[featured image courtesy Pecosborn Productions, LLC]
“I’ve always wanted to make a Frankenstein movie. I’ve made a number of other movies, but they’ve all been kind of cheesy B-films and T&A movies, and I didn’t really want to make a Frankenstein movie like that because I just love the Frankenstein concept and the theme, and the original novel and the old movie so much. I didn’t want to cheap it out. I wanted to wait until I was in a position where I could do it right.”
To many genre fans, especially those circling around Star Wars, the name Donald F. Glut brings to mind the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back, which to date has sold over 3.5 million copies.
But Glut is also a filmmaker, comic book writer, television and film screenwriter, fan film producer, and amateur paleontologist. His production company, Pecosborn Productions, is in the midst of producing a feature-length anthology of short films called Tales of Frankenstein, in honor of the upcoming 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s original novel. Framed within a wraparound story featuring the creation of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the four films are “My Creation, My Beloved” starring Buddy Daniels Friedman and Lilian Lev, “Crawler From the Grave” starring Tatiana DeKhytar, “Madhouse of Death” starring Mel Novak, and “Dr. Karnstein’s Creation” starring James Tavaré.
It’s this final segment that’s currently the subject of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. The rest of the film has been shot, and Glut plans to start shooting in late February or early March.
It’s Alive… Almost
It’s not the first time Karnstein has been considered for film. Originally a short story included in Michele Parry’s Rivals of Frankenstein anthology. “I think what inspired that, there was a Rivals of Sherlock Holmes that was very popular. So Corgi Books in London was putting out this paperback, Rivals of Frankenstein, and he wanted to know if I would like to write a Frankenstein story, an original story, and I came up with this idea of — I’m trying not to give away the surprise ending by telling you, by talking about it — but it involves Frankenstein’s monster and vampires.”
The anthology also included stories by authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Ambrose Bierce, Fritz Lieber, and more. At one point, it was being considered for a film adaptation by Amicus Productions chief Milton Subotsky. “Subotsky really liked Doctor Karnstein’s Creation. So, in the late 1970s, they announced a Rivals of Frankenstein movie, which was going to include my story. But then Subotsky never made that movie, and then eventually he died, so it just became a dead issue.”
It’s Alive… Again
But don’t look for Glut’s Frankenstein film to be anything like the plethora of others that are sure to be hitting screens in the next few years. “Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man are iconic. The Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Mummy, they’re iconic. You still see lunch boxes and things with those creatures on them.” The challenge, Glut sees, is that the people in charge of the studios, some of whom may have grown up watching these iconic characters, don’t quite understand the characters.
Glut sees it as a symptom of another potential issue facing Hollywood: the seemingly endless supply of remakes and reboots over original material. “When they’re remaking sitcoms from television, like The Honeymooners, and making movies out of those, and making movies based on video games, that to me is lack of ideas.” But for the classic creatures, it’s less a question of whether the films should be remade, and more an issue of how.
“Personally, I don’t enjoy seeing the classic monster characters turned into superheroes, which is pretty much what I think Universal plans to do. They’re kind of emulating the Avengers movies, the Marvel movies, that kind of thing. I don’t really like those movies. I’ve seen some of the recent Frankenstein movies, and they’re nothing but CGI effects. There’s no story, no plot. My movie is very traditional. It’s got all the elements you want to see in a Frankenstein movie, except there’s no Igor and there’s nobody yelling, ‘It’s alive!’
“I stayed away from those because those are just a little bit too clichéd. It’s got things you want to see. It’s got practical make-up, it’s got castles, it’s got villagers – if they’ll let me light fire in the studio, we’ll have villagers with torches – Mine is very traditional, which is what I think people miss. So I’m hoping that’s going to make it stand out among a sea of CGI movies that are going to be coming out.”
She Started It
Glut’s fascination with the Frankenstein story began in his childhood. “It started with a Western, actually. I was in a movie theater when I was a little boy. It was my mother and my grandmother, we were there watching a movie called Tap Roots (Universal 1948), in which Boris Karloff played an Indian, a Native American. And we were in the theater, and my mother whispered into my ear when Karloff came on, she said ‘Oh, that’s the actor who played Frankenstein’ And I’d never heard that name before. I didn’t know who that was, and we were walking home from the theater and I asked “What’s Frankenstein?” and then she told me there was a man who was brought back from the dead. And that was so intriguing to me.”
That initial intrigue led to a continuous search for more information about Frankenstein and his creation. Glut went on a self-described “quest” to discover what he could, limited in those days because there wasn’t the proliferation of media like what’s available now. “There were no pictures anywhere. The only thing I found was the Dick Briefer comic books that were being sold, and this is the early 1950s, the horror comics. And he sort of looked like what they were talking about.”
His search continued until he was about thirteen, when a nearby theater ran a triple bill: House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and The Mummy. “There was just something about the atmosphere of those movies and everything. The continuity from one to the next. It just hooked me. And I’ve been a Frankenstein fan ever since.”
Show Him the Money
Tales of Frankenstein was originally going to be a film project a number of years ago, but the pieces never quite came together just right to make it work. But Glut held onto the idea as he formed Pecosborn Productions; his first film under the new shingle was a werewolf story, Dancing with Werewolves, to be followed by Tales of Frankenstein. “I took the five stories that I thought were the most ‘filmable’, and those are the ones I selected, and we’ve shot now three of them, plus a wrap-around that sort of ties them all together. And this one I’m trying to raise money for, is the fourth and final.”
The original set of five has since been pared down to four, mainly because in the editing process, there was a lot more story material that could be used for each segment, taking them from the initial fifteen minutes each to around twenty-five.
It actually works out for the project, as that fifth segment “…would have been fairly expensive because I had a castle location and I was trying to get another star name in there. A mainstream star name, and all those things add up, so if the first Tales of Frankenstein does well, and since it’s based on a book, then I would probably follow it up with Tales of Frankenstein Volume Two, instead of calling it Part Two, just call it Volume Two like the book. And then I could incorporate the one we didn’t shoot into that one. And then I would pick three other stories that I think might work.”
But at the moment, Glut’s eye is on the tally at the Indiegogo project, which isn’t going as well as he’d like.
“This is my fourth or fifth attempt at raising money with crowdfunding, and they’ve all been disasters. I figured – my original plan, my original belief was – that I could raise the money on Facebook. I have five thousand Facebook friends. And they’re always, ‘Oh, your work inspired me’ and ‘You wrote my favorite episode that I saw as a kid’ and yadda yadda – all this adulation I get from people on Facebook. So I have five thousand fans, who all know me from different areas, from different things I’ve done. So I thought if every one of them sent me one dollar (laughing), well that would be five thousand dollars. For five thousand dollars, I could rent some good equipment, I could pay a few of the actors off, I could get some meals. That could go a long way, and when you’re making a low-budget independent movie you know how to make those dollars stretch. So I figured that would be no problem.”
“All I get are ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, ‘Oh, we can’t wait to see this movie’ and smiley faces and all this kind of stuff. But nobody’s sending me one dollar. I figured everybody could afford a dollar. But nobody is! So I’ve only raised a very tiny percentage of the money I need. It’s just so frustrating. Close friends of mine say ‘We’re going to help you promote this thing,’ you know? ‘We are going to make sure twenty thousand people see this,’ but they won’t give me a dollar! I don’t understand it.
“I don’t know. I must be doing something wrong.”
The Show Must Go On
“We’re still going to make the movie,” Glut continues. “This’ll be a bit tougher putting the money together, but it would be nice if I could, in those last few days, raise a thousand dollars or a couple thousand dollars. I could stretch that a long way.”
“Dr. Karnstein’s Creation” will star Jim Tavaré (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chuck) as Karnstein. Other segments have included Jerry Lacy (Dark Shadows), Ann Robinson (War of the Worlds), Beverly Washburn (Superman and the Mole Men), Mel Novak (Game of Death), John Blyth Barrymore, T.J. Storm (Deadpool), and even Swamp Thing and Wolverine co-creator Len Wein.
“When I was a kid living in Chicago, and I loved movies, if I had the opportunity to participate in some way in the making of a movie, that would be thrilling for me. But people just don’t seem to care, I guess.”