For a long time I've driven past storage facilities and wondered just what was in them- possibly something extremely rare that I would love to have myself but whose current owner packed away, not wanting it around but not wanting to get rid of it either, or worthless junk that nobody in their right mind would want even if it were given to them for free? I already answered the question a bit myself, as a couple months ago I started renting my very own storage space after my apartment became overcrowded with stuff that I could no longer keep there but did not want to part with (mainly lots of VHS and Beta tapes, records that I don't have time to listen to, and video game systems I don't have time to play or room to keep hooked up. I was also just given a 35mm film projector from a closed theater, which went straight into the storage unit as I couldn't possibly keep it in my apartment.) It's been handy to have a place to stash this stuff and keep it out of sight and out of mind until the day I move to a home big enough to keep them around, but the first thing I was made aware of was the importance of paying my rent, because the storage facility will take possession of everything I'm keeping there if I don't.
This is the whole premise of "Storage Wars"- each show is introduced with the words "When storage units are abandoned, the treasures within are put up for auction!" Each episode, which runs about 20 minutes without commercials, visits a different storage facility in Southern California where husband and wife team Dan and Laura Dotson run an auction of the surrendered units. The rules are simple: they'll open the doors for potential buyers to see what's inside, but nobody is allowed to go in the unit or see what is inside any closed boxes until after they've bought it. Most bidding is based on what could potentially be inside the unit, and results vary from finding items worth several times more than what was paid for the storage unit to coming up with practically nothing of value at all.
Although the auctions seen here draw a large number of people, the show focuses on its "stars" who appear at each one. Jarrod Schulz and Brandi Passante own a large second-hand store in Orange and hope to find items to sell there, usually attending the auctions together but sometimes one goes without the other and is later scolded about how much money they spent. Dave Hester is an auctioneer himself looking for things to re-sell- his trademark is yelling "Yuuup!" to signal his bidding and wears a baseball cap with that word on it. Barry Weiss is in it more for the thrill of the hunt and finding stuff he can't live without- I could see myself being a lot like him in a few more years which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing. He's often seen going through his loot wearing gloves with graphics of skeleton fingers on them. Then there's Darrell Sheets and his son Brandon, who keep a warehouse full of items to sell at swap meets (a favorite place of mine.) Usually Brandon is there just to help his dad load the truck, but sometimes he puts up his own money for a storage unit he has a good feeling about.
This 2-disc set is comprised of 13 episodes picked by the participants as either their best or worst scores. Each show is preceded by a minute-long intro with them describing what good or bad things we're about to see. In the shows themselves, we get to see the participants driving to the auctions and giving their thoughts on the area they're in and what they might find there, then each unit is auctioned off with a look from the outside and speculation, and the winning bidders then go through the units and show what trash or treasure they've ended up with. Many of them also head out with their more unusual items to have their value appraised by someone more familiar with them, and are either elated that they're worth several times what they paid for the entire storage unit or extremely disappointed that something they thought was very unique and valuable is only worth a few dollars at the most. Each show wraps up with a "final score" of how much money everyone potentially gained or lost.
They say one man's junk is another man's treasure, and there's plenty of that on display here. Among the highlights of items that are uncovered are an accessory used for making candy from the 1930s, paintings from a little-known but respected artist appraised at $300,000, TWO Darth Vader carrying cases filled with mint-condition Star Wars figures, safes filled with valuable coins, shoes worn by Shelley Duvall in the movie Popeye, and (one of my favorites) a 1930s Reddy Kilowatt lamp. The biggest busts include a unit filled literally top to bottom purchased by Barry who finds absolutely nothing of value inside, a safe containing just paperwork, and a sofa thought to date from the Victorian era but turns out to be a reproduction made in the 1950s of very little worth.
Being one who frequents flea markets (mainly to look for obsolete electronics, records and videos but also enjoying passing by the odder stuff) it was interesting to see where some sellers might have obtained their wares from and I definitely enjoyed seeing the winning bidders uncover what was left buried in storage by someone else. All the participants are unique characters and I wondered how some of them came up with the thousands of dollars to gamble on this venture. Given what I had seen of other "reality" shows, I was relieved that there was little to no fighting or bickering (whether real or staged) amongst the buyers, instead focusing mainly on what they acquired and the money they could potentially make from it.
All episodes are shot on HD video in a 16x9 ratio with a rate of 24 frames per second. On standard DVD it looks adequate, though I wish companies weren't so afraid to release material like this on Blu-Ray disc where it could be seen at its full resolution. There is a lot of post-production blurring of things such as company logos, artwork or faces of people that could not be legally cleared to appear, which oddly I find more distracting than the older practice of covering things up with a black bar. (Jarrod is seen getting excited about a "gangster" painting in a unit he's won, but it's blurred out when he shows it to us.) Either way it makes me more curious to try and see what is being covered up- I noticed many people with black tape over their clothing to hide other names or graphics that would likely cause clearance problems. Dialogue that may be poorly recorded or otherwise difficult to understand has been subtitled right on the video.
Audio is in 2-channel Dolby Digital, with most of the location sound in mono with a stereo music score that runs almost constantly through each show. The music mostly riffs on Western movie themes while occasionally delving into spy-movie territory- it definitely livens up the action and punctuates particularly good or bad finds with a drum beat. Profane words spoken on camera are bleeped out, which I found pretty bleeping annoying.
English and Spanish subtitles are included. (Dave Hester's "Yuuup!" is simply translated as "Si!")
The only thing really counted as an "extra" on this set is the "Never-before seen intros by the Storage Wars cast for each episode!" Other than that, the first disc opens with promos for Duck Dynasty, Swamp People and Mountain Men.
"Storage Wars" brings you most the joy of looking through junk without getting dirty or losing money. Dangerously, it could get me to seek out some storage auctions myself in the future (hopefully when I have more money and more space!) I've read some allegations that parts of this show are rigged, but even if that's true at least it isn't as painfully obvious as things I've seen on other "reality" shows, and the producers do the right thing by focusing on the stuff and not staging fights. It still isn't enough to get me to relent and subscribe to cable to see the latest episodes (as good as this show is, it doesn't belong on what was originally the Arts and Entertainment Network), but I'll at least check out the other DVD releases that have been put out and hope that my own storage unit doesn't end up on the show.
Volumes One, Two, Three and Four of the complete "Storage Wars" series as well as the spin-off Storage Wars Texas have been reviewed previously.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.