Massacre Video has, over the last few years, been slowly but surely building one of the most eclectic catalogues going. They’ve not only been issuing DVDs of movies like Orozco The Embalmer and the films of Chester Turner and Donald Farmer, but they’ve been a key player in the collector’s edition limited VHS market that has proven to be so popular in recent times. Massacre Video head honcho Louis Justin is the guy behind all of this, and he was cool enough to answer a few questions for us.
Rock! Shock! Pop! - How did you get your start in movie distribution and what inspired you to start Massacre Video in the first place?
Louis Justin - The idea of distribution was always in the back of my head, but I simply did not have the funds to do it. After high school I started Massacre Video as a DVD store that specialized in signed limited editions and PAL imports. The money was good, but I was just simply bored with it... at that point I started to actively look for the rights for both ‘Black Devil Doll from Hell’ and ‘555.’ Obviously ‘555’ came first and the rest is history!
R!S!P! - In addition to just doing the DVD thing, you’ve also released a lot of different limited edition collector’s VHS releases and signed/numbered posters to coincide with some of your titles. Is this done out of fun, because you’ve a collector yourself, or out of financial necessity? Both?
LJ - The limited editions are done more so for fun, because I am a collector. I have always loved VHS and hardboxes so that is where those came from. Sadly though, I had to sell off most of my hardboxes to fund the initial ‘555’ release.
R!S!P! - Do you find the more salacious ‘hard box’ versions you release, often with nudity or extreme gore on the covers, sell better?
LJ - Surprisingly, no… my favorite hardbox we have done is the ‘Junk Films’ hardbox and it definitely has the most graphic cover. They seem to do better on the more popular films.
R!S!P! - Why do you think that there are people out there who still want VHS releases, even when there are perfectly good (and sometimes far less expensive) DVD or Blu-ray options available?
LJ - This is a question I have asked myself a lot, because I fall into that category. For me, personally I can’t really answer it. I just like VHS a lot! For a while, new VHS releases were a hot item so they were just bought for that reason alone. Albeit, most of them ended up on eBay for big bucks, but that seems to be dying down and it seems people who are buying them now are the ones who are genuinely interested in the format and the packaging.
R!S!P! - What goes into choosing a title for a Massacre Video release? Is there a specific criteria?
LJ - If you look at the Massacre catalog, the titles next to each other really don’t make sense. It ranges from low budget shot on video to extreme films to gross mondo films. Really, it’s just movies I enjoy personally. I have to enjoy working on the release and it would not be much fun working on a film I did not have some sort of love for.
R!S!P! - In the early days, you put out a few of Donald Farmer’s movies. How was he to work with? Any plans to delve back into his filmography in the future?
LJ - Yeah, we did his first film ‘Demon Queen’ and his infamous unofficial ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ sequel ‘Savage Vengeance!’ Donald was a blast to work with, he is one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve met on the subject of genre films. We don’t really have plans for any of his back catalog as those two were my favorites, but never say never!
R!S!P! - One of the best releases of last year, in my opinion, was your Black Devil Doll From Hell/Tales From The Quadead Zone DVD release. Given just how obscure these films were and the rumors that director Chester Turner was long dead, how tough was it to track him down and convince him to give this a shot?
LJ - Why thank you very much! Tracking down Chester was a feat in its own right. Pre-Massacre I was looking for him just to talk to him because I loved his films and I really wanted to see if he had a pre-record of ‘Tales from the Quadead Zone,’ but after years and years of dead ends and the rumors of his death, it really seemed like a lost cause. But every few months or so, I would scour records and phone books looking for someone/anyone involved with the films. Then I went on a trip to Chicago and was visiting old video stores, one clerk mentioned some crazy woman coming in and trying to sell them one of Chester’s films… so I did a more remote search just around that video store and ended up finding him!
Once in contact with him, he pretty much agreed immediately and loved the idea. At first he just thought I was crazy, but later on he realized his films did have a very loyal fanbase.
R!S!P! - You toured with Chester to promote these movies, doing some theatrical showings and signings and what not. What was the response like to these movies when they were shown theatrically and how did Chester feel about all of this?
LJ - Chester didn’t really think anyone liked the films and just was curious why I did. I kept telling him over and over again that there are a devout following for his films. The first public appearance we did was Cinema Wasteland in Ohio…right when the convention opened there was a massive line at the table. I guess it’s not every day people get to meet a dead man. After that we did screenings around the country…LA, NY, ATX, IL and PA. Pretty much every screening was sold out! He loved every second of it! At some of the screenings the star of the films, Shirley L. Jones, attended and she also loved it. She is a delight as well!
R!S!P! - Any plans for more Massacre Video screenings in the future?
LJ – Absolutely! I know the Spectacle in New York is screening some of our titles soon in their film fest. I hope to possibly set up some ‘Mr. No Legs’ screenings once the time comes! Also some ‘Mondo Magic’ 35mm screenings would be stellar.
R!S!P! - Your recent release of Mondo Magic is the full uncut version. This was previously pretty tough to find. What inspired you to dig up and uncut 35mm source? Where did you find it and what to you is the appeal of Mondo films or films like Orozco The Embalmer (which you also released) that feature ‘real life’ taboo shattering footage and scenes?
LJ - Mondo films have always been something I’ve been interested in. Why? I am not sure, I don’t like real death per say... but I find the shock films extremely interesting in more aspects than just what is shown in the film. I always liked the stories behind why they were created, who did it and how they were advertised. I still remember being in elementary or middle school and seeing the boxes for “Faces of Death,” “Executions,” “Faces of Gore” and so on and so forth. Hopefully soon we will be releasing a few more shockumentaries, but time will tell on that one.
R!S!P! - One of the coolest aspects of Massacre Video releases, regardless of format, is the cover art. What do you strive for when coming up with the cover art for your releases and how important is it to ‘get it right’ when you’ve probably got a zillion other things to consider like extras, licensing and distribution?
LJ - I am lucky to have an amazing graphic designer by the name of Earl Kess. He has pretty much been with MV since the distribution aspect came into play. We met because he would always outbid me on VHS tapes on eBay and I messaged him to see what was up with that. He showed me some posters he created for an event he had started called “Severed,” which he now does at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, he did a really kick ass promo poster for ‘555’ for me, and then the '555' DVD when that came to fruition. Since then he has designed every single cover (around 60 or so at this point if I am not mistaken including all of the different editions) and every one of them he knocks out of the park!
Cover art is pretty important for him and me. I am very OCD with the Massacre covers so we both strive for perfection with them!
R!S!P! - You probably get this a lot but is The Abomination ever going to get reissued or are we just shit out of luck?
LJ - I would personally LOVE to do ‘The Abomination’ again as we have already done it on VHS, but sadly the licensor is just not ready to do a DVD as of yet. Perhaps one day, I am keeping my fingers crossed. I have seen a digital transfer from the U-Matic tapes and it looks absolutely beautiful!
R!S!P! - You gave Adam Ahlbrandt’s Cross Bearer a VHS release. Is there a DVD in the works? What can we expect from the upcoming Blu-ray release of his movie The Cemetery?
LJ - Toe Tag Inc has actually released a really nice DVD set of ‘Crossbearer’ which can be purchased at www.toetag.biz. ‘The Cemetery’ Blu-ray is going to be absolutely awesome. It will be our first Blu-ray release and we had to go a bit over the top with it! It is a 4-disc set that is hand numbered and limited to 1000 copies. It will be available exclusively at the Massacre Video site directly and at DiabolikDVD.
R!S!P! - You’ve also got The Nostril Picker coming out on DVD soon – sell this one. What makes this a disc to own and what sort of extras and assorted craziness should be expected from this genuine obscurity? Any crazy stories about working on this?
LJ - Well the movie is called ‘The Nostril Picker,’ so who really does not need that in their collection!? Joking aside, it is an awesome low budget 80s film shot in Michigan that is based around a perverted old man who is taught the magical power to change his appearance to anything he wants. Naturally he picks a high school girl and begins picking off young girls one by one... and even eating them! As far as extras go, we have a great interview with the producer/cinematographer Patrick J Mathews, a very extensive behind the scene still gallery and a DVD-Rom press kit.
No real crazy stories about the release, it was a title I had talked to Earl about doing because I think the movie is a lot of fun. One day I was driving with Joe Rubin from Vinegar Syndrome and I mentioned that I wanted to release that film, he then started talking about how he had the rights to it but since it was edited on video (shot on 16mm) that he couldn’t do it under the Vinegar Syndrome label. So we agreed to do a co-branded release under Massacre Video!
R!S!P! - Some of the coolest news of 2014 was your announcement that you’d sealed the deal to bring the infamous Mr. No Legs to video in the coming months. How tough was this one to finalize? What was involved in tracking down the rights to the movie and what can fans expect from this release once it’s all said and done?
LJ - The deal itself for ‘Mr No Legs’ was not extremely hard to finalize, the licensor is an absolute delight and one of the most kind/nice people I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking with! The main problem was the film elements, which all seem to have just disappeared off the face of the earth. I talked to the licensor for over a year and sadly they did not have any elements any more, but luckily after hours of researching I found a 35mm print in the hands of a print collector, so I wound up buying that from this collector. I am still looking for more prints and even the negatives, but we will see within the coming weeks if anything is found!
Regardless, right now I have one complete print of ‘Mr. No Legs’ and it will be amazing to see this film scanned in! So people should toss their awful bootlegs sourced off PAL tapes.
R!S!P! - What else is in the works for 2014/2015 that you can talk about?
LJ - 2014 has been rather busy but 2015 is going to top it! Obviously ‘Mr. No Legs’ is going to be a really big one, we are going to take our time on it to make sure it is perfect! But aside from that we have ‘Battle For The Lost Planet’ and ‘Mutant War,’ the two early Brett Piper efforts, ‘The Brightside Trilogy’ by Ron DeCaro, the infamous ‘In Hell Production’ shorts, ‘Black Past’ from German gore master Olaf Ittenbach, the two classic SOV films ‘Spine’ and ‘Venus Flytrap,’ plus a few more goodies!
There are a few I can’t talk about yet, but one of the titles in particular is a really good one! Plus we just signed the contracts for an epic foreign erotic SOV gore film... but I am waiting a bit to announce that one!
R!S!P! – You, sir, are a cock tease. Seriously though, it sounds like great things are in store for the coming year. Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to do this, we and our readers appreciate it!
For more info on Massacre Video releases, check out their website here and if you do the Facebook thing, they’ve got that too. And while you’re at it, check them out on twitter and instragram too.