Frankenstein vs The Creature.. Exclusive Interview with William Winckler

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William Winckler's "Frankenstein vs The Creature from Blood Cove" is a homage to horror films from a "days gone by" era. 

Combing the elements of horror films from the 30' and 40's, along with the creatures from the Atomic Age of the 50's and 60's - Frankenstein vs The Creature from Blood Cove has all the elements to make the true horror fanatic smile.

Personally, I've cut my "horror teeth" on the classics of old.. Creature from the Black Lagoon is the deadman's favorite all time film, as well as my favorite "Universal" creature.  So to say that I'm excited about seeing this film, is an understatement.

Recently Horror-Movies.ca had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Winckler (director) about his upcoming film.. so sit back, relax and prepare yourself for a very in-depth, and entertaining interview.

Q.  The film that brings us here is "Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove." First of all, I would like to mention that it is currently at number 7 in our database. That is pretty impressive considering that there are thousands of films listed. Did you expect there to be this much interest?

To be perfectly honest, I'm not too surprised. Fans and critics who've seen early screenings of the movie absolutely love it, and I think part of the reason is because it's something different. For over 60 years the horror movie genre was a wide, wonderful world of different types of stories about monsters, werewolves, mummies, ghosts, vampires, mad scientists, etc.

Then the slasher film hijacked and completely took over the genre in the 1980s. Horror movies haven't been the same since. Millions of fans all over the world have been dying for a fun, old-fashioned monster movie, made in a "good old days" style. This is exactly what we've tried to do with "William Winckler's Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove."

This film is hopefully something fans will want to watch again and again, because it was made specifically for them, and with a deep respect for the classics.

Q.  Could you please tell us a little about the film and what fans can expect to see, as well as the current status?

It's a picture with the deliberate look and feel of a vintage monster movie/creature feature. We've combined elements of the horror films of the 1930s and 1940s with the Atomic Age monster movies of the 1950s and 1960s. As Michael Copner, the editor of Cult Movies Magazine, said, "It's like seeing a long-lost AIP classic!"

Fans will see a fun story that's pure escapism. It's fast moving and frightening at the same time, with lots of great monsters and creatures and a wonderfully classic score. Bottom line, it's a unique horror film unlike anything anyone has done in nearly 40 years. Again, so many fans I talk with are bored to tears with mainstream Hollywood. They hate what's become of most horror films today and they desperately want something new to fall in love with and enjoy. I think we've got that for them.

"William Winckler's Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove" will be available on open-region DVD beginning October 4, 2005, for $24.98 at retailers like Amazon.com. It's loaded with special bonus features, including two making-of documentaries, bloopers, audio commentaries, a trailer, deleted scenes and many additional goodies.

Other international deals are pending, including a Japanese language version of the film. The Japanese are also in talks with us to license merchandise based upon our monster characters, which is very exciting. Besides America, Japan is set to be one of our film's biggest markets -- after all, it's the home of Godzilla, Gamera and Ultraman!

Q.  I am a huge fan of the old monster flicks. I grew up watching everything from the old Hammer films to every Godzilla movie ever made so I am really excited to see your film. What sparked your love of the classic monsters?

I love the old Universal films, the Hammer pictures, the AIP Arkoff/Nicholson films, the Toho and Daiei movies, etc. The magic of these films is that they were character driven, they told basic stories and they offered lots of entertaining elements.

The whole goal of the filmmakers at that time was to entertain the audience, whereas today's directors and writers are often just so damn serious. Now, back 40 or 60 years ago, the people making movies were wonderfully talented, they knew how to entertain and they knew how to give the public pure escapism and fun. For example, I never get bored watching a film like "The Creature From the Black Lagoon." I could watch that picture over and over and over again and find something new every time. Try doing that today with current films. You can't!

I also think there was something very different about actors years ago. They were all great characters and had expressive faces and unique personalities. So, in casting "William Winckler's Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove," we did everything we could to hire great, talented character actors with classic-looking faces.

We even hired some brilliant British actors living in Hollywood to give the film a bit of a Hammer horror flavor. G. Larry Butler, Alison Lees-Taylor, Corey Marshall, Dezzi Rae Ascalon, Gary Canavello and many others are just fantastic in our film.

Q.  Not only did you direct this film, but you also wrote it and produced it as well as acted in it. Where did you get the inspiration for it?

I've often been accused of having an overactive imagination. When I graduated from high school and went to college, I knew I wanted to do everything I could in show business: write, produce, act and direct. When I began working as an actor during the 1980s, I landed a job on a Michael Landon TV movie, and watched as Landon directed, produced and acted in his own production. He had even written the script. Seeing this, I realized that if he could do it, so could I.

So it's no problem whatsoever to wear many different hats on my productions. In fact, one of my secret advantages over the Hollywood majors is that, for better or worse, my films all come from one mind. It's basically one guy -- me -- making all the decisions, whereas in Hollywood it's usually a committee making decisions, and we all know that a camel is a horse designed by committee!

As for inspiration, that came from an idea I had many years ago. I had a dream about Frankenstein's monster violently battling a half-man, half-fish creature at night on a sandy beach, with waves crashing in the background and lightning bolts flashing down from the sky into the ocean. It was a melodramatic, wild scenario! I never forgot the image, and later built the entire script around that one scene in my mind. So that single dream was the seed for the entire movie.

Q.  How long did it take you to realize your vision once you had the idea?

The movie took around two-and-a-half years to get off the ground, and about one month to shoot. Editing took three months. The original script was revised numerous times -- in fact, the initial drafts were more sci-fi in nature. For example, our mad scientist used a hovercraft to comb the beach for his runaway monsters.

Well, that quickly got nixed for a number of reasons, but the end result, as you know now, is a final screenplay that's a true horror movie/creature feature. Actually, it worked out much better in the long run. The final draft we shot is a much better script than the earlier drafts.

Incidentally, in the original drafts Frankenstein's monster talked a lot. However, various crewmembers and others told me that all the Frankenstein movies where the monster spoke generally sucked. Fans simply don't like a talking Frankenstein monster. So, a month or so before shooting, I cut 75 percent of the monster's dialogue.

Looking at the finished film, it was a great decision. Our monster is sympathetic but frightening. He's not a boring creature, which I'm afraid he could have been had he spoken all those monologues I originally gave him.

Q.  Did you have any difficulties with time or budgetary constraints?

We had plenty of time to shoot our picture and a comfortable budget. My previous movie "The Double-D Avenger," was a silly camp comedy that was financially very successful, so I used some profits from that picture to make "William Winckler's Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove."

However, the budget for "Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove" was many, many times greater than "The Double-D Avenger." It was actually about five to six times that production's budget. As a matter of fact, comparing the amount of money we spent on this picture with what filmmakers were spending in the 1950s, our budget was not that far off from the budgets of the Hammer films or those great AIP movies starring Vincent Price.

As for constraints, during production the only real concerns I had involved the time it took to get some of our monsters into make-up. I'm well aware of the fact that latex make-up appliances take hours to apply, but as a producer I was constantly watching the clock to make sure my actors were made-up and on set, on time, each and every day, so we wouldn't get behind schedule. This is something I worried about throughout the picture.

Q.  Are you pleased with the final product?

I am very, very pleased with the final product and, as I said, many critics and fans happily feel the same way. I think we made a unique gem. The script, actors, celebrity cameos, sets, locations, make-ups, props, cinematography, visual effects, editing and music all came together beautifully!

Q.  How scary is this picture? Is it campy at all like some of the old B films?

The movie does have scary moments and some shocking kills, so it's definitely not a comedy or a farce, although there are some comedic moments. We played it very seriously, like the Universal and Hammer films. The intention of any good horror film is to frighten as well as entertain. However, the human emotions of fear and disgust are two different things.

The feeling of fright is what horror films should be all about, not feelings of disgust or "I'm gonna barf," which are audience reactions that entered the horror genre much more recently. Horror films should frighten, be eerie, entertain and keep audiences on the edge of their seats, not make people run out of the theater to the bathroom to heave their popcorn.

Q.  I know that you went old school for this film as far as make-up effects and the creature suits. Personally, I applaud you for that. What is your opinion of the use of CGI in films today?

For a film like this, old-school effects are the only way to go. I certainly embrace modern filmmaking technology, but CGI is overused and, quite frankly, more often than not it still looks really fake. When you use real people in real monster outfits, something magical happens.

Actors in suits give "life" to rubber masks -- their souls or energy seem to come through the costumes, giving each creature a distinct personality. The same thing is true for Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion puppetry. Ray's personality somehow came out in nearly every figure he animated.

Q.  It appears to be the trend as of late to take a classic film and do it over. I find it refreshing to see something new and original like your film. How do you feel about remakes?

I would never remake a classic, and the only reason why the Hollywood studios do it is because they have no new ideas and simply want to make money off a recognizable name from the past. Substandard remakes like "Psycho" and "The House on Haunted Hill" are perfect examples. I'm a great fan of Vincent Price and his films "The House on Haunted Hill" and "House of Wax." I was furious that Hollywood would have the audacity to remake those two classics! Nobody on Earth can remake a Price film without Price in the lead! Vincent Price was one of a kind!

I intend to continue to produce original films, and at this point I don't intend to make any sequels. I have several scripts I want to produce and all of them are original stories, not sequels to any of my previous films. Walt Disney never wanted to make sequels, and to the best of my recollection he never did. It was only when Michael Eisner took over -- around 25 years after Walt's death -- that the crappy Disney sequels began.

Q.  The cast list for this film includes some great names. Was it difficult to get everyone you wanted to come on board?

Not really, since I had already established William Winckler Productions, Inc., as a successful cult-movie company. When I put out casting notices or looked for crew and special-effects guys, we received thousands of submissions.

And as far as celebrity cameos, everyone jumped on board! The only celebrity cameo I wanted but had trouble getting was Forrest J. Ackerman. Forry had a great cameo in "The Double-D Avenger" and I wanted him for this picture too, but I was told he's in very poor health these days, so unfortunately that ended that.

Q. What is your most memorable moment from the shooting of WWFVTCFBC?

I really loved filming the scenes on the beach, with the monsters fighting one another, because that was my dream -- the seed of the film, as I mentioned before -- come to life. The laboratory scenes were fantastic too, because the lab was an honest-to-goodness working facility with bubbling flasks and elaborate chemistry set-ups.

Still, a lot of fun and funny things happened during filming other parts of the picture. We had a freak hailstorm during our graveyard scenes, and we had to evacuate the set. There also was an incident where a pizza delivery guy delivered food to our mansion location and I had actor Lawrence Furbish, in his full Frankenstein's monster make-up, answer the door, to the shock of the poor man (who couldn't speak much English)! There were literally dozens of fun instances like this, quite a number of which are included in the blooper section of the DVD.

Q.  What advice would you give to genre directors that are just starting out?

If you are directing an independent film, or any film for that matter, you are the person in charge. You have to juggle a million balls in the air at all times. You must be nice, but also firm. A lot of money is at stake, and if you're self-financing, as I do, it's your money. Proper communication with all individuals is vitally important at all times, so make sure everyone is on the same page.

Also remember pre-production doesn't cost money, so you should try to get as much pre-production as you can. Plan everything out meticulously so you know ahead of time what will happen each and every step of your production schedule.

And if someone causes trouble and the problem can't be solved, don't be afraid to get rid of that person. The truth is, at least in Hollywood, there are thousands of talented people all wanting to get jobs, so there's no need to put up with nonsense from troublemakers or egomaniacs.

Make sure all your contracts are in order too, and that all props, wardrobe, make-ups, etc. are prepared and ready to go on time. We had over a year to prepare for "William Winckler's Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove," and part of the reason our shoot went so smoothly is that the director, cinematographer and cast were fully prepared.

It's a great idea to cast actors early and give them their scripts many weeks in advance. By doing that they have plenty of time to memorize their parts. I also like to rehearse my actors one-on-one, so the actor and I are on the same page regarding character.

Finally, anybody can make a movie -- it's marketing and selling the picture that's the key! Distribution is everything. We live in a time where the major Hollywood studios have a monopoly, or at least an oligopoly, on both television and film production and distribution. Independent filmmakers are locked out of most theatrical and television distribution, so you have to fight like hell to get your movie out there, and work to not just recoup your investment, but also make a profit. Without profits, you are out of business.

Q.  Who is your favorite movie monster?

My favorite movie monster? Well, as immodest as it sounds, I love all the monsters we created for "Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove." [laughs] As for other films, I'd have to say any creature or character played by Vincent Price -- he's the greatest monster of them all!

Q.  I believe your father was a child actor during the thirties and forties. How much of an influence did his career have on yours?

My dad, Robert "Bobby" Winckler, appeared in over 80 films and more than 200 radio shows, at one time or another working with practically all the stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. More importantly, he was a mentor to me. As an adult he was a successful entertainment attorney representing many people in the business.

However, while he was a great friend and offered superb advice, he really didn't pressure me to go into the business. It was my overactive imagination and nutty creative mind that forced me into writing, producing, directing and acting.

Another mentor of mine was Jonathan Harris, best know as Dr. Smith from the classic "Lost in Space" TV series. I learned a great deal from Jonathan about the business of show business.

Q. Who else would you say were your major inspirations?

I look up to Roger Corman for having made a ton of successful B movies and never once losing a dime. He is a true genius. Now, not all of his films are my cup of tea, but his best work included those wonderful Edgar Allan Poe pictures he shot for AIP starring Vincent Price.

Those movies, like "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Haunted Palace," etc., will live on forever! I can -- and do -- watch them again and again.

Q.  Of all the things that you do behind and in front of the camera, what is your favorite job?

I love all the jobs: acting, writing, producing and directing. My philosophy is this -- live life to the fullest, use your talents to the fullest and treat people the way you'd like to be treated. I try to live life to the fullest in truly creative ways.

Heaven on Earth for me is when I am in the middle of making a film and everything is going great. Being in that moment of acting or directing -- actually making a film -- is the best high in the world.

Q.  Did you always envision doing it all?

Yes, I wanted to do it all, and when I saw Michael Landon doing so, I simply said to myself "I should try wearing all the hats, too." Knock wood, it's worked for me.

Q. What film would you like to have directed and what would you have changed about it?

Since in my view most contemporary films are junk, there's none I would have wanted to direct. I'm not in this for the money -- it's more important for me to be creative -- so if some company came to me and said, "Mr. Winckler, we want you to direct 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,'" the first thing to pop into my head would probably be "How the hell can you top Gene Wilder's classic?

You can't." I wouldn't think "Jesus, here comes the gravy train. Just back the Brinks truck up to my house for my big fat multimillion dollar director's salary." At the same time, I don't think I'd try to sell a major studio on one of my original works either. Luckily, I'm not in bad financial situation, so I can take that stand. I'm able to pay my mortgage and eat, and retain complete creative control. For me, that's the ultimate success.

Q.  What is one thing you would like our readers to know about William Winckler?

That I'm a true fan of the genre. Unlike many in Hollywood, I don't look down on fans or make fun of horror. I care about what I do, and believe the fans can see that in the pictures I make.

Q.  Are you a reader of Movies Online/Horror-Movies.ca?

Yes, I've logged onto the site many times. It's great fun, and you do a great job! I love the Internet in large part because of sites like yours, since you offer a true outlet to find out about what fans really want.

You can't get that from studio-controlled, mass-media genre publications or sites. Sites like yours are an honest representation of today's horror movie scene and how fans truly feel about the genre. Keep up the wonderful work!

Q.  Now that this monster is on its way, what do you have lined up next? Is there anything you would like to tell your fans to be on the lookout for?

As I said, I've got many scripts ready to go. I've got another horror film planned as the next project, and many of the folks who have seen the script are saying it even tops "Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove," so stay tuned! In the meantime, be sure to get your DVD copy of "William Winckler's Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove" through Amazon.com starting October 4th.

Q.  Here comes my final and favorite question. If you were facing the end of civilization at the hands of (insert favorite creature here), what are three things you would like to have with you and who would you want by your side?

If it were the end of the world, I guess my wife and I would just relax in bed, have some PG Tips British tea, a couple of scones and watch "The House on Haunted Hill" starring Vincent Price along with "William Winckler's Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove" as a "double-creature feature"! What a way to go!

Thanks again for sharing your time with us, Mr. Winckler. I wish you great success in the future. I hope you keep cranking 'em out so we can keep watching 'em.

*Special thanks to our very own Moviemaven, for the great interview questions.

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