There’s plenty of hype around the streaming libraries of services such as Netflix, Stan or Presto, but the reality is that all too often, I’m left wanting.
On a whim during a drive today, I popped on the radio in my car. I’m not a frequent radio listener to speak of, but it was there, it was easy, and I fancied some tunes.
On came a song that I hadn’t listened to for many years, despite my own somewhat retro music tastes.
Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder (yes, that Giorgio Moroder) had quite the hit with that back in the day, based around the movie Electric Dreams, which came out in the distant past.
1984, to be precise, and I’m sorry if that suddenly made you feel particularly old. It certainly had that effect on me.
Anyway, I’m humming along, and discussing it with my family, and the thought struck me that I don’t think I’ve actually watched Electric Dreams since, say, the mid 1980s or so. I don’t recall it being a great film, although a quick peruse of YouTube does find a trailer for it that suggests it might be quaintly dated, especially in its portrayal of information technology.
Back in the aforementioned day, I’m pretty certain that I saw Electric Dreams on VHS, and I have rather definite memories of my local video stores having more than a few copies gradually developing mould and tracking problems over the years.
Related: Video Stores: In Memoriam
But I live in 2015, not 1985, and in the thirty years (gulp) that have passed, the video store is mostly dead, replaced by streaming media or direct DVD or Blu-Ray sales.
Not a problem, I thought. It’s an old movie, and I can’t imagine anyone charging a bomb for the rights. Probably owned by one of the big movie conglomerates and sold in a rights package along with, say, Critters, Salute Of The Jugger, Mannequin and Grizzly.
(If you recognise those titles from video stores of old, I’ve probably reminded you that you’re old again. Sorry about that.)
Just one teensy tiny problem there.
Electric Dreams is not to be found on Stan. Or on Presto. Or on Netflix Australia, at all. Casting the net a little wider, were I to use a VPN solution of some stripe, I find that Netflix US… doesn’t have it either. Or Hulu Plus, or Amazon Video, or, seemingly, anywhere. It’s not precisely Oscar-winning material by a long stretch, but equally I’m hardly looking for the absolutely most obscure of films either.
I can buy a DVD copy of Electric Dreams — apparently it’s never been mastered for Blu-Ray, although watching that trailer, I think I can see why — but only a region 2 copy from the UK, and I’m not certain that I’m quite that keen to actually own a copy.
It’s exactly the type of scenario that streaming services should absolutely own. Newer movies attract higher prices for them to retain, which is why so often when they do grab a newer flick, it sits at the top of the selection carousels, in order to grab your attention. But we’re meant to be enticed by the breadth of the selection on offer, and all too often, I’m left thinking that we’re being sold a bit of a pup in this regard.
The sad truth here is that the best bet I found for instant nostalgic gratification was an undoubtedly pirated copy half-sitting on YouTube. No, I didn’t bother, but I suppose I could have.
The absence of one single 80s movie doesn’t mean that streaming is automatically poor value to speak of. If you can find enough on a service to watch to justify the roughly $10 per month you’ll pay for it, then it is by definition good value.
At the same time, however, the rotating cast of available movies for existing streaming services means that if you’ve got a hankering for a specific film, and old fashioned but by now all but extinct video store might have been a better bet. If only I’d enlisted the futuristic technology of the 1980s to build some kind of time machine.
What do you think? Are streaming services delivering the kinds of content you want, or leaving you wanting? Let me know in the comments below!