Collectors Beware!


In the book world, things got a lot better for collections of the rare and arcane; suddenly you could get hold of the most obscure out-of-print editions for mere pence. But the pleasure of finding a favourite edition is mitigated by the feeling that we’re in an endgame for paperbacks in particular, killed off by Kindle.

A few of my fellow writers gather once every couple of months to bemoan the disappearance of collectable items, but when I look at us I see the past; a bunch of sad old white guys discussing utterly random objects – we might as well be talking about the care and maintenance of Edwardian bow-tie presses.

Film was different – everything had become available through the medium of DVD. Suddenly we’re told that physical items are dead and we’ll now all switch to streaming whether we like it or not. I made a half-hearted effort to switch but hung onto my ridiculously vast collection of rare discs because streaming seemed impermanent and physical copies could be protected and reproduced.

It turns out I was right to do so. Several of my streaming platforms have already gone bust or have been swallowed up by other media companies. ‘Your films have now been transferred to a new site – click on link below’ has started appearing on screens, and sure enough, when you try to get back your beloved films from an Indian or Chinese corporation, they’ve gone.

Worse, they can’t even be repurchased. The market is now being dictated by what sells, so obscure slasher flicks like ‘Happy Birthday To Me’ get the Blu-Ray treatment while the output of Bunuel and Fellini remains unavailable in high quality formats. ‘Kung Fu Panda’ sequels will appear in 4K, while world cinema slips away and anything Hollywood deems uninteresting (ie intelligent and from the rest of the world) gets binned.

Hollywood has a long, ugly history of censoring, mutilating and dumping films it feels won’t play well domestically, and as it controls so many of the streaming platforms you’ll simply find yourself offered endless Jurassic World sequels over quality films.

For me, the most impressive film I’ve seen so far this year has been ‘Capernaum’, set in Beirut. According to Hollywood the lead hit is something with their highest-paid star, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. It doesn’t matter who chooses to watch what, but when the avenues of choice start shutting off, entertainment has a problem.

11 comments on “Collectors Beware!”

  1. Peter Dixon says:

    Its new technology that makes stuff disappear – floppy disks that no-one can use, Betamax v VHS, Mini Disk; it all changes every 5 years and no-one has enough cash to keep up and transfer the whole meshugana. The Cloud thing strikes me as totally vulnerable to solar flares or some bizarre natural phenomena.

    This time last year my Mac gave up the ghost. I laughed because I had everything backed up on an external hard drive, then threw up because the hard drive packed in – 10 years of work and four books gone but recoverable, for an eyewatering price.

    Meanwhile my cumbersome collection of over 2,000 photographic negatives still exists and can be re-scanned when I can be arsed.

    My collection of novels nobody else is interested in remains intact and my LP and 45 collection is pristine, whereas my cassettes stretched and clogged long ago.

    Why is a significant proportion of western civilisation so determined to remember everything? What is the fascination for cultural trivia? Who, in the UK, was ‘The Master of Mirth’ , does anyone remember him and, most importantly, is he still funny?

    Discuss. Use both sides of the paper. 25 minutes.
    No, you can’t use the ‘Seebackroscope’ Molesworth.

  2. admin says:

    I have no idea who ‘The Master of Mirth’ was – anyone?

  3. Peter Tromans says:

    ‘The Master of Mirth’ is a slightly obvious title for any book or film about a comedian. Add some more Ms and it’s a newspaper headline.

  4. Ian Luck says:

    The only person I can think of with the appelation ‘The Master Of Mirth’ , was old-time comedian Fred Karno, best known for slapstick humour, and possibly the originator (although I’m sure it was found funny in Ancient Egypt, Babylon, Crete, etc.), of the ‘pie in the face’ gag.

  5. Ian Luck says:

    Then again, it could be read differently, in an H.P. Lovecraft/Frank Belknap Long/Robert E. Howard way about the ruler of a terrifying antediluvian walled city called ‘Mirth’. Which is anything but. I can see it on the cover of a pulp magazine now, with a suitably lurid Margaret Brundage cover, depicting a king-like figure watching as some hooded minions (not the funny little yellow things), winch a decorously naked blonde, and terrified young woman into a pit, in which can be seen a single, huge, glaring eye, and from which emerge several slimy, groping, tentacles. At the foot of the cover are the words: ‘The Master Of Mirth, by John Marlesford Crossing’

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Which, of course, was made into a film shown only in parts of London but reliably described as second only to The Devil Rides Out in importance.
    I am not a fan of horror writing. I have read a few carefully selected books and seen a very few films. Parts of Lawrence of Arabia are horror as far as I am concerned and I mostly watch movies for relaxation. Life itself provides me with all I need of adrenalin production. Social commentary is often horror enough, too. Any films about the current era will be fairly terrifying I am sure.
    Everyone has their own standard of “important” where art and literature are concerned. I agree, though, that it is too bad that the American industries have been reluctant to involve the world’s cultures. Why should it be “best picture” and then “best foreign film” as if the best actor couldn’t be someone appearing in a Bolivian or Czech film. If it’s a matter of viewing then make sure “foreign” films are shown in North America. Was that the reason for Cannes?

  7. Martin Tolley says:

    I’ve seen Benny Hill and Ken Dodd both described as “A” master of mirth, but whether either of those are “THE” MoM in question, I don’t know.

  8. Peter Dixon says:

    Well, I had him down as George Robey.

    But then it turns out he was actually ‘The Prime Minister of Mirth’.


  9. Brian Evans says:

    “Master of Mirth”-do you mean George Robey who was the “Prime Minister of Mirth”?

  10. Wayne Mook says:

    A lot of the stuff is still out there admin, a lot of foreign dvds will have subs in a foreign language like English.

    Places like Flicker Alley have allsorts of odd films, especially silent. They are due to put out a Paul Leni film The Last Warning. They do a manufacture on demand so you can buy them as well as stream.

    There are plenty of places like this.


  11. Ian Luck says:

    I refuse to pay for virtual downloads – you are basically paying for nothing. Give me the physical artefact every time. I recently bought my brother some vinyl records, and why the hell not?

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