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THE MORNING BUZZ: Updates from the wacky world of home video

29 Aug, 2002 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Some funny things happened this week.

For starters, Sony announced it was giving finally giving up on Beta, stopping production some 20 years after it lost the battle for supremacy with VHS. I guess Sony kept on producing limited quantities of the machine for the diehards who refused to join the VHS herd (I wonder if there are still tapeheads out there who are stubbornly clinging to eight-track, swearing the sound is better than cassette). But by now, the numbers have dwindled to the point where it no longer makes sense.

A belated “good for you,” Sony – it's tough to concede defeat, particularly when the better format didn't win, but you made the right decision. In fact, you probably should have thrown in the towel, oh, back in 1982. This is sort of like Ford continuing to produce the Edsel well into the ‘70s…

I also got a chuckle about the announcement that Universal Studios Home Video was entering the increasingly lucrative TV-on-DVD market with a couple of “Baretta” packages. Gee, what a coincidence – Robert Blake, the star of the vintage detective series, is awaiting trial for the murder of his wife, and his preliminary hearing is just two weeks after the videos are coming out.

I mentioned this to another studio executive and instead of blasting Uni for exploitation, he said his studio, too, hopes to cash in on the publicity surrounding the aging actor's legal woes by releasing on video one of his forgotten ‘B' movies.

I guess any publicity is good publicity when it comes to selling videos. I'm waiting for Paramount to release a boxed DVD set of “Naked Gun” movies, starring another celebrity killer, O.J. Simpson. (Oh, he was never convicted, right? And I called him a killer! So sue me, O.J.)

And then there's the lawsuit by a squeaky clean video rental chain against 16 famous directors, in which it wants a judge to sanction its practice of editing profanity, violence and sex from films on video.

If the suit is successful and sets a precedent, allowing others to muck up intellectual property, I've got some edits of my own I'd like to make – there are some nasty scenes in Shakespeare I think could be toned down a little, and then there's all that plague and pestilence in the Old Testament. In fact, I'm thinking condensed version here – God made man, and everything man does pisses God off.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

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