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It’s Never Too Late ….. to Buy My First Betamax Machine

It’s a well known fact that I’m a sucker for collecting movies, movie memorabilia and the various formats to play movies on. Like most collectors my stack of movies mainly consist of blu rays and DVD’s. Thankfully there are still companies out there that cater to those of us who prefer to own rather than stream our selections. Among them I salute the folks at Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Shout/Scream Factory, Severin, Indicator, Arrow Video, Vinegar Syndrome, Criterion, Code Red, Scorpion Releasing and the Warner Archive to drop a few names. Heck even Mill Creek have upped their game.

Please feel free one and all to send me review copies. A bold hint I know.

With more titles than I care to admit too in my collection, the vast majority are of course on the blu ray and DVD format. I still have boxes upon boxes of VHS tapes in the garage that I generally buy and sell but the only market that seems steady are the Horror and Sci-Fi titles. Then there’s my laser disc machine and a few titles I have kept for either sentimental reasons or in some cases the only way one can watch a specific title due to it’s never being released on formats still to come making them hard to find and collectible. Like the original cuts of the Star Wars films before Mr. Lucas began to tinker with them. In this case I’ve been told by my two sons I can’t sell them off.

Video Scan Discs? Yeah I’ve one of those heavy burdens here as well and again a few boxes of discs buried somewhere in the garage. But the one thing that has basically eluded me for years is a Beta Machine. Kind of….. I picked one up about two years ago for a couple dollars but it’s life span had long past and it was promptly dropped off at an electronic recycling station.

Which brings me to the present.

I’m minding my own business at the office when a co-worker lets me know that a local store has put an ad on Facebook that they have in their possession a fully functional Sears model Beta Max machine with a “saddlebag” of mostly westerns to go with it. All I had to do was win the bidding war. Boy did they see this sucker coming in the door so to speak. By the time my workday was over I had won the bid and picked up my latest find on my return trip home. While the Beta System may have lost the war to the VHS tape, I wasn’t about to let this rare opportunity out of my grasp.

In the “saddlebag” were plenty of “B” westerns from the 1940’s and 50’s starring the cowboys that The Statler Brothers sang of in their hit song, Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott? The movies featured the likes of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Sunset Carson and Alan “Rocky” Lane.

Even Joan Crawford’s Johnny Guitar was among them.

I should point out that these tapes and the machine itself are in “like new” condition. It’s as if they were just taken off the shelf for the first time.

How about a James Dean classic?

So what did I watch first once I got the machine up and running?

The King himself. Elvis, Aloha From Hawaii.

Remember the machines with the top loader?

Perhaps the ’68 Comeback Special is next on my playlist.

Something tells me that in the not too distant future a Johnny Mack Brown and Tex Ritter western might be hitting my TV screen here in the movie room.

I’ve come across a few Beta tapes over the years and even have a few Bronson titles on display in my office along with other pop culture items. Guess I might have to take them home and see if they work. Secondly I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled in the Antique malls for some other titles. Such is the life of a collector.

So tell me, who else out there has a working machine and collects these long forgotten tapes that kids today probably know nothing about?

24 Comments »

  1. You already know the answer to this one! I’ve had my Beta machine since 1986, when I purchased it at an electronics store, on sale, for…$249! A Sanyo SuperBeta Hi-Fi, still on display under my TV with my DVD, HD-DVD, and VHS players. I only have a few of the Beta titles I bought back then, but I’ve been able to pick up a few more since…Rear Window, Firefox, The Man Who Knew Too Much, plus some concert videos.

    How many tapes came with your player? I remember Nostalgia Merchant, and a few other low-end brands like Crown…but mostly I remember the dark-gray Fox Video boxes, that were VHS sized with a ‘Beta’ sticker slapped on the side. Welcome to the club, Mike!

    • Now I did expect you to pipe in but in record time? Lol. There were 26 tapes in the Saddle bag. 2 concerts with Elvis, Rebel, Johnny Guitar and the rest were all either the low budget westerns Nostalgia Merchants, NTA or Cumberland Video. Great Escape I already had for show on the shelf.
      Just knew it had to happen someday. Do I get a badge or anything now that I’m in the club?

  2. Haha I bet Todd filled right up to 12 O’clock sharp when he saw Betamax in the title. LOL
    Damn that video room looks like a perfect museum bro. If only you were around the corner! I’d love a guided tour.
    Never even heard of Video Scan Discs! Are they similar to Laserdiscs?
    Mate like you say the machine and the cassette tapes looks brand spanking new. What a find!
    You can feel your excitement and full geek mode in your post. It a beautiful thing. hehe
    Respect on the new addition.

    PS whats the Alan Ladd playing on the telly?

    • Love to have you visit if only …. Yes I think Todd fell out of his chair moments after my public announcement out here. Video Scan Discs were a bit like an 8 Track if you will. Slid the hole case into the machine then removed it but the disc stayed inside. You had to flip halfway thru. Poor quality vs. the laserdiscs.
      Would you believe I waited till Ladd got a close up wondering if anyone would ask? You win that self made bet!
      It’s a Noir titled Calcutta and was released to blu about a month ago. A fun Ladd entry with lovely Gail Russell (a real life tragedy) along for the intrigue. Cheers’

      • I actually fell out of my chair, stood up, fell down again, then went full-on High Noon! And yes, a record time piping in; at first I thought, wait, I’ve got to get caught up on Mike’s older posts first…then I thought, no way, I have to jump in on this one NOW. And from personal experience, I’d definitely say the quality of Beta was far better than VHS; a year or so ago I transferred some baseball games I’d recorded in the ’80s from Beta and VHS to recordable DVD, and the Beta’s picture quality was still clear and sharp, while the VHS transfers were a bit fuzzy and muddy.

        And Mike, the badge you get is the badge of honor that comes with being a Beta player owner. Wear it with pride!

  3. Some years back, I passed up on a Betamax with about 30 tapes at an estate sale, and I still kick myself at missing that deal. It was $40 with the tapes, everything was boxed (including the player!) and at the time, I just had no room for it in the apartment. I think no one was interested because it wasn’t a VHS player, but I wonder where it ended up and if the person who ended up with it still has it.

    • Damn, that would have been nice and the one thing I generally buy into now (provided I can reasonably afford it) is the thought “when will I ever get another chance” for whatever it is I’m looking at. And who knows, that machine and the tapes sure sounds like the set I just snagged. Maybe it made it’s way north of the border.

  4. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a Betamax up close as well as the tapes for them. My family was VHS from the get-go and I didn’t know till I was in college that there were so many early formats of home video viewing. TBetamax was certainly a space saver, but VHS was to an extent a better quality. Sadly I no longer have a working VHS player, and being on the East Coast of the US I’m not sure if any Betamax machines ever turn up at estate or yard sales.

    • I recently read that Beta in part lost the war against the VHS format due to the latter embracing the Porn industry. Not sure if that’s accurate but with the money at stake it makes sense. On the quality question, I’ve always been led to believe that the Beta was the superior of the two.

      • That is insane 😁. I remember a large part of VHS winning was that the tapes had a max of 6 hours if used at super long speed and that with VHS 3 Hour plus films could be put on two tapes. I’m unsure of how Beta handled films like Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis, and The Godfather.

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