Filmmakers Mark Williams and Darren J. Perry Discuss Their Documentary VHS FOREVER? PSYCHOTRONIC PEOPLE and Offer a Look at the History of UK VHS Collecting Culture and Anecdotal Insight on the Video Nasty Scandal!
A look at the original poster art for VHS FOREVER? PSYCHOTRONIC PEOPLE, created by Chris Philp. Dig that Triple-X'er!!Tell us a little about yourself and your Videovore habits, guys. Where and when did your love for VHS all start? Mark: Well, my love for VHS started back in 1979 when my late father brought me a state of the art Panasonic VHS player which must have cost big bucks back then, but I think the guy who owned the electrical shop must have drunk at the same bar as him so he got a good discount, too! I got a 2 hour Panasonic brand blank VHS tape with the machine which I used to record my first film off the television as the BBC used to broadcast films without any adverts which was the classic 1973 toughie Emperor of the North starring Lee Marvin & Ernest Borgnine. It was probably censored by the BBC but what a great start to the collection. Happy days!! Darren: For me it actually all started in the 80’s, exactly the time when the so called Video Nasty situation began. I am not really surprised that the situation arose; I clearly remember walking into our first ever video shop in the area around 1982. There was a poster on the shop window advertising the soon on video release of The Evil Dead and one evening on the T.V. in the shop he was playing the chest bursting scene in all its gory glory from John Carpenter’s The Thing for the whole shop to see! How could an 8 year old boy not be gripped by all this? The other aspect to all of this was the VERY GORY sleeves; they actually took the most gruesome moments from films and slapped them on the front cover. I clearly remember one cover for the Italian film Contamination; I had no idea what it was and it conjured up in my mind something far more terrible than the film actually is. I guess the effect was not too dissimilar to the wonderful fairytales you used to be read to as a kid where the images and artwork were more powerful than the words being read. It looked like a man trying to struggle to get out of a bed sheet that was covered in blood... such a weird image. Of course I would never be allowed to see a film like this, I now know in the context of the film it’s a man in a contamination suit. Other covers like The Deadly Spawn and Creepshow were extremely effective and I will never forget these in particular. It was a fantastic era to be a part of and experience at such a young age and in part influenced my passion to be involved in the arts.
The cover for CONTAMINATION Darren mentions above. Yep, I wouldn't be able to look away, either. This cover just rules.What was the inspiration to create VHS Forever? Is this your foray into filmmaking, or have you helped create other projects in the past? Mark: Both myself and Darren wanted to shoot a film entirely on VHS to give it an authentic retro feel, so we both decided that due to our mutual love and respect for the VHS format, a feature length documentary would be the most viable option as it would be very cheap to film interviews hard and fast on the fly so I suggested to Darren that we should make a documentary on our mutual long time friend Tony M Clarke the current owner of the infamous Psychotronic Store then based in Camden,London. It's actually my first foray into filmmaking apart from a few Super 8mm short films I made as a kid, but Darren has been involved in the professional film industry for many years now and has worked on quite a few big budget films, too. I originally worked for Paramount Pictures UK back in the late seventies/early eighties as a Projectionist at the Paramount Preview Theatre in Wardour Street which was the heart of the UK Film industry back then, so I have always wanted to get back into the film industry somehow. I suppose this was a way of us sneaking in thru the back door, really? Darren: The main inspiration for me, apart from wanting to work with Mark on a fantastic project, which I have to say was his brainchild... The main inspiration was to allow the people who were actually there to speak and express to the camera what we all went through in this country regarding the troubles that fictional fantasy films got into, a fault of the government’s really after all there was already a government system in place for films in the cinema, so why not video? It’s really hard to believe now even as I write this but it actually did happen. So rather than document the history which had already been well covered in books and other UK docs, I wanted to hear from others who felt the same way about those years we had grown up through and how they felt. Everyone in the documentary certainly did make that happen, something we are both very proud of. I wanted to be involved with an independent project. Having worked for many years for others in production on big films this was an opportunity to feel more closely connected with something creative. I’m looking forward to working with Mark again on future collaborations. I am very pleased with the reception that our film has had here in the U.K. At various festivals, audiences have responded to it very well indeed and without the support of the fans (of which I am one) and the participants there would have been no film. So I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you.
A totally party pic featuring some radical people involed with VHS FOREVER? PSYCHOTRONIC PEOPLE! From L to R: Darren J Perry, Doc Karen Oughton, Gary Baxter, Terry Hobson and Mark Williams. DIG IT.As you mentioned, VHS FOREVER? is shot-on-video. Which camera(s) did you use to make it, and how was the experience of shooting it all on a home camcorder? Darren: Well, we started using my own VHS Video Camera from 1987 called a Panasonic M7; it was a very popular model at the time which my grandmother shelved out for, which I am eternally grateful for, because it meant I could make films at school. Anyway half way through the shoot not having been used for many years it started breaking down. It’s not entirely shot on VHS with some interviews being shot on Hi-8 and a cheap DV camera. So in theory, it’s all just video. I would be hard pushed to tell the difference between any of it, wouldn’t you? It’s very cheap and easy to shoot this way really... the only real issue was making sure all the sound levelled out well in post-production as each camera is slightly different, I have to say the modern DV camera was the worst of all and the MONO sound on my old Panasonic VHS M7 far superior!
Here's a look at a Panasonic M7. This isn't the exact one they used, but it still rules, mang. I mean, just look at it. YES.Michael J. Weldon’s PSYCHOTRONIC VIDEO is a huge influence in cult film culture, and I was surprised to learn there was a store called Psychotronic Video in the UK that seemed like a central hub for radical slabs of analogue. Was there a connection to Weldon with the store? If not, did you ever have any trouble with people mixing it up, etc.? Mark: Strangely enough, the initial influence for the film didn’t come from Michael J. Weldon’s seminal book but from the original Psychotronic Video Store founded by Bal Croce and later taken over by our good friend Tony M. Clarke who bought the shop lease and the name of the shop from Bal when he went off to form the indie cult rock & roll band Gallon Drunk. However, I would stick my neck out and say that the store name was most probably originally inspired by the book itself. I think it never really hurt that they both shared the Psychotronic name as most of the movies would fall under the same eclectic banner anyway.
An image of the Psychotronic Store circa 1993! This was after most of the stories in the film take place, but as you can see, the store still totally ruled.There are a lot of great stories about run-ins with police and customs agents in the time of the Video Nasties scare. It really puts into perspective just how dangerous and resultantly scary it could be if you were in possession of these banned vids. For the readers who haven’t yet seen the doc, could you give us an idea about these scenarios? We didn’t really have anything like this in the U.S…. Mark: Of course, these guys really put their necks on the line by both supplying and collecting certain banned tapes and could have easily got up to 10 years in prison as a consequence of this if they had been successfully prosecuted in a UK court and found guilty of copying or supplying any of the tapes on the notorious Department of Public Prosecutions banned list known as the DPP list. The DPP banned list was a monthly newsletter complied by the department warning video dealers not to stock certain titles. Titles would sometimes by randomly added or deleted which created confusion amongst the video dealers who didn't really know which titles were safe to stock or not. This list was often used by the police as a guideline to what titles they could seize or not. Personally, I feel a lot of the appeal to the collectors was owning something that was banned and not readily available in the shops anymore with the added element of danger that they could get raided by the police at any time.
The full wrap artwork for the VHS FOREVER? clamshell VHS release created by Ian Foxon! Now this is a party, duder.Living dangerously, man! Have you seen the U.S.-made VHS documentaries e.g. Rewind This! And Adjust Your Tracking? If so, what did you think of them? What do you think your film offers in contrast to the U.S. productions, and what similarities have you found? Mark: I've only seen Rewind This! to date, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's really hard to find a comparison to our film and Rewind This! as they are really totally different in many respects but I suppose they both feature quite a few real life characters who show their mutual undying love for VHS. Darren: I haven’t seen either of these movies so I can’t really give a comparison.
The VHS FOREVER? PSYCHOTRONIC PEOPLE clamshell VHS release all ready to roll into your VCR. Grab your slab HERE, Tapeheads!Did you have a UK VHS release for the doc? Is there a NTSC version here for the States? Are they still available, and where can we grab our slabs? Mark: Yes we released an ltd edition of 200 VHS/DVD large clamshell combos which have sold extremely well to date and are sold exclusively via the Psychotronic online store. I believe we have about 100 or so of these left, so please order one ASAP if you want to own a real collector’s item as we won’t be doing anymore when these are sold out. And yes we have an NTSC tape version for all you dedicated US fans too. Here’s a link to the psychotronic store below. JUST CLICK HERE, TAPEHEADS!
The VHS FOREVER? VHS release all lined up next to Aylmer! You know we can dig it.What’s next for you, dudes? Where can we keep up with you? Mark: Well, we are currently filming a documentary on the seventies UK punk rock scene with a working title of “Smash It Up-The Movie” which may change at a later date. We hope to interview a few famous punk rock stars such as Captain Sensible from The Damned and Charlie Harper from UK Subs. We also hope to start on a sequel to VHS Forever? next year to be called “VHS Forever 2 : Revenge of the Psychotronic People” featuring the new breed of young VHS collectors like Dale Lloyd and Noel Mellor the author of the forthcoming book “Adventures in VHS” which is nearly 75% crowd funded. We will also be featuring Mr. Psychotronic Tony M. Clarke again, too, along with a few of the old-skool collectors who we haven't interviewed as yet so it should be a really exciting project for us. We didn’t originally ever want to do a sequel, but the reception to this film has been so encouraging that we feel there are further stories to be told on this particular subject and a whole generation of new VHS fans to interview, too. Here’s a few links below to both ours and Noel’s website below: www.smash-it-up.com www.vhsforeverthemovie.com http://adventuresinvhs.com
A little info on Noel Mellor's upcoming book ADVENTURES IN VHS! If Lloyd says it, you know it's true, Tapeheads.Anything else you wanna shout out to all the Tapeheads here in Lunchmeat Land? Mark/Darren: We would both like to say that we are extremely pleased with the critical reaction of VHS Forever? so far and also the positive reaction it has received from all the hard-core collectors out there and the public alike both in the UK and other countries, too, especially in the USA. Many thanks for giving us the opportunity to do this interview. Viva VHS!!
Many magnetic thanks to YOU, Mark and Darren, for making a most excellent documentary that offers Videovores the world over a personal and extremely informative look into the VHS collecting culture of the UK, both past and present. The Video Nasty scandal is a segment of VHS history that is highly documented and frequently referenced within the culture, but VHS FOREVER? offers an abundance of entertaining anecdotal accounts of the era, and really allows you to realize just how insane, dangerous and thrilling it was to be a tape collector in those times of senseless and tyrannical censorship. All of this UK VHiStory and more await you in VHS FOREVER? and I VHStrongly urge you to groove on over to the Psychotronic Store and grab up your NTSC slab (they’re REALLY limited!), to get a groovy look at the history of VHS collecting culture from those PALS across the analog ocean! And don't forget to visit the VHSF?PP Facebook group for all kinds of updates and radical rewind kinship! Your VCR will thank you, mang.