OBJECTIVE: Watch The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring once per every week of 2014.

WHEN: October 18, 2014, approx. 11:30am. (Week 43, October 12-18.)

WHERE: In the only office with a VCR at my workplace in Portland, ME.

FORMAT: Full frame VHS on a 20″ Sylvania DVD/VCR combo CRT television; digital download on an iPhone 4S.

COMPANY: One random coworker that popped in with questions a couple times.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Not looking forward to the movie or the weekend shift I have to work immediately after it.

So blah, I was stuck covering a shift on a Saturday and then remembered, “Hey, there’s a VCR at work. I’ll go in three hours early and get my
scientifically mandated weekly viewing of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring banged out in the format that I first reluctantly saw it in as a teenager: VHS.” And imagine my horror when I ka-chonked the tape in the slot, punched the play button, and saw the message every film nerd dreads…

You ballsy motherfuckers.

Look, I may not be a fan of Lord of the Rings, but they are gorgeous films, and the thought of releasing them on any format in anything other than widescreen is nothing short of a travesty. Well, I’m sure they were shot in open matte like Top Gun and Back to the Future, so you get extra picture at the top and bottom of the frame instead of the sides being cut off…


There are nine Kings of Men, not six and a half! Oh my god, no, why would anyone make this? Why deprive your audience of the left and right sides of the picture? Letterboxed widescreen movies have been around since 1984, and Fellowship deserves to be seen in its original aspect ratio way more than goddamn Always. Christ. Ugh. Okay. Well, there’s three hours to go, might as well get settled in. I’m sure it’s not really that bad in the long run…


I’m just amazed the whole Fellowship made it.

Okay, seriously, this viewing was grueling. It was somehow even more boring on VHS. In addition to the terrible framing, the picture was fuzzy and ripply and the auto-tracking was threatening to kill itself. To be honest, it kind of made the worse special effects look better.


Aside from the crappy view, the audio was all fucked up too. I think the right speaker kept cutting out, and every couple of minutes the sound would jam up with a gigantic farty noise, which was definitely grating but actually kinda funny in the more emotional moments. “I will take the Ring to Mordor–PLLLLLBBBBBBBBT FRRRT FRRRT FRRRT!” Truly, this was a horrible experience in almost every way. The exception being…

Just in case the VCR snapped the tape or chewed it up, which was seeming more likely by the minute, I had an emergency back-up of the movie playing on my iPhone. As the VHS fuzz-farted onward, I noticed the phone lagging behind, so I stopped to resync it. But wait a minute, was the videocassette version slightly sped up? I stopped adjusting it and there was a good 15-second delay by the time Frodo and Sam hit Mordor… and then the credits began. At warp speed.

By my estimate, the VHS version of The Fellowship of the Ring is approximately 4 minutes shorter than the Blu-ray version. If I’d opted for this cut every week of the Cinema 52 experiment, I’d have saved 208 minutes. Hmm.


Fuck off, Betamax!