Thursday, June 12, 2008


Over at The Digital Bits, Mark Altman has written a guest column he terms as a eulogy for the late, lamented laserdisc format. For the uninitiated, laserdiscs were the precursor to DVDs, except they were the size of an LP. There are plenty of other differences but this Wikipedia entry can explain it a whole lot better than I can.

Laserdiscs effectively died about 10 years ago when DVDs really began to catch on. However, it was always a niche market despite the superior technology to the prevalent VHS tape. The reason? It was pretty darn expensive. A movie on VHS might cost you $20; the special edition laserdisc would probably cost $80-100. A disc at that price would have at least one audio commentary, possibly alternate versions of the film, featurettes, and possibly some kind of feature where you would run through frame by frame. This is stuff we totally take for granted now with DVD, but it was a big deal back in the day.

My laserdisc journey actually began in 2001 when a friend was selling his player and three trilogies that hadn't made it to DVD at the time: Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars (albeit the special editions). He sold it all for $200 and I eagerly jumped at it. Eventually, my collection grew thanks to a local member of the Home Theater Forum, eBay, and Goodwill finds by Em's aunt and uncle. Now there's nearly 400 discs in my collection.

Even with the plethora of DVDs out there, some stuff will likely never be available again. The deleted scene with Harrison Ford in E.T.? Not likely on DVD. The Quentin Tarantino audio commentary with From Dusk 'Til Dawn? No way, as Tarantino doesn't do commentary as a rule. I can guarantee you will never hear the incredibly frank Albert Broccoli audio commentaries for the first three James Bond films in future DVD editions. This stuff and much much more are why me and my fellow laserdisc fans continue to hold on to this dead format.

At some point, I need to go through my discs and write about them. Would all of you be interested in that?


smacky said...

Sure, that and your GI Joe comic commentaries... hint!

De said...

It looks like I'll have some time to write this weekend. And you're right, the Joe blog really needs an update.

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