We were having one of our regular tactical talks about keeping videos. My tactics are clear. Record anything that looks halfway interesting and watch it later, in old age if need be. This occasionally pays off. When The Young Ones with Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson first appeared on TV, I taped them for my two sub-teenagers. Now, a dozen years later, those two are grown-up but my nine-year-old son (who was not even born then) has rediscovered the very same Young Ones tapes in the cellar and thinks they are wonderful.
My wife's tactics are equally clear. If you haven't watched it within two days, wipe it. Either way, can't we get rid of some of those videos cluttering up the place?
"Like which ones?"
"Well, what is this thing called Amazon Women on the Moon?" said my wife, picking up a video at random. "Have you any reason for keeping this?"
I couldn't even remember having taped it. I had a vague idea that it was one of those spoof science fiction movies which tend to have names like The Invasion of the Giant Tomatoes and which are never quite as funny as you hope, but I didn't know. All I knew was that I must have thought it looked worth recording at the time.
"It's meant to be a great underground cult classic", I lied fluently. "But I haven't had a chance to watch it yet."
"You never will."
"I will one day."
"Wipe it now!"
We came to a compromise. I would look it up in the TV film guide and if they gave it the thumbs down I would wipe it. So I looked it up in three different film guides, and they all said it was a hopeless mishmash of a film. It looked doomed.
You may wonder why I should have three different TV film guides on the premises. Well, I actually have four, but the fourth has gone missing. I think it is under that pile of videos over there.
There is a good reason for this. Over the years I have noticed that TV film guides often clash violently with each other. You quite often find a film being praised extravagantly in one guide, and torn to bits in another. It has always been my intention to collect some of these inconsistencies and disagreements and use them to build a light-hearted article from, though I have never got round to it.
The Time Out Film Guide, for instance, tends to give experimental or avant-garde films the benefit of the doubt while Halliwell's Guide (9th edition) is more robustly no-nonsense. The Virgin Film Guide is somewhere between the two but often gives fascinating background information about the making of the film which the other two don't bother with. They all pay lip service to "great" but difficult films such as Last Year at Marienbad, but even Time Out confesses its bafflement: "Obscure, oneiric, it's either a masterpiece or complete twaddle ..." I had to look oneiric up. Means dreamlike, apparently.
And there are some surprising omissions. Time Out is the only one to list Sven Klangs Combo a lovely and funny 1976 Swedish film about jazz. Sticking to films beginning with "Sv-", Halliwell has no Sven Klang but does list two versions of Svengali. Virgin lists no films beginning with "Sv-" at all. Hmmm ...
But they all unite in dismissing Amazon Women on the Moon. Virgin did not even deign to mention it. Good sci-fi parody, says Halliwell, but most of the film is silly and weak. "Formless compendium of sketches," says Time Out, "patchy in the extreme."
Despite everything, I thought I would sneak a look at it before wiping it. Much to my surprise, I thought it was hilarious. The low-budget sci- fi parody that runs through it is quite funny, but some of the sketches are wonderful. For instance, there is a running gag about a black singer who can only tackle sentimental rubbish, and every time he appears, we cut to BB King himself, the great blues guitarist, who looks straight at us and says: "Did you know that one in five black people in America are born without 'soul'? That's right - one in five! We must help these people, so please send your money to 'Blacks Without Soul', PO Box 1100, Atlanta, Georgia ..."
Of course, it may be that I am wrong and all the film guides are right, but on the other hand I was brave enough to show the tape to my wife, and she roared with laughter at most of it, and so now Amazon Women on the Moon is safe for posterity.
Unlike all the other videos.
"What's this one?" she said this morning, waving a VHS cassette at me. "Alastair Sim Double Bill. What's that?"
"Two Alastair Sim films," I said. "Classics."
"I can't remember."
Here we go again.