Sunset Time was a boutique home video manufacturer famous for tackling Betamax, VHS, and later DVD releases of rare and unusual movies. Never produced in large quantities, many Sunset Time products were the only available source for older movies from 60s and earlier making them sought-after collector’s items. Especially valuable were the Sunset Time Solar Club releases, in which movies were (due to rights issues) produced only in limited runs of 1000-5000 copies.

When Sunset Time went out of business in the Great Recession of the late 2000s, its stock was liquidated by wholesalers and bought by the Dollar Party chain of discount stores. Mixed in with other stock, a pile of DP DVDs or VHS tapes (yes, they still sold those, mostly in rural areas) might yield Sunset Time products or even Solar Club items worth $100-$500 to the right collector. Or they might yield 50 copies of From Justin to Kelly.

Tom Speckler was in it for the movies. A long-time cinema buff, he had begun methodically visiting every Dollar Party he could find in an attempt to unearth Sunset Time gems for $2 apiece. The fact that the ones he already had could be eBay’d for hard cash was a side benefit. As a result, Speckler was often arms-deep in discount movie bins at far-flung rural Dollar Party stores.

The employees were not always understanding.

“Sir, could you please stop taking the DVDs out of the display and putting them on the floor?” Cynthia Mudwaddie of Dollar Party #8734 in Gristle Mill, Missouri, asked him. Speckler had been digging to the bottom of the bin and had stacked rejects around him like a kind of crude movie fort.

“How else am I supposed to see what’s at the bottom?” Speckler asked without moving. “These really should be on shelves. Do you really expect people to dig to the bottom of a pallet-sized bin?”

“Sir, we do not put the merchandise on the floor,” Cynthia said. “Unless you want to buy it, then you can put it any old place you want.”

“Do you ask an archaeologist not to put his dirt on the ground?” Speckler said. “Do you ask a picker not to put the useless junk between him and a 1902 Buick on the floor?”

“That’s it,” Cynthia fumed. “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Speckler protested, comparing Cynthia unfavorably to Benito Mussolini, whose first act as Il Duce had no doubt been to keep Italian patriots from rooting around for movies in discount bins. But after Cynthia called “Ox” Bunker, Dollar Party cashier and amateur professional wrestler, as backup, he relented and left.

“What was that about?” said Petunia Lavos, who was on break in the back. She’d heard the ruckus and accosted Cynthia as she hung a security camera picture of Speckler to the “banned for life” wall.

Cynthia sat down next to her on a sealed box labeled “Sunset Time Solar Club Limited Editions.” “I have no idea,” she sighed.

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