Most of the time, if you’re a writer, an artist, a musician, a builder — any field where you “create” something, there is a standard sequence of events: you make things the best way you know how at the time, you learn more about your craft as you go, you put the project away and move on to the next one, (hopefully) learning from your mistakes. But what if you got the chance to re-visit one of your own projects…27 years later? That’s, in a literal sense, what fellow Producer Mark Gilman and I are getting to do with Lugosi: The Forgotten King.
LTFK was a very early project for Mark and me. I’d just moved from the Midwest to L.A., where old Kansas pal Mr. Gilman had been living for a few years already. We completed our Three Stooges documentary and moved almost immediately to our next project, which would hopefully play some small part in re-establishing Bela Lugosi’s fundamental (and we felt, now-neglected) contribution to the horror genre – and film history in general.
We were still very green at this…fresh out of college and fueled by little but enthusiasm. I mean, it was 1984 — no Internet, of course, so trying to find old actors to interview was catch-as-catch can (“somebody told me Carroll Borland was still alive,” etc.). We shot it on film, but edited on videotape – a big, clunky ¾” video machine that was just as likely to eat your tape as play it. “Slow going” doesn’t begin to describe it, friends.
Bela’s son, Bela G. Lugosi, gave us his tacit approval but wasn’t interested in appearing. Still, we were able to assemble some pretty cool subjects for our little picture — the legendary John Carradine and Carroll Borland, the actress who stands next to Lugosi in the iconic still any horror film fan has seen a hundred times from Mark of the Vampire.
Equally legendary Golden Age leading man Ralph Bellamy welcomed us into his home for his interview and couldn’t have been a nicer guy. We also interviewed film-fan-made-good Alex Gordon, who went from being a young British fan of the movies to becoming a writer/producer of cult -favorite 50’s films, including being a scribe on Lugosi’s Bride of the Monster.
Foremost, for us at least, is that we got the great Forrest J Ackerman to host the thing and filmed most of it at his “Ackermansion.”
After a long editing process, we released it in syndication and on home-video, and went on to other projects. End of story, right?
So here we are. It’s 2012 and the Lugosi family has contacted us and asked if we might be interested in finally releasing LTFK on DVD, “freshened up” with new interview footage Would we be interested? Would we?! Who wouldn’t want to get another crack at “fixing” something you did in your callow youth?
Not easy, of course. It’s not exactly restoring Nanook of the North, but challenging? Yes. There’s the issue of making our new interview footage match 30-year old 16mm film…some of the elements still exist – luckily we have a nice 1” video master of the original show. And now the whole thing fits on a small hard drive.
On the upside though, this is the 21st Century! There are new film vintage clips and stills that have surfaced since we did it, and better quality clips of the stuff we did have. Combined with the new interview footage, this is going to be a treasure trove for any classic horror film fan.
The coup de gras is the addition of a fascinating interview with Bela G. Lugosi, who provides illuminating facts and stories about his father…stories that give us a glimpse into Life with Lugosi off-stage. We all have read what a private man Lugosi the Actor was – here’s a chance to get a sense of Lugosi the Man.
Another advantage we have in our favor is the addition of Laura McCullough to our producing team. Laura brings many years of deep interest and study of horror films to the party and is an absolute she-devil when it comes to film research.
So, check back here once in a while…join us as we take this little adventure again. Remember, everything old is new again – and that includes your humble Producers!
— Dave Stuckey