Monday, July 02, 2012

Ask JKM a Question #5: Where Do You Get Obscure Titles?

A reader, Hugh Davis, instructor of English, writes:

I am a fan of your writing and enjoy your blog. I will likely send you a variety of questions along the way, but I thought I would ask something more pragmatic first. What is your main source for seeing/collecting/(and especially) finding old shows and movies, particularly those which have never been released commercially? E-Bay used to be an occasional option, but they’ve really blocked selling non-commercial recordings, and iOffer can be hit or miss. What suggestions do you have?"

Hugh, that's a terrific question.  I'll answer it as best I can.

Back in the 1990s, when I wrote Terror Television and Horror Films of the 1970s, I interacted with some great tape traders who encouraged historical scholarship by offering up obscure, never-commercially released TV programs, mostly.

At the same time (the 1990s) I created a vast library of video recordings -- taped off the air -- of cult-tv programming.  I wish I had done even more of this, given the obscurity of some series today.  Some of these programs were complete when I taped them, and some were Sci-Fi Channel re-airings, therefore all cut to hell.  But my reasoning was that getting to see some of these shows -- even butchered -- was better than never seeing them at all.

You ask about my main source.  For right now, my main source is likely the flea markets, yard sales and conventions that I frequent.  You never know what people taped off the air, and what they are selling.  The first two venues are obviously pretty hit or miss, though I've been gratified to find some crazy titles there.  The third venue -- genre conventions -- is probably the most reliable.

For out-of-print titles, no venue is better, perhaps, than Movies Unlimited, which features a huge catalog of such titles.  The prices are sometimes high, but this is a dependable company with excellent customer service, and a great selection.  Honestly, it's fun to spend hours going through their catalog.  And no, they aren't paying me for an endorsement.  When I needed to see Let's Scare Jessica To Death again, back in the 1990s, for instance, when I wrote Horror Films of the 1970s, Movies Unlimited is where I turned.  But again, this venue is for out-of-print titles rather than never-released ones.

I hope that helps!  Happy hunting, and feel free to ask any further questions you like. If readers would like to add anything to my answer, please help out in the comments sections.  I know a lot of you are collectors...for historical scholarship, too.

Don't forget, you can ask me a question by e-mailing me at, and putting "Ask JKM a Question" in the subject line. And let me know if I can use your name and your full e-mail.


  1. Anonymous8:52 PM

    I use to get the Movies Unlimited printed catalogs in the '90s and as you stated John it has everything. It was the size of a metropolitan phone book.


  2. Thanks for fielding my question! I had forgotten Movies Unlimited--I have seen their impressive catalog (and it is like a phone book) and will have to get one again.

    If anyone does have further suggestions on shows that have not been released, let me know.