Friday, September 14, 2012

The "Never Got Made" Files #80 - #82: A glut of Donald Glut, part 2

We certainly covered a wide range of territory in the first part of our overview on unproduced Don Glut screenplays as we ventured from cursed castles to self deprecating superheroes to a Japanese superhero battling mutant dinosaurs. Always fearful of disappointing our readers, the next entry proves to be even more diverse as Glut reveals details on projects that involve pirates and psychos and teenage monsters.  Oh, my!

#80 - QUEEN CUTLASS (mid-1970s)

Before we start, take a good look at that art to the left. Okay, picked your jaw up off the floor?  Seriously, what red-blooded American kid wouldn’t want to see a movie based on that?  Hell, I still want to see it.  Yet despite a plethora of female pirates throughout history (Grace O’Malley, Mary Read, Anne Bonny, Lady Killigrew) and literature, the pirate film subgenre was predominantly male up into the mid-1970s. (Of course, the Italians couldn’t be stopped with titles like QUEEN OF THE PIRATES [1960] and TIGER OF THE SEVEN SEAS [1962].)  Glut was hoping to change that with the female pirate project QUEEN CUTLASS.

The venture originally started off in a completely different medium.  “It was originally going to be a comic book,” Glut reveals. “Rick Hoberg, an artist friend of mine, did some art for QUEEN CUTLASS.  He and I were very good friends and we were working at Marvel Comics and animation together. We got that to a company called Sanrio, which was a Japanese company that had established an office in Los Angeles.  They were going to do all kinds of things – graphic novels, comic books, you name it.”

When the property didn’t get picked up by that company Glut decided to rework it into a film treatment.  “Both Rick and I had a friend working over at 20th Century Fox who was in the story department,” he explains. “So we submitted the treatment that I had written to our friend at Fox.”

(click to enlarge)
“QUEEN CUTLASS was kind of a combination pirate movie and sword-and-sorcery film,” Glut details.  “Something like THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958), but with pirates living in this world where magic existed.”  Indeed, Ray Harryhausen’s productions were still popular at the time the script was being written with THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974) and SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977) finding gold at the box office.

The storyline revolved around a young girl named Aleta – which is the name of Hoberg’s wife in real life – being captured by a group of sea-faring scoundrels.  “She is a princess and there is a raid on the castle,” Glut explains.  “She gets captured by a group of pirates and grows up on a pirate ship and eventually becomes the Captain.  There is a quest and, of course, there is a villain – a sorcerer type – who was behind the whole thing. She eventually finds out what her heritage is.  It was very much like an Edgar Rice Burroughs-type of plot where they think she is a savage and at the end turns out to be a queen.”

Alas, regardless of how scantily clad the heroine was, the project never found its footing at Fox and was forced to walk the plank (ah, boo yourself).  In fact, Glut and friends proved to be a bit before their time as it would be two decades before a proper female pirate movie, CUTTHROAT ISLAND (1995), came from a major Hollywood company.  Despite that film’s legendary bombing at the box office, the pirate subgenre survived and female pirates successfully set sail in Disney’s PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN series. “Now, of course, pirates are very hot and fantasy is very hot,” Glut concludes, “but both Rick and I went on to do other things.”

#81 - CUTS (mid-1980s)

Leaping ahead a decade and into another genre, Glut remembered a horror project that he developed in the mid-1980s.  A confirmed classic horror film fan, Glut penned a screenplay that tackled the radical shift happening within the horror field with the emerging stalk-and-slash subgenre, creating an “old school vs. new school” showdown. “CUTS was a straight horror picture at the height of the slasher phase,” he explains. “It was basically about an old horror film actor who had vanished many years ago.  He comes out of retirement because he’s not happy with the way horror films have changed from the Boris Karloff and Vincent Price era to the FRIDAY THE 13th era.  The hero was a special effects artist who uses his gore effects to save the day.”

Sounding like a fun combination of THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973) meets F/X (1986), CUTS was written with specific people in mind for the lead roles.  For the thespian-gone-mad, Glut thought of a horror staple in Mr. Barnabas Collins himself.  “I wanted an older actor to play the Karloff/Price character,” he explains, “and approached Jonathan Frid, with whom I was in contact at the time. Jonathan, however, was at a point in his life where he wasn't particularly interested in acting in films of any kind, but particularly in horror, and politely declined.”

For the lead in the film's modern-era slasher, Glut thought of a friend whose casting would have been totally against type.  “I was very good friends with Richard Moll, who was then still with NIGHT COURT,” he reveals.  “He wanted to branch out and do some movies and he was a horror fan.  With hair, mustache and a beard, he looked very much like a very tall Vincent Price.  I could see him in that role.  So I tailored that character to being very tall and looking very classical in the sense of the old horror films.”

For the latex-slinging special effects hero, Glut also had a unique take on this lead role. “For the special effects guy, I thought of Tom Savini,” he discloses.  “Savini not only does those kinds of effects, but he’s also a good actor.  He was just the right age at the time.”  And the effects artist seemed receptive to the idea.  “I was stuck in Pittsburgh for a day and a night with nothing to do in a railroad station there, so I just decided to look up Tom Savini’s name in the phone book and he was listed.  So I called him and he invited me over to the house.  He was very nice to me.  During the course of the evening I mentioned the CUTS script and I gave it to him.  He said he was going to try and get some financing or get it to people.  Nothing ever became of that though.”

Despite having written the script with certain actors in mind, Glut was not attached to direct this one.  “CUTS was not going to be directed by me,” he explains, “but by a director friend named Joel Colman.  He had done some feature work, but he was mostly a TV commercial director.  He did hundreds of TV commercials.  One of the ones you may remember if you’re old enough was the [1980s commercial] where they blew up the Jack in the Box [fast food mascot] character.”

The script did come close to getting the green light in the hands of producer Robert Swanson, who had some even more interesting thoughts on casting.  “He was going to try to get Christopher Lee to play the part I had designed for Richard Moll,” Glut mentioned during our talk.  “I know Christopher Lee quite well so that would have been equally good for me.  Either one of those people could play that role. Swanson said he came close many times but he was just never able to get a deal [for the movie].”

CUTS opening
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#82 - TEENAGE MONSTER RUMBLE (late 1970s)

The final project we’ll take a look at is one that Glut has a special fondness for as it was born out of amateur moviemaking days.  Already a fan of the Universal monsters, Glut’s worldview was expanded even further with American International Pictures’ late 1950s teenage monster cycle.  In his teens at the time, Glut found the perfect conduit to connect his love of monsters with his teenage acting ensemble and a series of shorts soon developed featuring the Teenage Werewolf, Teenage Frankenstein, Teenage Vampire, Invisible Teen, and even a Teenage Apeman.  The culmination of these efforts was MONSTER RUMBLE (1961), a 34-minute dialogue free effort that allowed Glut to stage the battle between the Teenage Frankenstein and Teenage Werewolf creatures the he so desperately wanted to see in HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958).

TEENAGE MONSTER RUMBLE was born in the 1970s as Glut set out to write a script that captured the 1950s and early 1960s nostalgia going on at the time.  Having donned a leather jacket and greaser hair as a teen (much to the dismay of his high school’s staff) Glut felt that the era of motorcycle boots and pomade was fertile territory for a return of the teenage monsters.  While mum on the plot particulars, Glut does let it be known that the script takes place in 1959 and revolves around a descendant of Dracula, fresh off the boat from Transylvania, cruising into a new high school and setting up a gang of monsters.  All the favorites – Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, and even a zombie – appear in teenage form and get ready to rumble with a rival motorcycle gang down on the waterfront.  “It is rebels with claws,” Glut says.

(click to enlarge)

It is definitely a stroll into the past for Glut.  Most of the characters were written with folks he hung out with as influence and he even was hoping to shoot it at St. Benedict High School, his alma mater in Chicago.  “I wanted to shoot it in my actual high school in Chicago,” he reveals.  “When I wrote the script, the geography of what was going on in my mind was the geography of the high school.”

Horror high - St. Benedict High School:

As a labor of love, Glut also made deliberate plans to pay homage to the horror genre. He wrote a role specifically for celebrated horror host Zacherley.  He also hoped to incorporate the man who helped send the juice into Frankenstein’s monster in a little in-joke. “When I first wrote it, I was hoping I could get Ken Strickfaden as a guy who sold the lab equipment,” he reveals.  Additionally, he made room for a horror legend to reprise a famous role.  “I wanted to get John Carradine to play Dracula,” he explains. “He only appears as a ghost in front of a painting, so I could get around the fact that he was very visibly arthritic at the time.”

The project has encountered various amount of interest over the years.  Glut pitched it to producer Mark Borde, who expressed interest, and Joe Dante associate Miller Drake tried to get the film into the hands of Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.  While the project hasn’t happened yet, Glut did get a bit of it out to the public in an industry showcase production he directed in the 1980s.  “We had special effects and some pretty actresses who played the teenage girls,” he divulges.  “I had a guy who had kind of a 1950s look playing the teenage vampire.  We did a bat transformation including a puppet bat and a fog machine.  We had music playing in the background and I had a bunch of 1950s songs that fit in with the visuals.  It went great but the fog machine – the guy [working it] didn’t realize how powerful it was – and we literally flooded out the theater and everybody had to go outside for a half hour.”

TEENAGE MONSTER RUMBLE is a project that Glut still actively develops and he currently lists it on his film company’s website.  When asked which of the scripts we discussed he would want to do if given a green light, Glut chose this one without hesitation.  “I’d really like to do TEENAGE MONSTER RUMBLE,” he answers, “to me that would be a trip down memory lane.”

Check back next week for our third and final part where we talk barbarians, more superheroes and dinosaurs!

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