Last week, yet another cult classic hit the shelves after years of waiting from faithful fans. Now that the 90’s MTV cult show “The State” has hit digital media, no one can ever complain about only having a crappy VHS rip. This last few months we have seen a few other titles hit DVD after years of waiting, such as Howard the Duck and “X-Men: The Animated Series.” So now that these long awaited titles have finally hit our high definition world, what does anyone in the world of geek like me have to complain about?
Don’t worry, I have a big complaint…right now. The cult classic is dying my friends, and neither Apple nor Al Gore can save it.
It used to be that a movie or TV show gained the title of a cult classic due to a few qualities. One quality is that the film should have originally had very little critical or commercial success. Most cult classics failed at the box office or in TV ratings, even if they were able to go so far. Cult classics also usually have a very healthy shelf-life on home video or DVD. This is actually a bigger factor than most people think because back before VHS if you didn’t see The Rocky Horror Picture Show in theaters, where or how could you see it? By being some of the select few that did see the film in theaters, you were now part of a small group of fans that created the film’s iconic presence as a cult classic. Really, I think it is the combination of word of mouth and limited access to the content. So when a film like The Boondock Saints was only released on five screens and then hit DVD almost two years later only to catch a wave of word of mouth praise, you have yourself a cult classic.
So there’s the dilemma. How can anything sneak past us in this content-driven society?
The cult classic is dying off faster and faster. The most recent title that could realistically be called a cult classic would be Donnie Darko. The film failed at the box office, only to be resurrected on home video and DVD. “Family Guy” came close, except the content was right in front of us and Fox saw the DVD sales, bringing the show back into the public eye. Any film that hits theaters or DVD is converted into digital content immediately, if not sooner than its release date. Here’s a good example: many people who scour the internet know that the hit film Taken was available online much sooner than its United States release date. Now due to all the downloads and word of mouth praise, the film performed great at the box office. Now Taken is not a cult classic because of its success. However if it had not played in US theaters but had only been released on DVD…I think we might have had a recent cult classic.
So since video has already killed the radio star, the new killer in town is the internet. The internet’s original purpose was to make the world’s largest resource of content available to anyone. We humans have a gluttonous streak though, we couldn’t just have a simple resource. We turned it into a giant machine that can create and kill popular culture faster than we can text, tweet or shout it over to our friends. The internet has taken a cue from us and has turned into a parasite, no longer just hosting the content…but abusing it until we have no use for it anymore. It used to be that when you could only buy a record or a VHS, that would be the only avenue for accessing the content. Now we have taken digital content to the next level – the level of exhaustion.
So is there anything else left on my list of cult classics that need to hit DVD?
- Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into the Future (1987)
What cult classics would you like to see on DVD?