For the Tapeheads who are actively attentive to the ever-expanding re-animated analog landscape and ardent followers of the fresh VHS movement, Louis Justin is a man who needs little introduction. His Massacre Video brand has nestled itself into virtually every VHS collector’s video vocabulary, and is widely recognized as being the most legit, heavy-hitting and straight up groovy releasing label to emanate from the VHS revival. And though Massacre has released an army of DVDs (in always rad packaging), it’s their super-bitchin VHS editions that have Videovores across the world selling their couch to get their claws on everything with the Massacre imprint. L.J. has always had the markings of leader when it comes to VHS culture, but most recently, he’s uncovered what is perhaps the most important discovery to ever hit the VHS collector world: TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE and BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL director Chester N. Turner – alive and well! And as if that wasn’t enough, he’s gearing up to unleash these much coveted video gems in an ultimate fashion in an array of amazing analog and dope digital editions. Read on, my fellow VHS heads, and hear from the dude that’s living the analog dream every day…
MY EYES, MAN, MY EYYYYYYYEEEEESSS!!
Can you give us the origin of Massacre Video? Tell us about the impetus to start it up, and the adventure behind securing your first release 555.
Well, I started Massacre Video in 2007 when I got out of high school. My idea at the time was to do a DVD import store. The store opened in 2008 and was rather successful… well, for an 18 year old, anyway. We carried many limited edition releases and stuff that was exclusive for the shop. Back then, believe it or not, I was actually super-speedy with shipping, but then again I would have 30 packages at a time, not 100+ [laughs]. Anyways, I was a dumb 18 year old; I moved out with a non-savory female and that was a big part of me putting an end to the store. In the back of my head, I always had the idea of distribution. It’s no surprise to anyone that I am a huge fan of VHS and just odd films in general. There were many films that I had on VHS that many people didn’t seem to give two shits about… I found this to be a big problem! That is kind of how 555 came into the picture.
I was a HUGE fan of 555. They had it at a local rental shop by me and after my first rental I just fell in love with it. So, my trying to contact the filmmakers / people involved at first was just me being a total dork and wanting to pick their brains about the film. But with the little money I had left over from the store, I thought it would be a really cool idea to start a label and release the stuff I enjoyed.
Actually a little known fact: my intention was to release BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL and TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE first (this was pre-Earl days) because I was thinking that it would be an easy feat to track down the rights and I thought it would be a rather cheap film to acquire….but obviously that was not the case.
So after countless months of research and phone calls, I finally located Roy M. Koz, the writer/producer of 555. Sadly, the director Wally Koz passed away of a terminal illness in the early 2000’s so Roy would of been the person to find. After we spoke a little, we just could not reach an agreement, so I thought the project was dead in the water. But a few weeks later, I got an email from him… let me rewind a little. Roy lives on a house boat in the Pacific Ocean. Anyways, his email stated the diesel motor on his house boat broke and he wanted the cost to fix it for the rights to 555. It was more money than I had at the time, but I did agree to it. We set up a date to meet in Chicago and make the deal. So this left me a week to find the rest of the money. I talked to a couple potential investors but none of that panned out… sadly I had to sell some of my personal belongings (I miss you DEMONS on Unicorn and CARDS OF DEATH on Sony/Exiting). Keep in mind this was in 2008 before I even owned a car. So, technically, I bought the rights to a film before I even owned a vehicle.
When we met, Roy presented me with the 1″ master for 555, some 35mm slides, a sealed VHS, a RADICAL pink crew jacket (with his name embroidered on the front and some left over pipe tobacco in the pocket) and some equally cool pink 555 shirts. He really did not want anything to do with the release; he was just happy to have the money. Pretty much since then I have had very minimal contact with him. But I really do hope that if Wally would be alive to see the release, he would be proud of the respect and dignity his gem was given.
The super-groovy 555 big box that housed the DVD. THAT’S GOTTA HURT!!
Since 555, you’ve expanded tremendously releasing numerous films on various formats, forging a dominant brand in the VHS collector / rare film release scene. Can you give us an essential overview of what you’ve done over the years, perhaps a filmography and the types of packages you’ve done so far? Who helps you put that package design together?
I like to attribute my various editions to just my liking for gaudy things and just the typical collectors OCD. I always really liked “collectors” editions and numbered things. This does show with the birth of Massacre and all of the odd editions I use to stock.
Earl [Kess] is the man that is responsible for pretty much all of the Massacre design. I do give input, but generally it is his mind working and creating some rad editions!
Massacre was one of the first in the “VHS re-release game”, so we just kind of did our own thing with our inspiration being…well… VHS! For 555, we sold limited a DVD set that was housed in a big box. To my knowledge, this was the first modern day big box that was actually the correct size and correctly printed. We had to create a custom die and go to a printer that was capable of printing on “large format”. It was a bit pricey, but overall it turned out great. With 555, it was kind of always my idea to have “fantasy” editions that I wished existed. I am sure, like most VHS collectors, that I have a lot of weird VHS oriented dreams…and one of my reoccurring ones was finding a big box and clamshell of 555.
Some of the more notable packaging we have done was on the AUGUST UNDERGROUND re-release. It was something I was a tad worried about because I was afraid people would think we were being cheap and not “get” the idea, but overall people got it. One of my favorite VHS companies was Sun Video. I loved the homemade DIY nature of their releases….a black slipcase with a crudely colored hand placed sticker and tapes with a plethora of different labels. We teamed up with TOETAG to do these and honestly, the AU films have a nasty DIY feel to them… so what better than to replicate the Sun Video box! We measured a box for PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK and based our template off that, had a die made just like we did for 555… then we just had the boxes printed jet black. Then we had stickers made and each one was hand placed on every box. It was definitely one of the more labor intensive things we did, but it did turn out rather nicely!
Another thing we did that was a tad unique was offer a “hardbox” dvd. Now I will admit, I was not a huge hardbox collector as they were just a bit too rich for my blood… but I did love the hell out of them! Originally I wanted the 555 limited edition to be a hardbox, but we couldn’t get the deal going with the printers at the time. So, our second release OROZCO THE EMBLAMER was utilized for this… though 555 did come at a later time. We are the only company I know outside of Europe that uses them. They are sadly not cheap to produce and even more expensive to import to the states…but they are definitely worth it!
The amazing spread for 555, OROZCO and the AUGUST UNDERGROUND series. 555 hardbox at the top right. DAS ALOTTA GROOVY STUFF, MANG.
You’re the tenacious tapehead that finally tracked down Chester N. Turner: the thought-to-be-deceased director of the much sought after SOV holy grails TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE and BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL. How’d you do it, and tell us how it felt when you finally get a hold of Chester.
It was also no secret that Earl and myself were huge Chester Turner fans. It was similar to 555… I was looking for him pre-Massacre just to talk to the man that made these shot-on-video oddities that I loved so much!
Turner is not exactly an uncommon name, and neither is Jones; so finding the two main people seemed to be nearly impossible. You have no idea how many times I called someone asking if they had any involvement with BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL and got hung up on…. I then learned to start asking about QUADEAD first because of the more PG title.
Really, finding him was just dumb luck. I never really bought the death rumors… ultimately I could never find an obituary or any solid evidence. Just hearsay and people posting on web boards. I really wanted to keep hope alive that Chester Turner still walked this earth! I got a clue as to what area of Chicago he would be at. I looked around the area and still found nothing under his name. Then I just started doing what I do best: call random people and see if anything sticks! One number I called, a man answered with a warm and welcome “Hello?”… I asked if this was Chester Turner, he replied with “Yeah!”… then I asked “the same Chester Turner that directed Tales from the Quadead Zone?”… there was an odd pause so I was thinking it was the wrong person but then I heard on the other line “Yeah, yeah! And Black Devil Doll from Hell too,!” Pretty much when that happened, I did the whole “Oh, we have a bad connection let me call you back.” because I needed a moment to collect myself.
After calling back, I told him who I was and told him about Massacre. I told him how much I loved both of his films and that I would be honored to release them both on DVD. He was extremely open to the idea and one week later I drove down to Chicago with my girlfriend to meet the man face to face! We had pizza, signed the contracts and talked for a good 5 hours about the films, his life, our plans for the DVD and even him possibly getting back into filmmaking. He wanted to be very hands on with the DVD which was great! With 555 it was more of a “here’s the film, do whatever you want with it” type of thing… but with this it was more of a “joint” effort.
But after finding Chester, it was only natural that we had to find star Shirley Latanya Jones! They had not spoken with each other in almost 20 years so that was a bit of a challenge itself! Chester gave me the city she used to live in. None of the phone numbers to her were working, but I did find an address. I wrote her a good ole fashioned letter and mailed it to her. I got a call a few days later from her! The next thing you know, Justin Rice (the man behind Briarwood Ent), Chester Turner and I are on a 14 hour car voyage to see Shirley L. Jones. That was definitely a weekend I know any of us will never ever forget.
Shirley L. Jones and Chester N. Turner with some OG copies of the flicks! Damn, this RULES!
Can you give us some details on what you’ll be doing with Chester’s films as far as releases? DVD? VHS? Your much coveted hard box editions? This is all dropping at Cinema Wasteland this weekend, right? And both Chester and the star of the films, Shirley, will be there to celebrate the release?
I found typical Massacre fashion is to go a bit overboard with the releases….with Chester’s films, we may have exceeded that statement.
Pretty much every time Earl or I had an idea, we ended up creating the edition! We will be doing the normal VHS run of each film separately, but these VHS are a little special! Shirley L. Jones actually hand drew the cover art for both. I pretty much just told her give us a new rendition of these films. Earl added a little bit of color and they look just great!
If those VHS were not enough, we have created a big box double feature of both films on one tape. It is obviously homage to the super cool Continental double features; these are definitely one of the coolest things that we have done thus far.
Each film is getting not one, but TWO hardboxes. Typically we have a full bleed image as the hardbox cover (which was started with the infamous OROZCO box that was banned before it made it to the printer), but also along side of the full bleed design, we have done a replica of the original VHS art for both films. Obviously, the Hollywood Home Theater and BC Video VHS releases of these films are extremely important to VHS history, so what a better way to honor them than to do a replica hardbox?
Last, we have the standard DVD set which is not limited, but still a beautiful set. Originally, we were going to do a two disc DVD case with reversible art… but the more I thought about it, I just couldn’t do that. If someone else were to release these films, it would kill me to only be able to have one on the shelf. So we decided to give each film its own case and enclose it in a nice cardboard slipcase. The Tales from the Quadead Zone cover is extra notable as it sports the rare never-before-seen original artwork that was changed last minute! A cover I prefer over what was actually used on the VHS release.
Also, there are shirts, posters and a whole bunch of knick-nacks that I just couldn’t go without.
An exclusive look at the new hardboxes and VHS coming from Massacre Video, dropping tomorrow at Cinema Wasteland! YES!
And here’s a peek at the VHS re-issues for BDDfH and TftQZ, with the brand new custom art from Shirley L. Jones! And just look at that double-feature big box! DANG!
There’s also a soundtrack release happening from Poisoned Mind Records. Can you tell us a little about that?
This was the brainchild of Mike Paine and Tom “RedRum” Rogers. After I made it public about finding Chester and the upcoming DVD release, they both approached me about doing a 7″ of the soundtrack. I was good friends with both of them, so it sounded like a fun project to be a part of!
I hooked them up with my buddy ShagRat of Acid Witch and Shitfucker fame for the artwork. He actually contacted me wanting to do a poster for Wasteland, but I knew his art would be perfect for the soundtracks cover…. and once he sent the final, I can easily say all of our jaws dropped!
The mind-melting artwork for the upcoming 7 inch from Poisoned Mind! ALL HAIL SHAGRAT!
You’re also doing a string of screenings with Chester live in person. Can you tell us about those?
Well, since we have announced the release, we have had a lot of people claim we are lying and that Chester was really dead, regardless of how much evidence I had that it was him! So what a better way to quiet the naysayers than to have Chester appear at a handful of select dates across the country?!
First is Cinema Wasteland where we are screening BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL on Saturday, and the screening will be followed up by a Q&A with Chester and Shirley. After the convention, we have screenings in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Austin! I am sure you will be a champion and post links at the bottom of this interview for more information on the screenings.
An exclusive first-look at the back of the hardboxes! Re-created with SO MUCH LOVE.
So, you’re a bit of a collector yourself, Louis. Can you tell us a little bit about your Videovore habits?
I wouldn’t say collector, I would more say it has turned into a “hoarding” type situation. But, yes, I have been collecting for almost 10 years now, and have amassed some pretty cool titles! Lots of weird obscure shot-on-video oddities, some sick-o Japanese movies I love so much and just pretty much films I enjoy watching!
Now I am on a bit of a French Canadian kick… there really aren’t that many American tapes that were must haves (there are still tons of titles I would like to own, though). Pretty much my “most wanted” tapes when I started collecting were the typical faire…555, LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET, BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL, SPINE, TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE et al. After all these years, I can finally say I own all of those!
A glimpse at just one batch from L.J.’s incredible collection. Perfect for your next I spy rare VHS outing.
What is it about the VHS format that does it for you? Why do you think it’s important to preserve VHS, and continue to make it available for newer generations?
This is a question I have been asked a lot and I really honestly don’t have an answer for it. I like VHS….because I do! What made me as a young kid go towards the VHS at the video store over DVDs? I really don’t know, but I feel as I should make some sort of reference to tape being magnetic and me being drawn to them… but overall it is just a cooler format in my eyes. Yes, the picture quality is not as crisp as a Blu-Ray or DVD, but if I am looking at a shelf with a DVD of CANNIBAL FEROX or an awesome Thriller Video big box of MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY, I am going to grab the big box. [ED NOTE: Amen, brother.]
I think for the most part VHS is preserved… I mean you can’t really destroy history! With all of the new VHS releases coming out… honestly, I was all for it…but it is starting to feel less genuine than it did. I heard someone actually say they didn’t have the time or effort to release something officially so they are going to do PD or boots. It seems it is just a cash in game for some people, and that does semi-bother me as I really do enjoy the format. I mean just look at the Lunchmeat, Briarwood, Uneasy, KOTW, Horror Boobs tapes… those are made with love.
The Massacre VHS we do are pretty much more of “fantasy” editions that Earl and I cook up, we like to create these because it is cool to actually own things….and well… yeah… VHS are cool.
The cover for the DVD set coming out tomorrow. Epic, brother. Just EPIC.
What’s next for Massacre Video, man?
Officially right now, we have three titles lined up for 2014! We have the insanely gross yet beautiful film by Marian Dora (of CANNIBAL fame) called VOYAGE TO AGATIS coming out! Director Marian Dora is actually a big VHS collector himself, so he is extremely delighted that one of his films will be a VHS release. This title will be released for the first time with English subtitles so make sure to pick up the DVD or VHS if you’re a fan of the odd and the gross.
After AGATIS, we are teaming up with Vinegar Syndrome to release THE CHANGER, which is better known as THE NOSTRIL PICKER. This has been a little slasher film I have always liked. It adds to it that it was shot in Michigan not too far from where I live. There is a ton of false information going around about the film (including its IMDB release date of 1993 – it was actually 1988), so it will be great to clear up a lot of that information.
Last but not least, we are putting out one of my favorite shockumentaries… MONDO MAGIC! Sourced from a 35mm print, this will actually be the first UNCUT release in the USA. It runs almost 5 minutes longer than the Magnum VHS! I am hoping we can set up some theatrical screenings of the print around the U.S.A. MONDO MAGIC would be a blast to see on the big screen.
I am sure we will have some other big things come up in 2014, but for now, we are going to be focusing on those three releases.
Anything else you’d like to shout out to all the Videvores in Lunchmeat Land?
Just thank you everyone for supporting Massacre and just weird films in general! Also, don’t forget to check out the band Throatplunger… super sick shit!
Or don’t! That stuff might rot yer brain, man. Trust me: I should know! But seriously, Louis rules, and the work he is doing is absolutely monumental, both for the VHS world and cult film in general. The dude is a boss. And he sure ain’t slowin’ down, mang! Be sure to peep all the info about Chester N. Turner’s appearances in Philly and New York, and stay tuned Massacre’s official site for all the updates on all of Massacre Video’s amazing upcoming events. But if you’ll excuse me, I gotta catch this gravy train to Cinema Wasteland and help crowd the Massacre table. Hope to see you there, Tapeheads! Plenty of video vindication, party time excellent and relentless high fives shall occur! YOU KNOW I CAN DIG IT.