Monday, November 5, 2018


It took me until October 2016 to subscribe to Netflix, but it didn’t take long from then for me to discover my problem with it.
I had never seen before the 1978 version of the film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” with Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, and a very early appearance from Jeff Goldblum, and I knew I would want to watch it again... until Netflix removed it, possibly after their rights to it expired. The same was also true of “Psycho II” a film far better than that title suggests, and one that disappeared before I could get to it.
In the end, I did the obvious thing – I bought both films on Blu-Ray, so I can watch them whenever I want. From the same publisher, I now also have a copy of the 1980 Italian horror film “Incubo cilla cittàcontaminata” (English title: Nightmare City), something Netflix was never likely to have. In fact, when I came across the interesting science fiction film “Cherry 2000” on Netflix, I made sure I had my own copy in case it also went away.

For me, it helps to remember that subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Apple Music, Audible, Kindle, and so on, are only effective substitutes for the places you used to hire the same works from: video hire shops like Blockbuster, and libraries – my local library was especially good for foreign films, but I haven’t been there in a long time. You cannot use it as a substitute for your DVD collection, or your music collection, or even your book collection, unless you are the sort of person that lends your stuff to friends without expectation of getting them back.

A couple of weeks ago, I took my Sony Walkman out of my pocket, and my nephew had asked if I had Spotify on it, and if it was connected to the internet – in both cases, the answer was, “it is not a phone.” I had a Spotify subscription once – it came with my phone contract, but I never started paying for it once that was over. Faced with the choice of spending the cost of a CD album with access to a million tracks, I decided I would rather buy the CD I wanted.

Like my DVD collection, I have up to twenty years of carefully curated content at my command, sometimes with a story behind them. For example, Freddie Mercury’s 1985 solo album “Mr. Bad Guy” is out of print, and is quite expensive to buy as a result, unless you researched it and found a reissue as part of a compilation in 2000, and was able to find a copy that way. There is also David Bowie’s album “Never Let Me Down” – Bowie hated the song “Too Dizzy” so much that it is missing from all subsequent releases after 1987, but I am enough of a Bowie fan to find it for myself. My copy of the horrendous Raquel Welch / Mae West film “Myra Breckenridge,” out of print since 2005 and selling for upwards of £40 second-hand, was the result of a speculative bid on eBay, and being lucky with the price: £1.99. This is before I get into all the books I had to buy from the United States, because they’ll never have a Kindle release instead.

There has been much said recently about the impending closure of the arthouse film streaming site FilmStruck (known as FilmStruck Curzon in the UK), and how it reduces the curated spaces for content online. I had almost cancelled my subscription to it due to lack of use, and then its demise was announced. Be assured of this: demand drives the market, and the films will be back again. However, I already have enough stuff like “Citizen Kane,” “Grey Gardens,” “The Blob” and Harold Lloyd’s back catalogue to keep me going until then, because my content is, well, mine.

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