Somewhere back in the early 1980s, an apparatus connected to a TV started taking the country over by storm. No, it was not the Beta movie player. Nor was it the LaserDisc player, either. It was, instead, the VHS videotape player, a TV version throwback to a 1970s 8-track cassette player, but no one wanted to admit that at the time. It worked; it showed movies and, even better, an owner could record stuff on TV onto the VHS tape through the player and rewatch it again and again. Suddenly, people had the ability to binge-watch the same stuff for days (as long as they were able to record it in the first place)!
An Interesting, Unknown Beginning
What was the first VHS movie? The VHS phenomenon started a bit earlier, and most people have no idea when or where it occurred either. If asked where the first VHS movie was ever released, most folks will assume it was in California and probably learn L.A. since Hollywood pretty much dominates the movie and TV industry. Neither of those answers is correct.
Instead, the very first VHS movie made commercially available for consumers to buy was produced in South Korea of all places. And it happened even earlier than most people think: 1976. Today, this information can be looked up in a few seconds via an online search engine, starting with the capital letter G, for example. However, even well into the 1980s, 1 out of 10,000 people probably still would not have guessed the answer right. The movie itself, The Young Teacher, never won an Oscar, much less gained any recognition in any museum dedicated to film history. However, the Asian movie was, in fact, the first production recorded and distributed on VHS format just before the big movie hit of the decade, Star Wars, hit the box office back in the U.S.
The Real Kickstart to the VHS Market
If, on the other hand, one wanted to know the first VHS movie that was made available in U.S. markets, it would be a different title. That honor goes to some very familiar titles that were sold all at the same time. MASH, Patton, and The Sound of Music were among the first of about 50 different movies that Magnetic Video released based on licensing it purchased from 20th Century Fox and permission to re-release the titles. It was a smart move as the classic titles immediately got people’s attention, especially the MASH episodes and the ability to reminisce while watching old movies and TV shows all over again instead of waiting for them to come up in re-run cycles on TV. Soon enough, demand started pushing for the release of anything made 30 years before, and box VHS sets became a thing as well.
VHS is Long Gone, Along with Sony Walkman and Big Box Mac Desktops
Today, it’s probably a bit of a challenge to find VHS movies still intact and playable. Most have been overplayed and destroyed, or they’ve been replaced with DVD versions, which are much more durable. Many tapes were lost to poor storage and temperature damage, particularly heat. And those that survived all those risks and remained intact probably don’t play well, as many of the machines that did play them have fallen apart as well. Like the Sony Walkman, VHS tapes have essentially come and gone. That last big bastion was news stations that used VHS tapes extensively for quick recordings and archiving of various stories, broadcasts, and reporting changeouts. However, all of that can be traced back to Magnetic Video’s “Hail Mary” move to generate an additional revenue stream selling take-home movies of classic titles. And before that, the credit goes to an unheard-of South Korean flick that made the VHS format pop up and be noticed, even if it took a while to get to the U.S. coast.
Restoring VHS Movies
It is a good idea to have movies transferred over to a digital version for your viewing pleasure. You can still hang on to your now vintage copy of The Young Teacher and save this for prosperity’s sake. After all, there will never be another movie made on VHS by a movie studio.