Chas Balun, Blackest Heart Media and the oldschool bootleg tape scene - Also, lolcows of exploitation/horror past.

BrunoMattei

No I am not the Cinema Snob
True & Honest Fan
This is history thread for oldschool horror/exploitation movies. Back in the day, roughly 20-30 years ago. Movies weren't easy to find. For you Zoomers out there, keep in mind that VHS tapes could cost upwards of $50-100 brand new. There was eventually Ebay but there was still a lot of shit that was hard to find even though there was a demand for it. There was a point in time when the original Nightmare on Elm Street movies, up until part 5, released by MEDIA video were out of print. There were re-released on VHS and DVD years later. But there was a point in time where if you wanted to own a copy of Evil Dead 1 (and that was a very rare tape until the endless re-releases) then fuck you, you have to get lucky or know someone or read a catalog and order a bootleg tape. Ordering said bootleg you had to hope and pray that the quality was watchable.

A big reason why that generation (late 80's into the 90's) was able to get those tapes was due to people like Chas Balun. Sure, there was Fangoria and the short-lived Gorezone but they rarely focused on more obscure shit. Namely anything made outside of America and especially independent films. Very few people knew of Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Andy Milligan, Herschel Gordon Lewis, Japanese horror, Hong Kong CAT III movies (like The Untold Story). That's not even approaching finding the uncut versions of the movies and talking about the censorship from the MPAA. See attached PDF for more on that.

You had to know which release was uncut. Often settling for a bootleg of a Japanese or Dutch tape with burnt in subtitles and sometimes genital blurring. You want to see the uncut version of The Burning with every second of fuck you gory Tom Savin effects? You have to get the Japanese tape.

Chas Balun was one of the first people to talk about this shit via his fanzine Deep Red and later releasing books of mini reviews chronicling all of these movies.


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He also sold tapes as well. Partly as a means to fund his self-publishing and also to get the word out on these movies. From Chas and others, the bootleg tape trading scene became a thing, more and more people were talking about shit like Suspiria, Xtro, Man Behind the Sun, and Brian Yuzna's Society. Chas's review style was blunt and to the point. Never holding anything back if it sucked and once describing a film as "Sucks dead dog farts."


RIP Chas.

Another site that's pretty important insofar as spreading the word is Blackest Heart Media:


The owner started a line of Fulci comics, sold t-shirts through the company Rotten Cotton. https://rottencotton.com/ And sold tapes. The descriptions for which are amazing. Sadly, Shawn 'Smith' Lewis got into a car accident last year and sold Rotten Cotton. Ending something of a legacy. But now, some choice reviews from Shawn:

THE SINFUL DWARF (4+) A sex starved dwarf and his junkie mother run a fuck-house disguised is a boarding house. They kidnap young women, keep them as sex slaves, and get them hooked on drugs. Non stop sex and over grown pussy hair. Thank God women trim that shit these days! If your woman lets that shit grow to long don't be afraid to tell her what's up. If she still won't cut it then send her overgrown hairy ass my way. She'll be a bald-ass horny bitch when I'm done with her meat. (AO)

SCARLET DIVA (5) Asian Argento's latest film! And its jam packed with NUDITY! See Asia's big over grown messy stinky Italian BUSH! See her shave her arm pits! See her play with her tits and bush! See her OD on drugs! See her get fucked in the ass by rapper Schoolly D! Whats it about? Who fucking cares??? Unfortunately its in Italian only with No subs, but it doesn't fucking matter, big stinky Italian BUSH is an universal language! Order now or go fuck yourself. Letterboxed!

SUPER SOUL BROTHER (3) aka 6 Thousand Dollar Nigger. Funny as hell black exploitation flick from the 70's. A scientist develops a drug that turns a street bum into a super mac daddy! Man I wish I could get me some of that smack!

TARD SPASM! THE EXTENDED VERSION! (5) I've been searching for this bastard for the last 6 years! Finally found the son-of-a-bitch! And its in beautiful quality! Most of you are familiar with the original Tard Spasm in our catalog, it was only about 10 minutes and was included on a tape of your choice with any order. I can't count the number letters we got from that trashy tape, you guys loved it a cried for more, well here it is...The complete concert! It's about an hour of the punk/metal band GOBSTOPPER performing live at CHILDREN'S HAVEN in Sarasota Florida. Children's Haven is a hospital that cares for the fucking rejects of our society. Hundreds of handicapped and mentally retarded losers that were given up at birth or thrown in a dumpster only to be found by some fucking _bleeding heart_. Can you blame the parents? Who wants to raise a fucking tard? It's a life time gig baby, that inhuman lump of flesh will never grow up, never have a life of their own. YOU will be that child's life for eternity. Wiping the sloppy tard-drool from his mouth, cleaning the over-sized green boogers from his nose, and scraping the 4-day old crusted shit from his ass. I say fuck that. Let the pussy bleeding hearts clean the dried crusted shit from their asses. That ain't fo'me_I say put 'em in a rocket and send them to the moon, or better yet shoot then all in the heads, do you think they really want to live? Okay, I'll get down from my anti-tard soap box now...Anyway, this tape is a mutherfuckin' must for all Blackest Heart customers. It is the funniest shit you will ever see and that is a PROMISE! It is the ultimate party tape, pop this in the VCR and soon you'll see who your REAL friends are. All wimps, pussies, and bleeding heart losers will clear the room faster than you can say CHROMOSOME ! Can you imagine an hour of the shitiest band in the world rocking out to a room full of retards? See tards try to dance and mosh with some of the funniest results ever captured on video. The tape also features _interviews_ with some of your favorite tards! Order one today. Since the tape is only about an hour we have filled it up with trailers and tons of other wacky shit. You can't go wrong with this classic.

VIOLENT PROTECTION (4) Aka Violent Naples. A bad ass Italian crime thriller directed by Umberto Lenzi! I've had this on tape for a few years now and never got around to watching it until now. If I had any idea how fucking cool it was I wouldn't have waited so long. A hot headed cop (whom looks like a young Chuck Norris but with Clint Eastwood's attitude) is transferred to Naples to deal with their Mafia problem. This guy takes no fucking shit, he kicks ass from the first 5 minutes of this classic until the credits roll. Fuck that _you have the right to remain silent_ shit, its more like _you have the right to get kicked in the mouth and spit out teeth_. Also the dialog (in English) is funnier than shit and the action scenes fuckin rock!

WATERPOWER (5) (1976) This is the sickest, most depraved porno ever made. And for the first time ever you can see it in its complete, uncut, and totally uncensored form! So what is it? Sure you want to know? Okay… Jamie Gillis plays this real fucked-up perverted low-life prick who gets his kicks from breaking into the homes of women and forcefully giving them enemas! No its not some light hearted comedy you'll find on LIFETIME but an extremely hateful, mean spirited, romp that leaves a slimy shit-stained taste on your pallet. If you get off on seeing water fly out of chick's dirty poop-holes, then this is the movie for you pal! This is the complete version with all the ass spraying scenes intact and if this sick shit gets your cock hard then you got some serious fuckin' issues, seek professional help. Never released in the US, order it and see why. Adults only and sorry, no orders to anywhere in the UK or CANADA, customs will just snag it anyway, raid your "flat", and toss your ass in the slammer so what is the point? (AO)


ACCION MUTANTE (5) Beautiful letterboxed upgrade with English subs. A wacky-ass group of handicapped criminals out to terrorize normal folk, it will make you think twice next time you piss on one of those handicapped toilets or steal one of their cool parking spaces. Cool FX, gore, and great music. In Spanish with English subs, letterboxed.
 

Attachments

  • The Gutting of Leatherface by Chas Balun (originally published in DEEP RED ALERT issue1, Fall ...pdf
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AlexaAutismo

NEVER SHOULD'VE COME HERE
Great read about the horror and exploitation scene of the respective eras. I’ve always loved the directors mentioned, especially Herschell Gordon Lewis as he was my introduction to the origins of the gore film. I absolutely love 2000 Maniacs among others of his. I find the origins of all of this extremely fascinating, and Herschell’s own little documentary piece on the Criterion Channel only fueled my fire to know more.

The censorship as you mentioned was insane, to the point where they were usually outright banned, and you had to screen it yourself(as some directors like to say), or find someone who was enthusiastic enough to do these bootleg showings.

God bless you OP for the write up and PDF. Can’t wait to dig even deeper and continue the discussion!
 

BrunoMattei

No I am not the Cinema Snob
True & Honest Fan
I still have my Cannibal Ferox/Zombie soundtrack CD kicking around from Blackest Heart Media.

Wasn't Chas Balun the one who got involved with dopey Charlie Sheen and Sheen thinking one of the Guinea Pig films was a real snuff film?

That's right! Good catch. Blackest Heart Media was one of the first companies to issue the soundtracks for Zombie, House by the Cemetery, Cannibal Ferox, City of the Living Dead and The Beyond.


They issued a release of House by the Cemetery/Manhattan Baby soundtrack CD and proceeds would go to pay for a tombstone for Fulci's grave.

On your second point, what happened is Chas made a gory compilation tape that had Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood on there. Charlie Sheen happened to see this tape at a party and contacted the FBI who in turn contacted Chas. Which lead to the makers of the Guinea Pig movies to put out a Making Of video of part 2 and no longer make fake snuff films. As disappointing as that was but Mermaid in a Manhole was quite good.
 

AlexaAutismo

NEVER SHOULD'VE COME HERE
That's right! Good catch. Blackest Heart Media was one of the first companies to issue the soundtracks for Zombie, House by the Cemetery, Cannibal Ferox, City of the Living Dead and The Beyond.


They issued a release of House by the Cemetery/Manhattan Baby soundtrack CD and proceeds would go to pay for a tombstone for Fulci's grave.

On your second point, what happened is Chas made a gory compilation tape that had Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood on there. Charlie Sheen happened to see this tape at a party and contacted the FBI who in turn contacted Chas. Which lead to the makers of the Guinea Pig movies to put out a Making Of video of part 2 and no longer make fake snuff films. As disappointing as that was but Mermaid in a Manhole was quite good.
Guinea Pig series is a classic. Especially since it had like 0 budget.
 
Midnight Video was another one but the owner was an asshole and the tapes were over priced at $30 a piece.
Midnight Video was one of my go to sources, but that was probably because I didn't know better. I loved getting the MM catalog and discovering movies I never heard about.
 

BrunoMattei

No I am not the Cinema Snob
True & Honest Fan
Midnight Video was one of my go to sources, but that was probably because I didn't know better. I loved getting the MM catalog and discovering movies I never heard about.

They had some good shit but like I mentioned, the owner was an asshole. I could go into some lolcow shit with him and another guy.
 
I'm a bit more familiar with the collector's market for these films than the bootleg scene, but I definitely have a few memories.

As you say, it was frequently quite challenging to acquire these sorts of films, particularly if you were in more ban-happy places like the UK. Legit copies of out-of-print videos like Suspiria and The Evil Dead could command quite a premium. You could do quite well at the time selling these films to people in foreign countries where they were completely unavailable (or only available censored). The price of the movie + charges for a conversion to PAL format + special handling fees (in other words, putting the movie in a fake box cover so customs wouldn't seize it, then sending the cover in a separate envelope a little while later) made for a pretty nice sale when you could do it. Of course, sometimes they got seized despite your best efforts, so it was a definite risk.
 

BrunoMattei

No I am not the Cinema Snob
True & Honest Fan
I'm a bit more familiar with the collector's market for these films than the bootleg scene, but I definitely have a few memories.

As you say, it was frequently quite challenging to acquire these sorts of films, particularly if you were in more ban-happy places like the UK. Legit copies of out-of-print videos like Suspiria and The Evil Dead could command quite a premium. You could do quite well at the time selling these films to people in foreign countries where they were completely unavailable (or only available censored). The price of the movie + charges for a conversion to PAL format + special handling fees (in other words, putting the movie in a fake box cover so customs wouldn't seize it, then sending the cover in a separate envelope a little while later) made for a pretty nice sale when you could do it. Of course, sometimes they got seized despite your best efforts, so it was a definite risk.

It's crazy to me that the tabloids and the BBFC (British Board of Film Censorship) went after these movies so hard and equated them to actual snuff films. It got to a point where "Video Nasty" and "Snuff" were interchangeable in the press and public dialog when describing these movies. It didn't help that the movie Snuff was a Video Nasty which confused the Boomers.

BBFC finally relaxed when the Gestapo James Ferman finally fucking died. Kind of like when Jack Valenti left the MPAA and died a few years later but at least in America, the MPAA couldn't outright ban the movies.
 
Didn't Chas also try breaking into film himself? I remember reading his book Butcher's Pride and he noted in the forward that it was originally a movie he was gonna direct with Gunner Hansen head lining.
 

BrunoMattei

No I am not the Cinema Snob
True & Honest Fan
Didn't Chas also try breaking into film himself? I remember reading his book Butcher's Pride and he noted in the forward that it was originally a movie he was gonna direct with Gunner Hansen head lining.

He got involved with Jim Van Bebber and they made a trailer to get financing for Chunkblower (a term coined by Chas) but alas, it never happened:

 
It's crazy to me that the tabloids and the BBFC (British Board of Film Censorship) went after these movies so hard and equated them to actual snuff films. It got to a point where "Video Nasty" and "Snuff" were interchangeable in the press and public dialog when describing these movies. It didn't help that the movie Snuff was a Video Nasty which confused the Boomers.

BBFC finally relaxed when the Gestapo James Ferman finally fucking died. Kind of like when Jack Valenti left the MPAA and died a few years later but at least in America, the MPAA couldn't outright ban the movies.

It's been literally decades, but as I recall, it was a similar story in Ireland and Australia. Though I think both those countries were mostly just following the BBFC's lead on it. It's funny to think of how hard it really was to get these films in certain countries back then.

On the bootleg note, one other "fun" quirk of the bootleg scene was that some of the less scrupulous/knowledgeable bootleg vendors had a really bad habit of having videos where the cover for the tape was a completely different movie than the actual tape itself. Probably not as much of a problem with the bigger mail-order guys like Chas, but at a local comic book convention or something, it was kinda a crap shoot as to what movie you actually got.
 

BrunoMattei

No I am not the Cinema Snob
True & Honest Fan
It's been literally decades, but as I recall, it was a similar story in Ireland and Australia. Though I think both those countries were mostly just following the BBFC's lead on it. It's funny to think of how hard it really was to get these films in certain countries back then.

On the bootleg note, one other "fun" quirk of the bootleg scene was that some of the less scrupulous/knowledgeable bootleg vendors had a really bad habit of having videos where the cover for the tape was a completely different movie than the actual tape itself. Probably not as much of a problem with the bigger mail-order guys like Chas, but at a local comic book convention or something, it was kinda a crap shoot as to what movie you actually got.

It was another problem when they got the description for the movie wrong. I remember reading about Poor Pretty Eddie made it seem like it was about a black guy who was dragged behind a truck, survived, and went to get revenge against his tormentors. That wasn't the plot in the slightest. It's more of a Last House on the Left style rape/revenge movie.

The description for Galaxy of Terror almost always got it wrong: everyone described it as the movie where Joanie from Happy Days is raped by a giant maggot. But no, Joanie isn't raped by a giant maggot in the movie. Her head explodes. Another woman is raped by the giant maggot.

 

The Token Ethnic

A Profound Hatred of Man
Didn't mean to necro, but I used to order from Blackest Heart Media/Rotten Cotton. Wasn't their Black Devil Doll from Hell "remake" the final nail in the coffin for that company? I see they're still around slinging shirts. As for Chas. Bauln, I recall that he was upset over the Nacho Cerda movie "Aftermath" and called it distasteful. It'd be nice to get a reprint of his stuff. It'd go along well with something like Sleazoid Express. Even Sleazoid Express had an issue talking shit about Joel M. Reed.
 
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