This is a departure for the Life After Death DVDs. While the first two
were largely instructional and taught techniques for repairing and
restoring machines, this third disc is in the style of a documentary,
detailing two trips to uncover stashes of machines stored away by
operators who no longer operate them, and have left them stacked up in
The DVD begins with the title sequence for LAD III and a stylish sequence of stills treated to look like security camera footage.
Rather more fundamental though is the fact that this segment shows the insides of the warehouses to be featured in the two raids.
Part of the fun of following the arrival at the warehouses and the subsequent exploration is the suspense of not knowing what will be found inside. Will it be a pile of junk or some rare and valuable buried treasure? Will the environment have destroyed the machines or have they survived intact? Are they worthy of restoration or beyond hope? Will there be a few machines, or dozens? Instead though, these questions are partly answered in the very first few shots, taking much of the anticipation out of the raids.
However, there are two raids shown on the DVD and grainy black and white stills can only reveal so much about the contents of the warehouses, so there's still plenty still left to discover by watching the features.
After the introduction, we're soon on the road and heading for the first raid on an unnamed operator's warehouse at an undisclosed location.
Rob relates the story of how he had been keeping in regular contact with the operator for two years and recently they came under new management. The new owners wanted to clear out their old inventory and he and Steve called at just the right time.
As the handheld camera roves around the collection it soon becomes clear
that although all have a thick layer of dust, many of the
machines still look to be in reasonable condition and certainly worth of
further investigation. There is a mix of EM machines, solid state and dot
matrix games. Some have backglasses, some don't. Most have playfield
glass, but several are missing. In total, they count just over 150
Back home, they recorded the games on the computer and worked out the prices they'd be willing to pay before calling back the owner and arranging a meeting to hammer out a deal.
Another interesting element to buying games in bulk is the price they sell for and although the DVD makes it clear these machines were sold at an attractive discount, we never get to know what that price was. In truth, the transaction was done between the buyers and the seller so we have no innate right to know how much cash changed hands, but the nature of the deal and the way it is presented certainly peaks our curiosity.
Once the games are back at Rob's and are cleaned up a little, they examine the haul and split them up amongst themselves.
Then comes the moment of truth as selected games are brought inside, set up and then opened up to see what's inside and whether or not they work. The results, as expected, are mixed, but overall the deal turned out very nicely and after a lot of restorative work the games are brought back to life.
The second warehouse is due for demolition and initially appears less promising than the first with a part of a window missing allowing the weather and the wildlife access to the interior. A first visit shows there are games inside, but exactly what they are, and in what condition, we only find out on the second visit.
The operator wanted the building cleared of games within 24 hours and they were sold as seen with no opportunity to power them up, so the machines were priced accordingly. They were largely '90s dot matrix machines with a few solid states and some video games as well.
Various deals were struck and a large batch of games were hauled back home for closer inspection. Once again, the majority of the games were in surprisingly nice condition and good candidates for restoration.
The documentary part of the Life After Death III DVD ends with a picture montage which looks back over the two raids and looks forward to restoring all the games from these raids and those from future finds.
But the Warehouse Raid documentary is only one of the DVD elements since Life After Death III comes with six bonus features lasting over two hours.
The first of these is a look at the "Tilt - The Art Of Pinball" exhibition of pinball art which took place at the Cedarhurst Center For The Arts in Mount Vernon, Illinois in 2006.
There are interviews with pinball artists John Youssi and Greg Freres and we also hear from game designer Dennis Nordman and collector Rich Grant who talks about pinball's beginnings.
Rob then takes us on a tour of the exhibition including the different machines on display, conceptual drawings and the many stages some of the designs go through before reaching the final version.
Coverage of the exhibition continues in the second bonus feature which is a recording of the panel discussion with Rob, Rich, Dennis, John and Greg. The acoustics of the room aren't well suited to recording but it's a discussion worth listening to for the anecdotes and background information on various games.
The third bonus feature is a trip to Gene Cunningham's premises and it begins with a look at Gene's Wizard Blocks and Playboy Pinball 2000 prototypes.
It then moves on - all too quickly - through room after room after room jam packed full of pinball machines. The collection is so massive and is crammed into the disparate rooms in such a way that many games, although set up, are not really playable without some shuffling of adjacent games and the numerous backboxes littering the floor.
As with much of the content on the DVD, this section is shot with a handheld camera and so can make the viewer a little nauseous if you sit too close to the screen.
The tour continues through the assembly area for Big Bang Bar while the games were in production giving a glimpse of how the machines were put together, while Gene explains the processes used to make a pinball playfield.
Bonus feature number four goes behind the scenes at the Heartland Pinball and Arcade Supershow to explain how all the planning came together for the first single day show in 2005. The success of that first show led to the second event the following year when it moved to a new location and expanded to two days.
The success of the first two years made the third year much easier to organise and gave the show the financial stability that should see it continuing into the future.
There's more coverage of the shows in the fifth bonus feature which is essentially raw footage shot in 2005, 2006 and 2007 of visitors, players and tournament winners without any additional commentary, mixed with still image montages.
The final extra feature is a series of deleted scenes from the Warehouse Raid section which gives a little more information about the various games purchased and how they turned out when they arrived back home.
This Life After Death is a change from the previous two volumes and by including a wider range of topics it has a broader appeal to pinball fans. Collectors will enjoy the chase of finding the dream combination of highly collectable games at what are presumably knock down prices, while the extras are equally enjoyable and will be of interest to those who don't collect and just want to play.
That's not to say it is perfect of course. We highlighted a few issues along the way and can add a couple here. The repeated use of seemingly-random video transitions detracts from the professional quality of the remainder and there are multiple instances where you are listening to something interesting on the soundtrack and it will suddenly fade out and change to something else.
But these issues aside, Life After Death III is an interesting, informative and entertaining watch. It doesn't ram facts down your throat but you will come away better informed about a whole range of pinball topics just by watching one DVD.