William Winckler. 1.06
Writer, producer, director and actor William Winckler is
a Hollywood veteran of over 20 years, who produced several
syndicated television series and acted
in dozens of feature films, TV shows and commercials. William formed his own
company in 2001, patterned loosely after the old AIP - American International
Pictures - company of the 1950's and '60's. William personally creates each
film following traditional genre storytelling and filmmaking techniques. His
company's latest film, "William Winckler's Frankenstein Vs. The Creature
From Blood Cove," is an exciting, nostalgic, good old fashioned monster
movie/ creature feature, praised by fans and critics.
"We intentionally made a low-budget, goofy, Ed Wood-esque
film and, by God, it was a hit and made a lot of money!"
Unimonster: I know this is something that everyone must
ask you, but how did you get your start in the entertainment
Winckler: I've always had an overactive imagination,
and with that ability -- combined with growing up in
southern California -- it was just natural for me to
go into the business. My late father, Robert "Bobby" Winckler,
was a successful child actor in Hollywood in the 1930s
and 1940s, and later an equally successful entertainment
attorney. However, it was really that overactive imagination
that got me into the biz, not my father's influence.
I studied acting and directing at UCLA with award-winning
director Don Richardson, who also taught Ann Bancroft,
Zero Mostel, John Cassavetes, Elizabeth Montgomery, Grace
Kelly and countless other stars. I learned a great deal
from Don about acting and directing, and as a result
I'd like to think I'm more of an "actor's director" than
a typical "camera-pusher" director.
influence was my mentor and great friend Jonathan Harris,
who's best known today as Dr. Smith from the
classic TV series "Lost in Space." Jonathan
and I were incredibly close throughout the 1990s. He
was almost like a grandfather to me, and he taught me
a great deal about acting and the "business" of
Unimonster: Your love of genre films
comes through very strongly in your work. Have you always
had a love of
William Winckler: I really love the classics,
and I define classics as those sci-fi, fantasy and horror
made from the 1930s up to the mid to late 1970s. I worship
the Universal monsters, the Hammer films with Peter Cushing
and Christopher Lee, the AIP drive-in films like "I
Was A Teenage Werewolf," the classic Japanese monster
movies, all the Vincent Price films (especially "House
on Haunted Hill") and Roger Corman's Edgar Allan
Poe pictures. I truly believe that if you look at the
entertainment value of those classics they were infinitely
more enjoyable that most of the sci-fi, fantasy and horror
films and TV series being produced today. The best actors,
writers, producers and directors worked on these vintage
productions. I mean, which would you rather see -- "House
of Wax" starring Vincent Price, or the remake of "House
of Wax" starring Paris Hilton?
was your first job in entertainment like? Was it what
you had expected?
One of my first acting jobs was on a Michael Landon TV
movie called "Sam's Son." It
was a bio-drama, and I had a bit part as a student in
Michael's class. Landon was very nice to me: he gave
me good direction and complimented me on what I had done.
However, what really impressed me was how he was able
to successfully juggle all those different skills ...
writing, producing, directing and acting. I thought, "Wow,
it can be done. You CAN wear all the hats."
You created, not one, but two televisions series [Tekkaman
The Space Knight; Short Ribbs] by the
time you were 25. How did they come about, and what are
your memories from those experiences? Were they generally
William Winckler: In the early 1980s, Tatsunoko
Productions (the creators of "Speed Racer") were actively
looking for American partners for their animated cartoons.
I had a few meetings with their intermediary, Ike Ashida,
and to make a long story short they decided they wanted
to work with me. So I wrote, produced and provided some
voices for the American version of "Tekkaman the
Space Knight." I also directed some of the shows
and scenes. That series was one of the last programs
actually produced by Tatsunoko founder Tatsuo Yoshida,
and it had a very classy, colorful, glossy look to it.
The finished American show turned out great, since we
tried to remain as faithful to the original Japanese
version as possible. Keep in mind that at this time the
anime boom hadn't happened yet -- it was still about
ten years away -- and there were tons of lobbyists in
Washington fighting against violence on children's TV.
As a result, most Japanese cartoons, like "Gatchaman" (a.k.a. "Battle
of the Planets") were butchered to death. We didn't
do this with "Tekkaman." I was able to sell
the series in syndicated TV across the country, and we
also licensed home video rights, which worked out great.
Congress Video Group sold something like 50,000 units
of "Tekkaman," which was incredible at the
Well, as TV sales were beginning to pick up, several
major multimillion dollar corporations jumped on the "Japanimation" bandwagon,
and then the airwaves were flooded with shows like "Voltron," "Robotech," "GoBots," etc.,
which effectively destroyed the market. "Tekkaman" was
a great, fun series, and it was infinitely better entertainment-wise
than most of the competition. The show did sell, and
lots of fans loved it, but the big corporations pretty
much killed future sales for me, since I was a small
independent producer. This was also around the time that "Speed
Racer," "Gigantor" and the other classic
anime shows disappeared from American TV, thanks to the
greedy corporations and their partners in crime, the
monster-sized toy companies. Nevertheless, I loved producing "Tekkaman" and
have fond memories of the experience.
"Short Ribbs" was a live-action comedy/variety
series that had a cast entirely comprised of little people.
Billy Barty, who was probably the most famous little
person actor in Hollywood, was the executive producer
and star of the show, and I wound up being the line producer
and main writer. It was supposed to be similar to "Saturday
Night Live" with midgets and dwarfs, and we had
big sponsors like 7-Up. Unfortunately, there was trouble
from the start. Billy was very difficult to deal with,
and he wanted a program like "The Lawrence Welk
Show." I wanted to produce a show more in line with "Monty
Python." Our different points of view were never
resolved and, being the star of the show, Billy got his
way. I think this destroyed the series, which ended up
lasting only about 13 weeks. Looking back, it was kind
of hilarious seeing him throw temper tantrums on the
sets, using all kinds of profanity, because he was like
a little pissed-off child surrounded by adults. I was
always trying to calm him down and talk sense into him.
God forbid you told him a joke wasn't funny, because
then you'd get the "I've been in the business 60
years, I know what's funny!" spiel.
Still, I did
have some fun making "Short Ribbs," and
when the sketches didn't involve Billy, or Billy was
gone for the day, we'd be able to sneak in fun, crazy,
off-color humor, which worked great.
Actually, after "Short
Ribbs" was canceled
Billy still owed me money. He refused to pay me, so I
had to sue him in, of all places, small claims court!
The mainstream press had a field day, with headlines
like "Little Billy Barty Sued in Small Claims Court." It
actually got more publicity then the incident where Zsa
Zsa Gabor slapped the Beverly Hills police officer, which
happened about the same time. In fact, Billy said it
was the most publicity he ever got in his entire career!
Ultimately, I won the case, got my remaining money and
never saw Billy again. The series was syndicated, and
I heard it was a huge success in Australia. Perhaps someday
it will be released on DVD -- there's certainly never
been anything like on TV before or since.
Your first feature film, The Double-D Avenger, is a throwback
to the Russ Meyer and Doris Wishman movies
that a generation of men remembers fondly. What gave
you the idea for that movie, and was it intended as a
tribute to Meyer and that style of film-making?
Winckler: When I formed my own production company, William
Winckler Productions, Inc., we needed to start
out small and work our way up. The only way to do this
was to make an Ed Wood-style comedy. So I came up with
the idea of a costumed, Wonder Woman-type super-heroine
who used her giant breasts to fight crime. This was the
seed of "The Double-D Avenger." We intentionally
made a low-budget, goofy, Ed Wood-esque film and, by
God, it was a hit and made a lot of money!
I was going to cast Playboy models and hot, sexy unknowns.
Now, it so happened that I also knew Russ
Meyer star Kitten Natividad from an earlier job working
at a dotcom. So I found myself wondering "What if
I use her as the star of 'The Double-D Avenger'? Wouldn't
that be an absolute riot? The world's only costumed super-heroine
over the age of 50!" I laughed my head off, and
I thought the audience would, too. Then Kitten suggested
I also cast Russ Meyer actresses Haji and Raven De La
Croix. That's how the movie turned into a Russ Meyer
movie-star reunion picture. It really is the one and
only reunion film with Russ's famous actresses.
it's more of a camp comedy than a sexploitation film,
it didn't matter that it became what Joe Bob Briggs
called "Attack of the Slutty Grandmas!" Seriously,
the movie sold all over the place and made a great profit:
there's a Japanese version, a French language version,
and so on. It keeps selling to this day. I especially
love the Japanese title for the film: "MegaPie Oba
Ranger," which loosely translated means "Big-Breasted,
Old Bag Power Ranger."
Unimonster: Your current
film, Frankenstein vs. The Creature From Blood Cove just
premiered in San Francisco,
and is available for purchase on Amazon.com. How would
you describe this movie?
William Winckler: It's a retro-style,
black-and-white, old-fashioned monster movie/creature
feature. It combines
elements of the Universal monsters with the sexy Hammer
horror films and the AIP/Roger Corman drive-in flicks.
As I said before, I love classic monsters and horror,
and don't care for contemporary terror films. So I simply
made the type of movie I wanted to see. It's a straightforward
monster picture with men in rubber suits, a little T&A,
a mad scientist, etc. Everything seemed to work, and
most of the critics seem to agree -- about 90 percent
of the reviews have been positive. The DVD sales have
been amazing, and the response at various theatrical
screenings around the country has been equally phenomenal.
Unimonster: What was the genesis of Frankenstein vs.
The Creature From
William Winckler: The idea began with a nightmare
I had of Frankenstein's monster battling a half-man,
creature on a beach, with waves crashing in the background,
lightning striking from dark clouds, etc. From this basic
scene I ended up writing an entire script for the picture.
The original drafts were more sci-fi in nature, and Frankenstein's
monster talked a lot. The final drafts ultimately veered
more towards traditional horror, and we nixed most of
the monster's dialogue. We also went to great lengths
so our monsters would be totally different from any other
Unimonster: How long did it take
to come to fruition? What was the most difficult part
of the process?
Winckler: It took about two years to get off the ground.
Originally we were going to shoot "The
Double-D Avenger 2," but that was scrapped for various
artistic, creative and marketing reasons. A decision
was then made to do a retro-horror film, but the budget
was very, very high for an independent movie, so it took
a while to raise the money. As for the difficult part
of the process, although I am well aware that latex make-ups
take hours to apply, I was constantly concerned about
the time it took to get our actors into the monster make-ups.
As producer/director, I was naturally always watching
the clock to make certain we stayed on schedule and on
time each and every day. This was something that nagged
at me throughout the entire production. Fortunately,
nothing else was a problem. I have the greatest team
in the world, including cinematographer Matthias Schubert,
Editor Kate Sobol, composer Mel Lewis and all my wonderful
actors, including Larry Butler -- who also starred as
the villain in "The Double-D Avenger." I think
Larry is one of contemporary Hollywood's greatest character
actors, and I hope that thanks to "William Winckler's
Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove" he
will soon be thought of as a modern-day Vincent Price
or Lon Chaney, Jr.
Unimonster: As with most independent
filmmakers, you wear many hats on Frankenstein vs. The
Blood Cove. Which role, (director, writer, producer,
or actor) is most personally satisfying to you?
Winckler: I love all the roles, though I have to admit
that directing and acting are the most fun.
Which role is most difficult to fulfill?
Once the script is done, the toughest
part is initially getting a film off the ground. So many
things need to be coordinated early on -- casting, wardrobe,
make-up, props, sets, locations, etc. It's like planning
for a wedding, except it's more like 22 different weddings,
day after day!
Unimonster: There were numerous celebrities
making cameo appearances in Frankenstein vs. The Creature
Cove, including Ron Jeremy, Lloyd Kaufman, even David
Gerrold (writer of the original Star Trek episode “The
Trouble with Tribbles”). Was it difficult to get
people to appear in the film, and was there anyone you
would’ve liked to make a cameo that didn’t?
William Winckler: I worked as an executive developing
sci-fi films for the Internet during the
dotcom boom a few years ago, and while doing that I got
to know a lot of cult TV and movie stars. These folks
were all friends who wanted to participate in the movie.
The only guy I would have loved to have had appear was
Forrest J. Ackerman. Forry made a great cameo in "The
Double-D Avenger," just before his health went downhill,
before all of his legal troubles, and of course before
the loss of his famous Ackermansion. We got him just
in time, when he was still healthy and in great shape
to act in a film (April, 2001). However, when we shot "William
Winckler's Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove" earlier
this year (February, 2005), Forry was not healthy enough
to appear in the picture. I called him several times,
but was told by everyone that he wouldn't be up to it.
Which was sad, but I'm glad he at least appeared in "The
Unimonster: Without getting
too detailed, roughly how much of a budget did Frankenstein
vs. The Creature From
Blood Cove have?
William Winckler: We really weren't
that far off from what AIP used to spend on some of their
movies in the 1950s. Still, compared to what most indie
horror filmmakers spend nowadays, this film has a huge
budget. I'd have to call it a Rolls Royce or Lamborghini
of a B-movie. [laughs]
Unimonster: Was this production
easier than The Double-D Avenger, or more difficult?
How did your experience with
the first film affect your performance with the second?
William Winckler: "The Double-D Avenger" was
much easier to make, although some of the actresses were
pains-in-the-ass to work with (and no, I'm not naming
any names!). In "William Winckler's Frankenstein
Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove," I only had
to worry about getting actors into make-up on time. Actually,
if we had gone over by even a few days due to make-up
issues, it would have caused some very serious problems.
Fortunately, that didn't happen.
As far as my acting
was concerned, the character I played in "The Double-D Avenger" was just a small
role. I was Kitten Natividad's cousin, and in that role
was also the only one who knew she was the Double-D Avenger.
In "Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove," my
character, glamour photographer Bill Grant, is totally
different. He's the young lead in the film, and it's
a very meaty part, so I was able to apply all my past
acting experience to the role. Grant's a struggling photographer
trying to make the big-time, but he's stuck working for
this small men's rag. All hell breaks loose when these
mad scientists suddenly hold him and his crew hostage.
Bill wants to escape, but he never has the opportunity
until the very end of the film. So it was a fun role
to play, because he's a very emotional guy and is constantly
working to resolve the problems he keeps facing.
In my review of Frankenstein vs. The Creature From Blood
Cove, I compared you to Ed Wood, the well-known
director of such movies as Glen Or Glenda, Bride Of The
Monster, and his most notorious film, Plan 9 From Outer
Space. Do you welcome such comparisons, and was Wood
one of your influences? If not, who is?
I don't mind the Ed Wood connection at all, since we
both really possess a true LOVE for
classic genre films. However, if you look at the quality
of "William Winckler's Frankenstein Vs. The Creature
From Blood Cove," I was able to craft a film that, thanks
to my skilled production team, was more professional
and slick than most of the films Ed made (and many of
the indie films made by today's low-budget moviemakers).
Nevertheless, I love Ed Wood. He was wonderful. In fact,
if I were given a choice of watching one of George Lucas's
new "Star Wars" films or "Plan 9 From
Outer Space," I'd pick "Plan 9" any day!
It's infinitely more entertaining than watching a boring "video
game-inspired" CGI-powered film like the latest "Star
Unimonster: What’s next for
William Winckler Productions, and for William Winckler,
himself? Is there another Horror
Film coming soon?
William Winckler: We have other similar
horror films in the works, but for the time being, I'm
busy as hell
promoting and encouraging fans to buy "William Winckler's
Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove" on
Amazon.com! The movie is available other places, but
for Horror-Web readers it's probably easiest just to
buy the DVD directly off Amazon.com. I should add the
disc is full of great extras -- bloopers, a trailer,
a "making of" featurette, etc. -- and I'm confident
that, once they see it, most horror fans will be thrilled
to have the movie in their collections. Horror-Web
would like to thank Mr. Winckler for this interview,
and Jeff Berkwits for helping to set it up.
more information please visit:
William Winckler Productions
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