Monday, April 15, 2024

Chas Balun vs Film Threat


The first time I discovered Chas Balun was through Fangoria. I saw the hypnotic ad featuring the eyes of Christopher Lee from Dracula A.D. 1972 which boasted about “chunkblowers to rip your guts out”. I was thoroughly intrigued and requested a copy of the bootleg catalog, I even ordered the Deep Red delivers shirt and literally wore it until it dissolved off my torso. I was aware of Balun's writing in Fangoria and Gorezone and loved his anarchistic sense of humor and punk/ hippie way of writing. I’d heard all about these Film Threat shit posting letters aimed at one of my heroes Chas Balun. While digging around, I finally found them on 

In the letters between Balun and Manfred Jellinski there is some vitriol and shots fired over contracts and illegal duping. We’re talking about VHS tape deck/ foreign laserdisc technology folks, I mean how archaic. But often that’s what TOG is all about so “Be Kind and Rewind” if you dare. 

Jellinski starts off by telling Balun to stop selling his illegal boots of Nekromantik 1 because Film Threat owns the rights. Next Balun offers free promotion for Buttgereit and Jellinski to spread the word about Nekromatik 2 (which was heavily showcased in DR Alert #1). I recall first seeing the grotesque sight of a nude girl, played by Monica M., fondling a realistically dismembered corpse in a bathtub. I myself didn’t become aware of Film Threat until I bought an issue that mentioned Parker Posey. 

Film Threat and Manfred's response.

The vicious letter ends with Chas basically unglued and irked beyond belief. He calls Film Threat, Chris Gore and his mutant twin “punk snitches” and “quasi-porn merchants”. It seems as though he felt caught and says some idiotic things like “I didn’t make all that much money from bootlegging your films”. I guess he should’ve known better but I still gotta side with the big guy. 

They were very unfair and mean spirited in David E. Williams article. Chas sadly comes off like a “caught child” as M. Jellinski puts it and both sides handled this situation poorly. But for Chris Gore/ Charlie Sheen to sic the U.S. Government on Chas when they knew full well that Guinea Pig (1985) was never an actual snuff film, it comes off as a nasty move. Hashtag Winning! 

To me both sides look childish. I always assumed that Jorg and the Deep Red crew were pals, considering Graham Rae (who briefly wrote for FT), took him along on their journey to see Ed Gein’s gravesite. (read here). 

Both parties are sadly from a bygone era of VHS tape traders and for some that dead format had a sudden resurgence in popularity. I myself collect VHS tapes but prefer the cleaned up version the film makers intended us to view. The technology boom to restore anything of cult media had no signs of stopping, just as long as there are rich nerds with deep pockets willing to re-purchase shit they already bought a month ago, with a handy dandy new slip cover! Whoopie-fucking-doo! 

Seriously though without Fangoria, Gorezone, Deep Red Magazine or Psychotronic Video, where would I turn to for sources of all the horror, cult films I treasure? Film Threat never taught me a thing and I noticed how they seem to despise any bootleggers. The underground would still thrive regardless of who they slandered. These hypocrites would publicly shame the victim, even though years before FT sold bootlegs. In the “hatchet-job” piece called “Busted” by David E. Williams, they mention going after a lowlife named Donald Farmer! Read Xerox Ferox to learn more about that zine writer and film maker. 

FT’s opinion goes so far as to say (and this was written in 1992), "Dario Argento. George Romero. Lucio Fulci. Balun viciously stabs them all in the back by pirating their legally available work and selling it for his personal profit". This is way off base and funnily enough somewhat true. I mean I received The Hypnotic Eye (1960) with commercials, it was taped off of some local station. And I could pretend and say “Oh yeah I can just order the KINO blu-ray for 10$ online instead”, YEAH RIGHT! It wasn’t that fucking easy! The only source you had in the 90s was turning to bootleggers and Yes, the quality was horrendous but if you wanted to see them uncut, Chas had your back. 

In 1992, the pristine uncut versions of these impossibly rare flicks didn’t exist yet and you had all the butchered versions of every Italian Horror available! Instead of Tenebre (1982) you suffered through Unsane (1982). 7 Doors of Death (1981) the truncated version of The Beyond (1981) was all that my local Blockbuster carried and when I saw the original version my jaw dropped (read my review here). As for Romero goes, Deep Red sold the extra-long euro-cut of Dawn of the Dead (1978). 

You can dream that America already had every impossibly rare cult movie at our collective disposal back in the day, ones currently are all getting a 4K restoration (whether it needs one or not)! But I was there and it was a struggle for ghoulish film lunatics because we needed our fix. CB was the main reason for my education in rare underground cult trash films and through the chapters of the Deep Red Horror Handbook, I discovered the works of Buddy G, Jim Van Bebber, Roger Watkins and other influential indie film makers. Balun shared and meagerly profited from his collection of laser discs and duped foreign horrors for those who dabbled in the grey market. Does anyone think Film Threat and the team behind Nekromantik's bullying helped matters? I don't and it made both sides look desperate.  

I also find it fascinating that companies like Grindhouse Releasing, Blue Underground, Severin and VS have all restored the picks Chas celebrated in his books and zines. I submit for your "Rod Serling" type approval that it was Balun who ignited to flame and inspired others to secure the rights for proper release. Not only that, he included some films that are still unreleased in his catalog (or ones that have yet to come out like Run and Kill (1993). This man was light years ahead of his time. I’m glad these legit companies were able to decimate the bootleggers and now the licensed, upgraded versions are available but for decades, a 2nd generation dub of The Beyond (1981), LHODES (1972) or Porno Holocaust (1981) was all that existed in the 90s. This is mainly attributed to censorship in the USA, these VHS dupes were pretty much my only source as a suburban kid trapped in Florida with typically generic Blockbusters or Hollywood Video to rent from. OK, my two sources were 16000 and Video Waves (which carried all the Film Threat shit). 

Lately insane HK movies I only knew existed because of the Deep Red Catalog are getting 4K restorations like Burning Paradise(1994), Blue Jeans Monster (1991) and Ebola Syndrome (1996). These are some fucked up movies that I was only aware of their existence through CB, which inspired me to review them. And YES---like Film Threat accused him of selling out the film makers to get stoned on weed and maybe Orange Sunshine, he committed this petty crime. After this incident, Chas stopped selling boots of Buttgereit’s work. I currently own the Film Threat clamshell VHS and Cult Epics owns the rights now. 

Chas wrote so passionately about Nekromantik in the DR Horror Handbook that it made me want to rent the tape. I did buy a bootleg of Bad Taste (1987) and Meet The Feebles (1989) in high school. Do I feel responsible for causing Peter Jackson to struggle before he made LOTR? Ha fuck no! I mean you could make the argument that the internet devoured all forms of pay media, rendering it all free. Unlike the mean article about Chas printed in Film Threat, at least I didn’t read about how paunchy, childish and backstabbing Chris Gore is. Why go there? And who’s really the childish one here? I’ve never been a fan of FT’s condescending tone and thirst to be accepted by the mainstream Hollywood masses. They are not fondly remembered by me at least and these excerpts come off in my mind as “Punching down”. 

In one picture (the one featured at the start), FT brags about harassing Balun on his turf, the Fango Weekend of Horrors! Nice going choads, bothering a legend who’s trying to mellow out! Chas remains a triumphant educator in my film history knowledge and FT, a cringy reminder that not all zines have something important to say.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Wicked City (1992)

Wicked City. Directed by Peter Mak Tai-Kit (1992). 

This is the live action version of the anime from the 87. It starts off at warp speed and just gets more into Yokai Monster territory as it blurrrrs along in a frenetic pace. A boxer’s BBQ’d corpse shows up. The death is attributed to happiness a new street drug. No, it’s not original “Stummys” the drug from KITH: Brain Candy that makes you happy because like Bruce’s character yells on stage “Fuck Happy”! 
The main character gets a hunch there may be monsters (or REPTOIDS) and we’re off into “Monster land”. It’s a mix of The Hidden (1987) and a heavy dose of film noir severed up psychedelic style. 

The two monster hunting agents are played by Jackie Cheung Hok-Yau (Ken) and Leon Lai Ming (Taki). Cheung was also in two insanely great HK flicks worth seeking out, Bullet in the Head and Haunted Cop Shop 2 (which we reviewed here).

Shock the Macaque monkey

The bros battle giant tentacles that claw their way through flesh. One monster looked like vagina face from Breeders (1984, T. Kincaid). Some of the style and lighting reminds me of The Hunger (1983), very MTV influenced. There’s an unhinged kitchen fight with one of the shapeshifters. A character busts out with neon blue lightning squiggling everywhere even on his eyebrows. It ramps up even further a half hour in as spouts of blue blood pours out of neck stumps. One handsome fellow whom I thought was gonna be the breakout star ends up losing his arms, head and then vomits. Ok so a few mins later he’s back! And just before he was rolling around a power plant in the gentle rain with Gaye, a sexy monster lady who’s involved with one of the Special Monster Squad dudes (the HK one not the Fred Dekker one)! 
you have a date with death

Reptoids are a snobby upscaled Alien race Nakadai Tatsuya plays their leader. One female character who wears the same metal bikini as Princess Lea gets into an epic battle that extends to the parking garage. The power plant is where they get their real jollies off at. Two naked characters party hard and shed limbs like Reptoids totally should and do in their natural habitat! I dunno either, just go with it, this movie assumes you’ve already read the comics and can figure out what’s going on. It somehow doesn’t hinder your enjoyment, which is rad! 

There’s so much action, pretty much non-stop. Oh Yeah, there’s a bizarre scene where a guy fucks a pinball machine. The VHS tape of this one came through the record store that I currently work at and it remains unsold. 

the pinball machine FUCKS!

If you love frenetically paced HK hi-jinx with mucho butt kicking and an all-around monster mash, seek this shit out. The anime is easily available to find on blu/dvd but this live action one is not. I watched it on one of the free Tubi style streamers and it's on in Eng. dubbed form.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Blood Sisters

Blood Sisters (1987). Directed by Roberta Findlay

Ello Kiddies, It’s EROK/CRANKENSTEIN (in the most atrociously Crypt Keeper-esque as I can muster) I’m back at it again. I hit the pause button and just didn’t feel like writing that much plus the movies just kept piling up and it was overwhelming to say the least. Currently, I found a job at a record store and have access to all the kinds of flicks that I used to order from the DR catalog back in the day. I mean for fuck's sake The Seventh Curse is on blu-ray and available for any child to watch on Tubi! The future for underground cult media has us all collectively spoiled. And thankfully all these companies are upgrading and making the second-hand merch mine for the sole enjoyment and less desirable to the one who upgraded to 4K or Blu. Y'all can upgrade into oblivion, I'll take the scraps and leftover blu/DVD/VHS trimmings.

This film in question was on a straight up DVD with Joe Bob Briggs commentary. Why would I rent this movie by notoriously inept porn director Roberta Findlay? Um mainly because Joe Bob does the intro and was on the box cover. He only gave it 3 stars and boasted that it’s no Tenement! Read the review for that aforementioned flick here 

Joshua John Miller in drag?

Walter Sear who scored both 7 Doors of Death (The Beyond) and Dr. Butcher (the snuff Maximus cut phones in the drab jazzy music heard here). One bugged-eyed gal in giant glasses represents the stereotypical “New Yawk” Jewish girl. She says things like L’ CHAIM and Meshuggeneh. 

nothing to see here (look away we're having toilet sex)

There’s some gratuitous nudity as various frat sisters get their swerve on. One character named Larry says “Eat my shorts Tampon breath”. The frat house which was a former brothel is haunted by sex workers. The sisters in question are all blindfolded in the car on their way to the aforementioned house. They are in for a big surprise. When the girls hear about the vengeful spirits they still snicker about it! 

Kill two dummies with one bullet!

Lurkers (1988). a movie we reviewed a few years ago was Findlay’s previous film before this one. Next came Prime Evil (also 1988), which I’ve never been able to force my way through. This movie has enough gratuitous nudity to keep most males (or those sexually) interested but it kind of bobs along in a Scooby Doo haunted house kind of way.

 I recently listened to a fascinating interview on the Rialto Report  podcast. The host gets as close to Mrs. Roberta Findlay as anyone could, her story is pretty disturbing and you really delve into the depravity of her childhood and you can almost relate to why she was attracted to such filth and scuzziness. It’s worth a listen, I am a devout follower of that show and their website is also informative for anyone interested in adult entertainment from the 70s and 80s. Blood sisters is not the weakest from her catalog but it’s not that memorable and that’s the worst sin it commits-boredom!

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