Frankenstein vs. The Mummy is an all-new independent horror film set for a Feb. 10 release that promises to bring together two of the biggest titans of terror in history. The referee of this fight, director Damien Leone, talked to us to explain the origins of this monstrous project, which will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD from Image Entertainment.
Wicked Horror: What inspired you to make the film and how did the project start coming together?
Damien: I got a call from a producer that I had worked with before, and he had a 30-page treatment for a movie called Frankenstein vs. The Mummy, and it was a found footage treatment. And he asked if I wanted to do the special effects, and I immediately agreed to that. It’s a great opportunity to create those characters. And he wondered whether or not I was interested in directing it as well. I was a little hesitant, you know? I didn’t want to do found footage. So I asked him to send me the treatment, and I read it, and I wasn’t crazy about it, about directing it. But I asked him if I could rewrite it myself and for the same budget make it cinematic. It was really ambitious because it’s so easy to shoot a found footage movie, but he agreed as long as I could deliver for the same budget. I wanted to keep it human. Frankenstein has always been one of my favorite characters. So I started with the novel and I took as much as I possibly could from that.
Wicked Horror: It’s kind of amazing that a movie titled Frankenstein vs. The Mummy had never been made before. Did you have that in mind going into it that this was the first crossover between the two that had ever been made?
Damien: I knew I had never seen one before. So I started digging around to see if there were any really low budget ones that had been done in the seventies or if anybody had today, because there are so many low budget horror movies being made right now, so I was sure somebody had done it. I knew there had been films where they were in it together, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one where they actually fight. It’s always fun to do something, even if it’s a little absurd, something that’s never been done before. That intrigued me.Mary Shelley’s novel, did you take any particular films or stories as inspiration?
Damien: No, it’s really… like I said, I’m just such a huge Frankenstein fan and I just wanted to make a Frankenstein movie. So this was my opportunity to do a Frankenstein movie, just having the mummy in there. I think it came out good in terms of the structure, I think it definitely did. There’s a decent amount of both of them in there. We tried to have equal amounts of both characters, to get enough of them in there.
Wicked Horror: Was it difficult to maintain that balance between the two characters?
Damien: It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be. I wrote the script very quickly. Within a couple of weeks, maybe a month, I had the script. I don’t remember that ever being a problem. It was pretty easy, actually. The hardest part to figure out was how to make these two creatures come together. Having it take place at the university made it easy, because it all happened under one roof. Once I had that, it all came together.
Wicked Horror: Given that it was a low budget shoot, I imagine it was not without its share of challenges. How did the shoot go, overall?
Damien: It was the hardest shoot I’ve ever had in my life. Everyone was fine, the cast and crew were really cool, but it was hard to deal with such a special effects heavy film. We only had so long to figure out what we were doing. There were many days where I had to make up the creatures and direct them, it was over twenty-four hours. I had to be on set at five o’clock in the morning and make up one creature, and they were never on set on the same day except for one day when I had to do both. And that turned out to be a twenty-six hour day by the time I was done, by the time I got home, it had been twenty-six hours. It was really, really tough. I was kind of delirious for most of the shoot. But it’s one of those things, emotionally, where you just keep going.
Wicked Horror: And the designs for the creatures in the film are pretty neat, how involved were you in coming up with the look of both monsters?
Damien: Thank you! To be honest with you, the mummy was easier. Because he’s so rotten, he’s a rotting soul, and he’s basically a skeleton. And that’s always creepy. And there’s such a fascination right now with zombies and rotting creatures, so he was a lot easier. I knew before, with the Frankenstein monster, this character speaks and has to be a lot more expressive, and he isn’t that rotten. So I went back to the novel to see how he was described, because I didn’t want to recreate the Boris Karloff version, I wanted to make my own. It’s copyrighted, that look, so you actually can’t have a lot of things in common with the Boris Karloff makeup. The flat head, the droopy eyes, the bolts in the neck, they’re all copyrighted. I went back to the novel and I was reading to see the description, and it was kind of vague. It doesn’t say much. But it does say that he had black flowing hair, and I took that to mean he had long hair. And I thought other people’s versions throughout the years, I’ve seen every Hammer Frankenstein, they strayed from that. The thing that stood out to me the most was Bernie Wrightson’s comic book. I took the most inspiration from that by far. He was very muscular, so I cast an actor that was muscular, his face was rotting like a zombie, because everybody loves zombies. I knew he was going to be the hardest one because Frankenstein is the most iconic. Boris Karloff was so iconic, so I knew he was going to be the hardest one.