At one with the Cult of the DVD

Several Luddite acquaintances who do not own a DVD player have asked, “But why would anyone want to own a DVD? How many times will you watch it?”

The question seems like asking, “Since there’s a public library, why buy a book?” Economically, it may not make sense. But the motives are beyond money; they’re mystical.

Because I’m incredibly hip and groovy (as the young people used to say), I bought a DVD player and made a list of 15 titles to buy — films that I want to see more than five times in my life, thus justifying the expense. Any other movies could be borrowed or rented.

Two years later, I own more than 100 DVDs. Why? Well, to paraphrase a cleric’s explanation of St. Bernadette’s visions at Lourdes: To those who do not believe, no explanation is possible. To those who do believe, no explanation is necessary. There is a Cult of the DVD and I’m a member.

Economically, there are a few reasons to buy.

A family of three would pay around $25 to see “Spider-Man” on the bigscreen. They can buy the DVD for $15; even if they only view it once, they’ve saved money. If they rented the DVD, they might have to pay a late fee if they want to watch the hours of extra features, so they’ve saved money. They can lend it to their friends; the friends will save money.

But it’s about so much more than economics.

For decades, film buffs have had to chase all over town, or stay up late in front of the TV, to catch a favorite film. Now they can own the film. I own Fellini’s “8½ ” and “Juliet of the Spirits,” two of the 15 on my original list (and God bless the Criterion Collection). I hold the discs in my hand; I am at one with the film. All right, well maybe I’m not exactly in this Zen connection, but holding your own copy of a film is a magical, 21st century feeling.

Second reason: a library. You may not foresee curling up anytime soon with “Titus Andronicus,” but you want the complete works of Shakespeare in your home. Same thing with films. Don’t you want to own “A Hard Day’s Night” (Miramax) or a complete season of “The Simpsons” (Fox Home Entertainment)? Of course you do.

Third reason: Each film has 20-30 chapters. With just a few clicks of the remote control, I can queue up favorite scenes from “Dracula” or “Vertigo” (Universal Home Entertainment). What’s not to like?

Fourth: the extra features. About six months after I bought my DVD player, I wrote a column that said, basically, who cares about the extras, just gimme the movie.

Here are three words that I have never before written and I hope never to write again: I WAS WRONG. I have enjoyed hours of extras on Paramount Home Video’s “Sunset Blvd.” and New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” The audio commentary by Stanley Donen and Peter Stone on “Charade” (Criterion again) is almost as fun as the film itself. And you want to watch these things on your own time, not when the rental timeclock is ticking.

Unlike video, DVDs seem like they will last forever. Yeah, I know that another technology will come along and replace DVD. It doesn’t matter. If there are still stores devoted to vinyl records, there will always be members of the Cult of the DVD.

Other people may have different motivations for owning film titles, such as the Cult of the Porn, whose members buy up titles like “The Slutty Professor,” “Six Degrees of Penetration” and “Driving Miss Daisy Crazy.”

And there’s the Cult of the Geek, in which young men (who also buy comic books and video games) buy up dozens of action and scifi films.

However, all three cults have something in common: zealots who go overboard. You can find members in all three groups who have a few DVDs still in their cellophane wrapper, weeks after purchase. All right, these people have dozens of DVDs still in their wrapper, years after purchase.

Am I one of those? Oh, how can you even ask?

But for those of you who are just dying to know, I only own about half of my targeted 15 DVDs. For some reason, many of them (“Zorba the Greek,” “Far From the Madding Crowd,” a slew of Preston Sturges titles, etc.) aren’t available.

So, while I wait, I’ll probably collect another two or three (or four) dozen more titles. It’s how the Cult culture works.

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