Thanks for the replies, massive condescension/impatience and all. They are informative.
I agree about finding a good quality VCR. My intention was to do that right off the bat, and I picked up a JVC BR-S500U for that purpose. Unfortunately it gave me bottom-of-screen scan lines no matter what I did with the tracking. So did another, consumer-grade VHS-HQ VCR (which, for some reason, also gave much better quality audio) -- basically identical performance. I am still at a loss as to what kind of VCR to look for.