Category_Collecting, Category_Groovy Stuff, Category_Horror, Category_VHS, Category_Weirdness -

A VHS Copy of the Chester N. Turner SOV Gem TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE Goes for Over $1K on eBay! Bogus Bootleg or One-of-a-Kind Analog Treasure?

There’s been a resounding wave of mumbles, grumbles and analog-induced rumbles regarding yet another recent online VHS purchase. That tape, yet again, is Chester N. Turner’s TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE. The more attentive tapeheads may recall the purchase of this much coveted VHS title a couple years back from ardent collector, Massacre Video art director and founder of HORROR VHS COLLECTORS UNITE! Earl Kess. His particular purchase helped solidify the seriousness of VHS collecting both to the other collectors around him, and perhaps more importantly, to those who weren’t necessarily involved with the culture. It was significant to say the least. But in this most recent purchase of a TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE non-re-issue VHS, it becomes a bit more complex. Since Kess’ fateful purchase and the following recognition that sprouted from it, TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE along with Chester N. Turner’s other film BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL have had a meteoric rise to underground VHS horror fame with Massacre Video’s full-on deluxe official re-issues, a tour of screenings across the country and even some attention from the NY TIMES. Enter Scarecrow Video who has recently been placed into a most precarious position. The herculean Seattle-based rental store has fell on hard times due to current movie-watching culture (read: complacent digital streaming addictions) and in order to heave some water from the bow, they decided to sell off their rental copy of the much sought-after TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE. As soon as it hit eBay, so did the metaphorical shit into the metaphorical fan, man.

The TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE tape in question. Unquestionably cool, but dubbed dubious.

Here’s the problem: this particular copy of TALES doesn’t’ correlate with any other release of the film. This release is in a clamshell case, and is sheathed in artwork that has been deemed unofficial by both the filmmaker (Chester N. Turner), and Louis Justin of Massacre Video who, again, has just officially re-issued Chester’s films on both analog and digital formats and has worked closely with Chester for several months now. So, they should know, right? I would think so. However, it’s been noted by Louis that the tape itself seems legit. The actual VHS inside the said-to-be-bogus package seems to be a legitimate release of the film. Also, Shirley Jones, star of Chester’s films and low-brow illustrator for Chester’s films, has said she may or may not have drawn that artwork. The speculation has swirled into a dizzying circle with guesses ranging from relatives of the filmmaker making bootlegs to a fan hand-drawing the cover and xeroxing a few for friends and underground film aficionados. As of yet, no other copy of the film featuring this artwork, or this type of packaging has surfaced. And until that time comes, speculation on the origin of the tape is the best we can get.

The tape itself, which has been recognized as looking legitimate by Louis Justin, owner and main brain at Massacre Video.

So, fast forward a week, and the tape goes for an astounding $1,025 at eBay auction. Suspicions of shill bidders abounded and were evidenced by the bid history, causing yet even more controversy for the tape’s existence. Then, just as people were about to flame on whoever purchased this accused bootleg tape, an established and utterly ardent tapehead came forward as the one who purchased it. Dan Kinem of VHShitfest and the LUNCHMEAT co-produced ADJUST YOUR TRACKING was the new and proud owner of this curious copy of TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE.

The tape in hand. As you can see from the shelves in the background, Dan ain't foolin' around, mang!

Now on to why paying over 1000 bones for this tape is under fire. I mean, realistically, it’s his money, and Dan can use it for whatever he deems fit. Also, the money is going to an amazing cause, keeping arguably the most important video store in the US afloat for another indeterminate amount of time. And, we assume, Dan’s as happy as any Videovore can get. So what’s the big deal, man? For an army of collectors, legitimacy is paramount. This breed of tapehead craves the official issue, from the licensed distributor, that can be traced and validated by historical and documented means and through the opinion of collectors en masse. This is the VHS collector’s quest: to secure themselves an authenticated piece of analog history and hold it, touch it, feel it… and, hopefully, watch it. To illustrate, think of a toy collector that purchases a rare figure from the 1930s for, let’s say, $1025, just for a fair comparison. Then, they find the toy to be a suspected bootleg, an accused fraud within their fellow collector circle, not in line with the original issue of the toy. It’s bogus. It doesn’t line up. It’s less than the original. It’s practically worthless.

A look at the back of the copy in question. Dig that rare illustration, brotherrrr.

But what if this particular fake was the only of its kind? What if this cheap knock-off really was one person’s isolated foray into bootlegging, and only this copy exists? Does that make it more collectable? Realistically speaking, this VHS is far more rare than all the others because of the “bootleg” nature. If it is a bootleg, it’s still (if only on a marginal level) a piece of the TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE legacy, legitimate or not. It’s still getting attention from collectors, and whether it’s fame or infamy, it’s being recognized. But, also, we must think of it this way: does all of this really matter? Simply put, it depends on the collector. I haven’t questioned Dan about his purchase, nor do I feel an imperative need to. Dan purchased this film because he loves it. He craves rarity, and to be quite honest, this is probably one of the rarest incarnations of TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE out there. And for a diehard collector, bootleg or not, with this kind of history attached to it, it’s a gem indeed. This isn’t a copy to watch; it’s an item. It’s a piece of history now. And lastly, I looked to myself in all this, because quite honestly, it’s distressing. Prices for tapes are going bonkers, causing friction and becoming prohibitive. People seem to focus on this aspect, which at best, is a distracting by-product of a burgeoning and inevitably exploited sub-culture. I fear some people are going for tapes because of the wrong reasons e.g. because they are valuable or because they’re hyper-rare (AKA valuable) or because they think they can flip it and make some money. That’s not VHS collecting. That’s business. I’m a collector. I love rare films, and hard-to-find VHS tapes. Not because they are valuable in a monetary sense, but because they contain films that you can’t see otherwise. So, I have to ask myself: am I VHS collector? Or am I film collector? I think I’m both… a hybrid rare film fan that looks to VHS for a seemingly unending ocean of insane cinema. But I still know that the film is what’s important. Watching the film is what really matters for me. So, in the end, all I really want is to watch some movies on VHS, without dropping a nearly a month’s salary to do it.

Groove and Groove and Hunt in the Wild.

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