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Monday, May 25, 2009

Famous People Love Horror: Lunchmeat and the Wonderful World of VHS

Name: Josh Schafer and Ted Gilbert

Occupation: Co-Creators of Lunchmeat, A VHS Fanzine

Horror Fan Credentials:

a) Collectively own thousands of VHS horror movies.
b) Co-creators of one of the most original zines in years.
c) Have extensive knowledge of sweet 80's VHS cover art.

Part 1: Lunchmeat Talks Desert Island Essentials

DJ Sorce-1: I absolutely love Lunchmeat. I think it’s the coolest thing that I’ve seen in a long time.

Josh: That’s awesome man. Thank you.

Ted: Thanks man.

DJ Sorce-1: I’m curious…if you were on a desert island and you had to pick the best VHS only movies, which ones would you pick?

Josh: For starters, you gotta bring Lunchmeat man. I’ve watched that film numerous times, over and over again.

Besides Lunchmeat, I would definitely bring Eyes of Fire. It’s a lot of fun and really surreal. The movie starts when a random woman is found by a soldier and starts babbling a tale of witches and madness to him. The woman was part of a settlement that had recently brought in a priest. The priest started fornicating with wives in the settlement, so the people living there tried to hang him. While they were trying to hang him, the rope of the noose broke. After he escaped, the villagers followed him to another settlement that ends up being haunted. It’s a really creepy, atmospheric film. I’m shocked it’s not on DVD, because some of the imagery is remarkable. Eyes of Fire is way up there on my all-time list.

Ted: Another cool, schlocky, drive style in movies is Night of the Demon. I think it might have had one DVD release, but it’s way out of print, costs a ton of money, and is hard to find. Night of the Demon is a really cool Bigfoot/satanic cult movie with tons of fun gore all the way through it. Some schlocky movies have great covers but don’t really deliver. Night of the Demon delivers the whole way through. Anyone interested in these types of movies should pick it up. There’s a satanic cult that revolves around a Bigfoot like figure in the backwoods somewhere. The plot follows an anthropology teacher who takes his students into the woods to investigate the disappearances related to the creature that have been happening. You can probably figure out where it goes from there. There are flashbacks to all the different disappearances, tons of fun carnage, and it’s really entertaining the whole way through. The VHS of it is on BTI. It’s a little bit tough to find and it can be kind of pricey, but it’s definitely worth buying.

Josh: Another definite selection is House of the Long Shadows with Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine. I’m a huge fan of Vincent Price and the rest of those guys. All four give great performances in a film that was shot pretty late in their careers. Its got a good plot and you can watch it over and over again. You really get a taste of each actor’s strengths. It’s very surprising to me that this film is not available on DVD. With those kinds of names, you think it would be straightaway.

Ted: You’d think they would sell enough copies to justify putting it on DVD just by throwing Vincent Price’s name on the cover.

Josh: And Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The edition I have is really cool too. It’s an MGM big box that folds out.

Ted: Another flick that jumps out at me is Spasms. It’s a killer date movie. In terms of plot and story line it’s not necessarily that great. Oliver Reed is in it. He turns in the best performances, even when he’s in the worst movies. It has some great special effects in a few parts. I think Dick Smith did the special effects. He’s a noteworthy, classic special effects guy. When the snake in the movie bites people their skin bubbles up and its pretty fun to watch. That one is supposed to be getting a DVD release, which is cool.

Josh: Rolling Thunder. This is another one of those films that would benefit greatly from having a good DVD transfer. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones and William Devane and revolves around a Vietnam vet that comes back to the states after going crazy because of the war. This film is gritty, nasty, and very well acted. William Devane does a great job and some of the scenes in it are really brutal.

Ted: Island of Lost Souls. It’s sort of an A-typical Lunchmeat movie in that it’s from the 1930’s instead of an 80’s low budget or direct to video film. Island of Lost Souls is a classic horror movie based on the Island of Doctor Moreau by HG Wells. The film has a great atmosphere and really cool effects for the time. The story is about somebody who winds up on an island with a mad scientist who is trying to turn animals into people. There are lots of half animal, half human creatures running around. Bela Lugosi plays one of them. It’s one of his best roles as an actor and one of his most sympathetic characters. His performance deserves to be up there with any of his other classics from that era. He was a supporting role, but he steals the show in a lot of ways. For anyone into classic horror, that’s a must see. It deserves a special edition DVD treatment because it really is classic. Luckily it has a good Universal VHS release.

Josh: That’s a pretty appropriate choice because it takes place on an island.

Part 2: Lunchmeat Talks VHS Collecting, Cover Art, and More

DJ Sorce-1: Do you guys have a long running history of watching movies together?

Josh: I work at a mail order for a record label. Ted started working there a little while after I did. Eventually we started talking to each other about film and films we liked on VHS.

Ted: We both had interest in the same kind of movies and liked writing about them. It seemed like a really fun idea to start a zine. We put it together and weren’t really sure if we were going to get any reactions, let alone good reactions. We’ve had a ton of fun doing it and a lot of people have been excited with Lunchmeat since we put it out.

DJ Sorce-1: I find myself looking for titles at flea markets that you guys might not know about yet after reading the first two issues.

Ted: We love it when people contact us with their favorite movie that they wish more people know about and would like to see in Lunchmeat. We love turning people onto movies that they’ve never heard of before, but it’s just as fun to have people let us know about movies that we’ve never seen.

DJ Sorce-1: That’s a really cool take on it. I like that you guys are open to hearing about other peoples favorite flicks even though you know so much about VHS only horror movies already.

Josh: It’s all about trying to form a community. There are so many films on VHS in the horror genre that are so great and need to be seen.

Ted: I don’t even think you could come up with a comprehensive list of the movies out there that aren’t on DVD and slipped through the cracks somehow. We’re always finding out about new ones that we’ve never seen. That’s the fun part of making Lunchmeat. Putting out the magazine gives us extra drive to look out for something new that we’ve never seen.

DJ Sorce-1: It’s amazing some of the stuff that they will release on DVD compared to some of the stuff they won’t. It seems like some of the VHS only horror movies out there have enough demand to make money and are great films yet they don’t get re-released.

Ted: It’s interesting, I’m not sure if that has to do with getting caught up in ownership rights or not enough people not knowing the movies exist to create a market for it. It might have to do with some of the people who own the rights to these films not thinking it’s worthwhile to go through the effort of a DVD release, which is just crazy. Some of these movies have a huge market. Some of them not so much, but with a lot of them you wonder why people have been missing out.

DJ Sorce-1: I didn’t realize that some VHS movies still commanded a high price. I checked out some VHS tapes like Night of the Creeps on Amazon and I was surprised by how much it cost. It was over $20.

Josh: You would not believe the prices if you get really into it. I was talking to my friend Lewis about this. I saw Last House on Dead End Street go for over $200 on BETA. You see people selling videos for hundreds of dollars with Buy It Now. It’s crazy how high the prices will go.

Ted: We were actually just talking about how it seems like due to EBay and Amazon prices have gotten inflated a little bit recently. If you’re diligent, the way to really go about it is to keep hitting up flea markets, yard sales, and thrift stores. You can come across some real gems that they’re practically giving away for free.

Josh: I totally agree. I’ve found some of the best stuff I own at flea markets. You really get a thrill when you find a video that way and you get it for a great price. Some stuff at the flea markets is old rentals but you can also find non rental movies from people’s personal collections.

Ted: Just the other day we were trying to put together a spread of the five coolest satanic cover art images for the next issue. We were searching EBay and found some awesome images and movie covers we’d never seen before or heard of. We each ended up dropping something like $40 for a tape.

DJ Sorce-1: How many VHS tapes would you guys say you each own?

Josh: I have upwards of 1,000. I have so much here at the apt and my parent’s house. I keep amassing it. I never sit down and count it, but I have a lot.

Ted: I’m probably somewhere in the hundreds. We both feel like we have a lot of tapes, but then we started running into people at conventions that were ridiculous. We met one dude with over 7,000 VHS tapes.

Josh: Yeah, he was like, “They’re on my bed and all over my room. I sleep with some of them on my bed.”

Ted: That’s what has been fun about this. We’ve been meeting people who are as crazy about these movies as we are. Sometimes they’re even crazier about them than we are.

Josh: It’s a perfect tradeoff. We get to share these movies with everyone and then people will put us on to something that we’ve never heard of.

DJ Sorce-1: Are you happy when a VHS only film you like gets a DVD release? It seems like there’s something cool about it being available solely on VHS because only a committed group know about the film. Are you happy when a film gets transferred to DVD and more people will be able to pick it up?

Ted: I’m excited, especially when a VHS movie gets a good transfer. Some of these movies are high quality and deserve the presentation a DVD can give that a VHS can’t. I still think there is something special about the VHS. Many horror movies have great VHS covers and the marketing. Even when some of these films get put on DVD, I think there is a reason to hang on to the VHS tape for nostalgic and historic purposes.

Josh: I totally agree with Ted. I think VHS has a value all its own. If you see a movie get a DVD release, you really want to see it get a cool treatment, especially if it’s a great movie. I think If Eyes of Fire could really benefit from a good transfer. The same person who did special effects on Nightmare on Elm Street did them for Eyes of Fire and the special effects and imagery are great. The visuals could really benefit from a good DVD release.

Ted: There’s also something about the VHS format that is so durable. You can play tapes that are twenty and thirty years old. If they’ve been played a million times, sure, there’s going to be some wear. You’re not going to be able to play a DVD in 20 years; they just don’t have that kind of lifespan. VHS has been released since the late 70’s. The last official studio release on VHS was in 2005. That’s a long running format. Whatever comes around after DVD, whether it is Blue Ray or something else, won’t be around for 30 years, that’s for sure. VHS managed to be the pinnacle of home video for so many years. It’s a really cool part of media history.

DJ Sorce-1: I really hear you on the VHS covers being special and irreplaceable. One of my favorite all time movies is Christmas Evil. The transfer they did for the special edition DVD looks great, but the cover art compared to the original wasn’t the same. I wish they had used the original hand drawn 80’s cover.

Josh: There was so much cool stuff back then. That’s an important value VHS tapes have, you have the box cover to look at. There are so many great artists who designed unforgettable covers and you can’t find credit for the artists anywhere.

DJ Sorce-1: That would be a great article right there, to track down 80’s horror movie cover artists.

Josh: Yeah, we’ve talked about that. Unfortunately, from what we’ve seen, there’s little to no information out there. I’d love to find out who did these covers and give them some credit. Box art is how I’ve found some of my favorite VHS movies. I’ll see some cool box art and pick up the movie just for that.

DJ Sorce-1: There was a video store in Amherst, MA that I used to hit up all the time when I was in middle school. I used to go there and see the Evil Dead and Basket Case covers. That was what drew me to those movies when I was that age. I would see those fucked up, crazy covers and say, “I want to see that!” It’s cool to see people bringing that vibe back.

Josh: That’s part of what makes those films last. You remember those images. When was the last time you saw a really memorable DVD cover? I used to and still grab stuff just because of the cover.

Mother’s Day

Basket Case

Mountaintop Motel Massacre

and Blood Beach all have great covers. Blood Beach gets engraved in your brain when you’re a kid. That’s out on DVD and will be covered in the next issue.

Ted: We love that stuff and we want to make sure that other people get exposed to it. I think releasing companies nowadays think audiences are more into slick, mundane, digital covers, and they might be right, but there are those of us that still appreciate that showmanship and spectacle of VHS covers.

These sort of movies tend to be an acquired taste. There are a lot of micro budget independent films and they can be slow at times and rough around the edges. There is something cool about how endearing they are as independent films. A couple of guys were really excited about making a movie. They may have not been Hitchcock but they had the passion. The more you watch these movies the more you appreciate that. I think that is also a lot of the appeal of hanging on to these tapes and continuing to talk about them. Home video gave a lot of independent filmmakers an avenue to do what they wanted to do.

DJ Sorce-1: You guys had a picture of the movie cover for a Tiny Tim movie called Blood Harvest in the first issue of Lunchmeat. I just started laughing when I saw the cover and had to ask about it.

Josh: Have you seen it before?

DJ Sorce-1: No.

Ted: I think “Holy shit; is this real?” is the reaction everyone has when they see that cover.

Josh: Dude, you have to see it. You think Tiny Tim is creepy by himself? Try him in a movie when he’s dressed up like a clown. Some of it, like the opening scene, is really brutal. The version I have is hosted by Joe Bob Briggs so you get a little treat from him in the beginning. I think Blood Harvest might have been on DVD at one point but was pressed around 2000 in a limited amount. A lot of tapes you see on EBay that go for a lot of cash were one DVD at some point but haven’t been reissued in a while. A lot of times the VHS version will be the uncut version or at least cut differently.

Ted: A lot of things that get released on DVD, especially budget DVD, are not the original cut of the movie. Sometimes they’ll even throw the TV cut on those DVD’s.

Josh: I definitely have some VHS tapes that look better than the DVD version of the same film.

Ted: We always think that DVD is a superior form of media. It is, but the transfer has to be done well. If things are going to be put on DVD, I want to see the full anamorphic transfer with the colors and contrasts fixed. Oftentimes they don’t do that. You have to hand it to the company putting out the film on one hand because they are making rare movies widely available. I think that’s great, but it doesn’t mean the DVD release is necessarily better. It’s not as fun either. You mentioned earlier that you collect records. There’s something permanent about a vinyl record that is fun and kind of special. I think there is a similar quality to VHS tapes.

Part 3: Lunchmeat Talks Zine vs. Net and Start-Up Costs

DJ Sorce-1: Agreed. One thing I love about what you guys have done is you didn’t just go straight to the internet. That’s what I’m guilty of. A lot of people these days just start a blog, and that’s what I did. I like that you guys made something tangible. I’ve given up on almost every magazine I used to read. Most of them are either defunct or complete garbage now. Recently I found Horror Hound and Lunchmeat and I was really excited that there are magazines out there that I still want to own. I love magazines and appreciate that you guys put in the effort to make something you can hold in your hands and flip the pages of.

Josh: It’s all about having something there. That’s the same as the essence of these tapes that we collect. Hopefully Lunchmeat will be around for a while.

Ted: It’s great to hear that you’re excited about that. The internet is cool and it’s an amazing venue for sharing information. I’m not going to badmouth the internet. But it really was important for me to do this in print. I think Josh agrees. We love things like comic books and VHS tapes. These are things that you own and can keep looking at, they are something tangible. I was excited that we were able to do in print.

DJ Sorce-1: How were the startup costs? I’ve always wanted to start a zine but get scared away by the thought of start-up costs.

Josh: It really depends of what you want to do. There are a lot of different places online that can help you print something up.

Ted: It’s a couple of bucks per magazine, so it’s not necessarily cheap. We decided that we were ok with sinking some money into it in the beginning to get it off the ground. Luckily people have been into it, it’s sold well, and now we’re working on more issues.

Josh: If you just want to start small you can just do what you can afford at first. We put money into Lunchmeat knowing that we might not get much of a reaction. Like Ted said, luckily people like it and we get to keep doing it.

Lunchmeat is HEAVILY endorsed by DJ Sorce-1. Make sure you go to their MySpace and buy both


Josh and Ted decided to hook me up with some amazing high quality scans of their favorite VHS covers for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.


nes said...

my brother would dig this lunchmeat zine, he has a pretty sweet 'fangoria' collection from the 80's. The best is when movies like Basket Case end up having like 3 or 4 sequels. lol.

DJ SORCE-1 said...

Lunchmeat is the ish. It's a really cool concept and I can't help but feel a connection between vinyl and vhs fans, as we both seem to be defunct media fanatics. I still have to see Basket Case 3. 2 was weak, the OG was one of my all time favorites, and I hear the 3rd is ridiculous.