Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Films of Chester Novell Turner

Director: Chester N. Turner

Cast: Shirley L. Jones, Keefe L. Turner

Massacre Video / Region 1 / Unrated / 1.33:1 full frame / Mono / 133 minutes

Extras: Audio Commentary With Chester N. Turner And Shirley L. Jones / Return To The Quadead Zone' Documentary / Alternative Hollywood Home Theater VHS Cut Of Black Devil Doll From Hell / Stills Gallery / Trailers / Reversible Covers


Even in this day and age of Google and the entirety of the internet, there is not much information on the infamous shot-on-video legend Chester Novell Turner. Aside from news of his two video movies, the only info you are likely to find is how he died in a car accident in the 1990s. Those erroneous reports are probably reaction to Turner pretty much falling off of the face of the Earth after making his second feature in the late '80s and going into hiding. Until now, Black Devil Doll From Hell and Tales From the QuadeaD Zone were only available on VHS and barely at that. They are very rare and highly sought after by video collectors. Most people have heard of Black Devil Doll From Hell have talked and read about it, but have never actually seen it and Tales From the QuadeaD Zone is just obscure, even to seasoned cult movie fans.

Black Devil Doll From Hell tells the story of Helen Black, a good church-going woman who has to this point shunned sexual relations with a man (or anyone or anything). One day while shopping in an antique store, she comes across an interesting black marionette puppet that she is oddly drawn to. The store owner tells her how the puppet was made by an East Indian person and is known to have strange powers that give the new owner their "most heartfelt wish", but it always ends up back at the store. Helen buys it and takes it home at which point she begins to have fantasies of having sex with the doll and visions of it attacking her. Before long it does attack her, ties her to the bed and rapes her.

Of course, since it was her heartfelt wish, she begins to enjoy it but when she wakes up, he is gone. She thinks that maybe it was all a dream but suddenly realizes out loud, "It DID happen and it was MARVELOUS!" Now Helen has turned from her religious beliefs and wants to satiate her newfound lust so she fucks a street hustler, dirty-dances with a dude at a dive-bar and later balls him but nothing satisfies her like that damned marionette puppet. Finally she gets the idea that maybe he indeed did return to the antique store and she finds him right where she originally bought him. The owner makes her buy him again ("I TOLD you he always comes back here!") and she takes him home but something is different; her deep, dark wish has been granted and now she is just a needy bitch! And you know what a Black Devil Doll From Hell does with a needy bitch, don't you?!

Black Devil Doll From Hell definitely lives up to its infamous reputation. It's a ridiculously amateurish, no-budget, home video-like, ludicrously offensive, sleazy movie that just happens to be stupidly fun to watch. Your mouth will be agape for most of the nearly 90 minutes of ineptitude and shock value. I know that my description makes it sound like I'm talking down about the movie but I think it was made by people who had fun making it and did what they wanted to do; make a blaxploitation horror movie with a foul-mouthes rapist doll. It's charming in a very weird way. The wrap-around ending where a new woman buys him, takes him home and the last thing you see is her mouthing the words "What the fuck?" after he comes to life is priceless. I really dug Black Devil Doll From Hell but the second feature...

Three years later Turner made a horror anthology of sorts in the same style as Black Devil Doll From Hell; no-budget video, etc. The main story is of a woman with an invisible son who she read stories to out of the book "Tales From the QuadeaD Zone". The first tale is of a poor family of eight who has a strange way of deciding who gets to eat what food they have on the table at meals. The second story tells of a man who dies and his brother–with the help of some friends–steals his dead body, apparently just to bitch at him and re-bury him. The dead brother becomes possessed, reanimates and kills the living brother. The main, wrap-around story continues as the story of the "invisible" son comes to light and everything is not as it originally seems. The ending is just bizarre and the effects are mind-blowingly terrible.

Tales From the QuadeaD Zone (don't ask me why the last "D" is capitalized) is not nearly as rocking as Black Devil Doll From Hell. In fact, I would call it boring for the most part. The first story about the poor, hungry family is very short and interesting but the middle tale drags out far too long with no real pay-off. It actually drags down the entire and thankfully short run time. It's mostly the living brother caterwauling about how terrible his brother was to him or some shit. On top of that, when the dead brother comes back to life, HE then starts to yap and the effects on his voice make him virtually inaudible! ARGH!! The main story wasn't too bad but I think I was already pissed by the second story and was just ready for the whole thing to be over. I remember there being some stabbing that looked more like dancing, in fact, I think at one point she actually says "Come on, dance with me" as she has a knife sticking in his gut!

This awesome 2-DVD box set from the SOV maniacs at Massacre Video is a welcomed resurrection for these two acquired tastes. The packaging and art for the box and the individual DVDs is beautiful and the commentary with Turner and star of both movies, Shirley L. Jones, is great. The documentary included for Tales From the QuadeaD Zone treads some of the same ground as the commentary but still worth a viewing. There is also two versions of Black Devil Doll From Hell included; the main Director's Cut that is almost 90 minutes and a 70 minute version that is almost unwatchable it's so edited. Both features are sourced from VHS masters which means that they look and sound like shit, Tales From the QuadeaD Zone coming out a bit better. Luckily they are very watchable and it's incredible that they are getting such fantastic treatment with this release.

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