FOUND FOOTAGE FESTIVAL VOL. 8 DVD
It’s hard to imagine a time when people watched funny videos without the internet. There was a time when VHS compilations could be bought and traded with friends and like-minded people. Compilation tapes could include all manner of bloopers, strange encounters, home movies, iconic and rare music performances, or comedy sketches. Infamous bits of footage would reappear time and time again, standbys included the Merry Melodies cartoon “The Skeleton Dance” (1929), segments taped off of Night Flight, foreign commercials (including the bizarre German Afri Cola advertisements), and (I say this with new perspective in my old age) the R. Budd Dwyer suicide. These clips were windows into worlds unseen before computers and would certainly never be viewed on TV for any reason. Clips from those tapes seeped inside the public consciousness at least enough to be mentioned on shows as hip as Arrested Development and Mr. Show.
The Found Footage Festival is a traveling road show of video clips narrated by video collectors Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett. The two turned a hobby of VHS collecting into a show where home movies, restaurant training tapes, and exercise videos languishing in thrift stores and estate sales are given new life by way of a curated comedy show. Volume 8 contains staples of the show such as the “Exercise Video Montage” where clips from exercise videos are edited together to the “VHS Cover Slideshow” where unusual videotape covers are scrutinized. New segments assembled from their massive VHS collection include a montage of 80s videos meant to expose Satanism, a light bulb eating new-age surgeon, and a collection of clips rescued from David Letterman’s dumpster. And if you think videos like “Looking Better with Phyllis Diller” weren’t greenlighted when video content was all the rage, you’d be wrong.
The Found Footage Festival is a fun time on it’s own, but Prueher and Pickett’s good-natured ribbing at video traditions may one day be recognized as a heroic effort to preserve a bit of history. Some people might rather these tapes not be seen, but the culture of people’s access to home video is a turning point in American media and certainly deserving of at least one entity’s preservation attempts. -Billups Allen