick on the net.

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