For years, hav­ing any expe­ri­ence with Black Devil Doll From Hell or Tales From The Quadead Zone was a secret badge of hon­or amongst trash-video archae­ol­o­gists.  They only had tiny releas­es on obscure indie VHS labels and you real­ly had to search to find orig­i­nal copies.  It seems incon­ceiv­able that such ultra-cult items would ever get a prop­er com­mer­cial release but a new label called Massacre Video has done just that by releas­ing The Films Of Chester Novell Turner.  The results pre­serve the low-rent charm of the­se films while shed­ding some light on how the­se dement­ed relics of the VHS era came into being.

The Films Of Chester Novell Turner devotes one disc each to Black Devil Doll From Hell and Tales From The Quadead Zone, with trans­fers tak­en from Turner’s own video mas­ters for each film.  These were shot and edit­ed on pre-dig­i­tal equip­ment from the ear­ly ‘80s so they look pret­ty grainy and fuzzy — but that’s exact­ly how they are sup­posed to look.  The audio on both sticks to the orig­i­nal mix­es, pre­serv­ing all the ques­tion­able mix­ing choic­es and hissy analog sounds you’d expect from no-bud­get video pro­duc­tions of this era.

Fans of Black Devil Doll From Hell will be gob­s­macked to find out there are not one but two ver­sions the film on that disc: there is Turner’s orig­i­nal “director’s cut” ver­sion and the short­er re-edit released by Hollywood Home Video.  The lat­ter is how many fans got to know the film so it’s nice to see it pre­served here, qua­si-hair met­al the­me music and all — and there is actu­al­ly a bump in video qual­i­ty on this ver­sion, too.

Massacre Video has also assem­bled a few extras for this set.  Both films fea­ture com­men­tary tracks by Turner and his star/muse/collaborator Shirley Jones.  Like the films them­selves, the com­men­taries have a sham­bol­ic qual­i­ty: the par­tic­i­pants spend more time react­ing to the movie than they do talk­ing about it, though Turner offers the occa­sion­al fac­toid here and there (Tales prob­a­bly has the bet­ter com­men­tary of the two in this respect).

That said, the tracks are amus­ing if you view them as alter­na­tive lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence instead of com­men­taries.  Jones is par­tic­u­lar­ly amus­ing on the­se tracks if you use this mind­set: she hoots and hollers dur­ing the pup­pet-rape scene in Black Devil Doll From Hell and some­times gets caught up in humming/singing with Turner’s musi­cal scores.

Better yet, there is an inter­view fea­turet­te with Turner and Jones enti­tled “Return To The Quadead Zone” on the Black Devil Doll From Hell disc.  It runs just over 34 min­utes and fea­tures the two answer­ing a series of ques­tions from disc pro­duc­er Louis Justin that allow them to lay out the sto­ry of how the­se films came togeth­er.  A ton of issues that have intrigued fans for years are touched upon: the inspi­ra­tions behind the doll’s looks, the respon­se the film got from locals, how the infa­mous pup­pet-rape sequence was filmed and what­ev­er became of Turner and Jones after their flir­ta­tion with home-video fame.  The fin­ished pro­duct is pret­ty engross­ing, due in no small part to the per­son­al­i­ties of the sub­jects: Turner is charm­ing­ly hum­ble and enthu­si­as­tic while Jones is as viva­cious and quirky as you might hope she’d be.

A few small­er extras round the discs out.  Both fea­ture brief ani­mat­ed image gal­leries that include the vin­tage VHS art plus Jones show­ing her orig­i­nal art­work for Tales From The Quadead Zone.  There is also a quar­tet of spots for oth­er Massacre Video releas­es that show their devo­tion to the out­er fringes of VHS-era hor­ror.

All in all, this a fit­ting trib­ute to Turner’s one-of-a-kind cin­e­mat­ic lega­cy.  If you are a con­nois­seur of vin­tage home video luna­cy, you won’t want to pass this set up.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Black Devil Doll From Hell, click here.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Tales From The Quadead Zone, click here.