Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Igor, pull the switch!

In the recent Victor Frankenstein with James McAvoy in the title role, we have seen Daniel
Radcliffe as his handsome but hunch backed assistant, Igor. To many, it seems that Frankenstein has ALWAYS been assisted by a hunchback called Igor. But in fact, it's one of those urban legends like Sherlock Holmes stating “Elementary my dear Watson” (not once does he utter these words in the original Canon) or Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan saying "Me Tarzan you Jane” (he only says “Tarzan... Jane... Tarzan...”)

So no, there isn't a single trace of an Igor in Mary Shelley's novel, nor is there any character who could have inspired the deformed valet pulling switches in the popular imagery. No Igor either in any of the theater plays that have been staged throughout the 19th century. No Igor in the first film version of Frankenstein in 1910.

Could we date the creation of this character with the release of James Whale's Frankenstein in 1931? Everyone remembers Boris Karloff being persecuted by a hunchback holding a torch, played by Dwight Frye... Unfortunately, the guy isn't called Igor, but Fritz. Damn. In fact, Dwight Frye appeared in most of Universal Frankenstein films, as a different character each time, but he never played an Igor. J. Carrol Naish plays another hunchback in House of Frankenstein, but his character is called Daniel!

The first time a Frankenstein met an Ygor (with an Y) was in 1939 Son of Frankenstein, the third entry in the Universal saga. Played by none other than Bela Lugosi, this Ygor introduces himself to Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone), and says he used to be his father's assistant – which is rather dubious since we haven't seen him in previous movies. Besides, he's not a hunchback at all, he simply has a broken neck due to his attempted hanging by the townspeople. Lugosi's Ygor returne in the sequel Ghost of Frankenstein, then lived on as the Monster's brain in Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man.

There was no character called Igor in the Frankenstein movies produced by Hammer Films, and the only occurrence that can be spotted in the 60s is the western schlock Jesse James meets Frankenstein's Daughter, where said daughter renames her creature Igor for unknown reasons.

By the time Mel Brooks made his Young Frankenstein in 1973, the hunchback assistant Igor was a given in most people's minds, probably because of a confusion between Dwight Frye and Bela Lugosi's characters. However, Young Frankenstein's Igor played by Marty Feldman marks his real screen debut. Innumerable other Igors would follow, in movies such as Mistress Frankenstein, The Nightmare before Christmas, Frankenstein Italian Style, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Van Helsing, Crazy Dracula Spring Break Weekend, Christmas at Draculas and even... wait for it... Daughter of Werebitch Meets Skankenstein.

In 2008, there was even a feature animated film starring Igor, with the voice talents of John Cusack as Igor and John Cleese as Dr Glickenstein. In this (dark) comedy, Igors are a race of slaves doomed to assist crazy scientists in their experiments. But our hero has higher ambitions!

There is no character called Igor in Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Shane Briant's Hammer films

Shane Briant, who was recently seen in the series Serangoon Road and in Roland Joffé's The Lovers, will play the Burgermeister of Darmstadt in our movie Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein. Fourty years ago, he starred in several Hammer films before the company sadly went out of business.

Shane started his screen career at the age of 25. After a bit part in Von Richthofen and Brown, directed by Roger Corman, he landed a key role in Hammer's Demons of the Mind (1972), which can be considered as his true screen debut. Oddly enough, his face is proeminently featured on the original poster, even though his name does not among the main actors. Directed by Peter Sykes, who would later direct Christopher Lee in the famous To the Devil A Daughter, Demons of the Mind is not one of the most successful films produced by Hammer. Still, Shane's performance was so remarkable that the studio offered him the lead in their next production.

Straight on Till Morning is a dark thriller directed by Peter Collinson (The Italian Job with Michael Caine). Shane Briant co-stars with Rita Tushingham, who becomes his victim when he reveals himself to be a vicious serial killer. Cruel but handsome, cold but elegant, the young actor came across as a perfect fit for one of Hammer's most famous franchises...

Logically, in 1973, Shane is cast as Peter Cushing's co-star in the new installment in Frankenstein's saga. Playing the immoral young Simon Helder, he becomes the doctor's assistant in Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell, directed by the legendary Terence Fisher.

The infamous baron and his new assistant team up to create a new monster, played by David Prowse (Cushing and Prowse would eventually meet again in Star Wars, where the former plays Grand Moff Tarkin and the latter Darth Vader!). Madeline Smith, Bernard Lee and ex-Doctor Who Patrick Troughton complete the wonderful cast of this incredibly atmospheric entry. Unfortunately, Monster From Hell would end up being both Hammer's last Frankenstein and Fisher's last film, which prevented Helder from ever returning.

The next and last Hammer film for Shane Briant would be Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, a pre-Buffy vampire caper written and directed by Brian Clemens, showrunner of the BBC Avengers. Shane plays the decadent Paul Durward, and shares the screen with Horst Janson, scream queen Caroline Munro and ex-Avenger Ian Hendry. Captain Kronos could have been a great TV series or movie franchise, but Hammer's reign was about to end, along with an era of gothic horror that had started with Curse of Frankenstein in 1957.

Now, Shane Briant is set to return to the world of Frankenstein, where he will also meet Holmes and Watson. You can be a part of this adventure by joining the ongoing crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, which is now collecting funds for the January shoot with Shane. If you want his costume and the set to be gorgeous, contribute now: http://igg.me/at/holmes-vs-frank

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein - November 2015 Indiegogo video

In case you missed it, here is the updated Indiegogo video. If you like the project, support 'Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein' NOW!

Monday, 23 November 2015

The game is afoot

It is now official: Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein has finally started filming. A gravedigger and a monster in a cemetery! Mrs Hudson in her kitchen! The mad scientist in his lab! Everyone is in place, waiting for Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson to be cast...

Our actors John Lebar, Stephanie Campion, Stéphane Roquet and Adèle Cazenave brought to life the film's first characters, with the help of a wonderful and dedicated crew. Director of photography Jérôme Alméras has been involved in the project from the start, and production designer Pascal
Chatton joined us last month, with his experience and passion. Costume designer Charlotte Courboules will eventually team up with Pierre-Jean Larroque, and hyperactive special effects artist David Scherer jumped at the opportunity of working on a Hammer-like film. I also had the pleasure of working with my wife Lucie, who made the storyboard for the scenes.

Photos and videos will be unveiled during the next two months, as we work on post-production and on phase 2 of the crowdfunding campaign. When January comes, we will be filming scenes with none other than Shane Briant, Burgermeister Simon Helder himself. So we need the Indiegogo page to become active again, in order to give Shane the best costume and the most lavishly furnished office.

Stéphane Roquet - photo: facebook.com/pixellephoto
Most of the original perks are still available: from the film's poster to a full producer package, you can get unique collectible items or the film's script itself. In a very near future, we should be able to add signed copies of the film's novelization, written by David Whitehead (known to many by his other pen name Ben Bridges). Those who can't wait are welcome to purchase it from Amazon – which also helps production indirectly!

Joining the crowdfunding campaign for Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein will help us complete an ensemble of scenes that will define the movie's tone, and give the project the energy it needs to reach completion. In the meantime, you can feast your eyes on the images taken from the set by our set photographer AlexPixelle!

Lost the link to Indiegogo? Here it is: http://igg.me/at/holmes-vs-frank 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Getting ready

All right, now that we're through the first phase of crowdfunding, with more than 30,000€ already raised, the time has come for filming Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein. Yay! Which means assembling the cast and crew, sorting out the dates, prepping costumes, sets and special effects, storyboarding the scenes... And we're only talking about the first few scenes of the film, the ones that we will be able to shoot thanks to the crowdfunding campaign.

Phase two will include securing the rest of the budget, and hopefully getting some additional help from the crowd in doing so. If we can get the numbers to 40,000 by the end of December, we will film a few scenes with Shane Briant himself in early 2016. Then the main shoot will be in May 2016, if everything goes smoothly (which will be the case, right?)

If you haven't contributed yet, or feel like returning in order to take the campaign to the next level, you're very welcome to join now: http://igg.me/at/holmes-vs-frank

Remember you can watch the original test film on the page, and also listen to a few excerpts from the script, recorded during a public reading in Paris:

If you want a taste of the story before the film even hits the screens, prepare yourself for the script's novelization, which is currently being written by British author David Whitehead. Readers already know him under his pen name Ben Bridges, which he has been using for an impressive number of westerns. He recently wrote the novelization of the movie Day of the Gun with Eric Roberts.

The great detective is no stranger to David, who has already written several original Sherlock Holmes stories, and is also an avid Hammer Horror fan, which makes him the perfect match for a story called "Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein".

As if prepping a shoot and financing a feature wasn't enough, we are also in the process of finding distribution for my first film House of VHS. Festivals, video release... Stay tuned for a few announcements and surprises very soon on these subjects too.

Sunday, 21 June 2015


Crowdfunding is not a walk in the park. If you just set up a page and leave it there for a month, you can't expect people to show up and contribute out of nowhere. So you have to work constantly on your campaign, sharpen your communication skills... and unless you have a whole team working with you, you will probably get behind schedule. I wanted to keep posting on this blog throughout the campaign, sharing thoughts and updates, talking about Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein films in general, etc. But here we are, 4 days to the end, and this is the first article I write!

Let's share the Indiegogo link right here, because we don't want to forget that piece of information: http://igg.me/at/holmes-vs-frank

The campaign has been very rewarding so far: the goal has been met with time to spare, and now we've raised the bar to €40,000. A lot of people have shown support, sometimes unexpectedly. Many people from the French Sherlock Holmes Society (SSHF) have contributed, and Belgian Sherlockian artist Jean-Claude Mornard has been extremely enthusiastic and generous. Other supports have included famed Sherlock Holmes specialists Roger Johnson, Leslie Klinger, Howard Ostrom and the Baker Street Babes (sounds like a band), Charles Prepolec, David Whitehead - some of them are also Frankenstein or Hammer fans. My first feature film House of VHS has been screened for the first time three days ago, and several people contributed to the campaign after watching it – sometimes with a big sum, which can be considered a good sign!

People have different reasons for contributing – some of them want to see Shane Briant's return as Simon Helder, others want Ben Syder in a Holmes movie again, and others just like what they've seen of the project so far. Once the campaign is over, it will be my responsibility to make everyone happy, and deliver a movie that is entertaining, respectful and unique. And hopefully it will be able to please even the ones who have been snarling at the mere sight of the title.

In four days the campaign will be over, and the amount raised at that date will determine the leverage we will have to raise additional funds and make the film. So the higher it is, the easier it will be to get a big budget and an exciting movie. And it's important to have a list of names to show when financiers ask: “WHO WANTS TO SEE SHERLOCK HOLMES VS FRANKENSTEIN?” Well, do you?

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The other side of Cannes: film markets

While most people see Cannes or Berlin as posh festivals where a bunch of stars drink champagne and rub their feet on a prestigious red carpet, there is also a whole other side that is mostly known to industry professionals: film markets.

Getting a film made and seen is not only a creative process involving preparation, shooting and post-production. It's also a business, as is evident when you walk the corridors of one of the major film markets. There are only a fistful of them: Berlin EFM (European Film Market) in February, Cannes in May, the Los Angeles AFM (American Film Market) in November, and a few others in Hong Kong, Dubai, and now in Montreal and Bruxelles for horror and fantasy movies.

The innocent passersby will have a hard time sorting out which film is already completed (and sometimes available in some territories), and which film is still only a title and a poster, waiting for filming or still looking for funding. A quick look at the projects reveals that even today, 40 years after the release of Jaws, there is still an incredible amount of love for shark movies: Sharknado comes to mind, of course, but the market also bears titles such as Sky Sharks, Sharktopus, Atomic Shark, 2-Headed Shark Attack, 3-Headed Shark Attack or even the incredible Raiders of the Lost Shark. If you don't have sharks in the film, you probably should attach a strategic actor to your cast: Steven Seagal and Dolph Lundgren are still incredibly popular on an international level, as are Gary Daniels, Eric Robert, Danny Trejo and Michael Madsen. Of course, having a film with both Dolph Lundgren and a shark is a double win, as the producers of Shark Lake obviously know.

In a market overflooded with very low budget movies and prefinanced action flicks, it is really hard to secure funding for an ambitious movie like Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein. Until there's a strategic name on the poster, or an indisputable wave of interest for the project, our film remains one of the many posters waiting in line for money. In order to speed things up, we will be running a big crowdfunding campaign starting next Monday, to raise 25,000€ and begin filming a few scenes. If we can pull off this stunt, the rest of the budget will be much easier to assemble – and you will finally get to see Shane Briant, Clement von Franckenstein and a few other familiar faces in an exciting gothic mystery.

Join the effort on Indiegogo next week if you want to watch Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein in the near future and see your name in the credits!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Not dead! Alive!

On this day in 1891, Sherlock Holmes met his doom at Reichenbach Fall... Or did he? Everyone thought him dead for several years, after his battle against Professor Moriarty. But he returned, as if brought back to life by a mad scientist à la Frankenstein.

In a very similar way, the project “Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein” was thought dead for a while. But there's no way I would throw in the towel on this story. There are too many people involved, too many wanting to see it, and hell, even I want to see it more than anyone else!

Finishing my first feature film Houseof VHS took forever, partly because I had to fight off my business partner and say goodbye to a 20-year-old friendship. Also because there was less and less money available, for a movie that barely had any budget to begin with. Also, on a much lighter side, because I had my second child last year. All of this took up a lot of time and energy, and sometimes it seemed that my hair would turn white before the movie would be finished. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of people who were passionate, creative and talented enough to bring the project to its completion.

Now it's time for Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein to make its comeback. So far, financiers have asked “have you ever made a feature film before?” and “who wants to see a movie called Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein?”. The answer to the first question is now “Yes”, and I hope to prove that the answer to the second is “A lot of people”. In order to do that, we will run a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo from May 25th to June 25th, and try to raise the first chunk of the budget.

So if you wish to see the movie come to life, you can have a hand in that by supporting the campaign, not only by donating on May 25th, but also by posting messages, videos or pictures and by stating loud and clear “I want to see Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein!”

To be continued...

Saturday, 2 May 2015

May 2d: St. Boris's Day

Today, we celebrate people with the name Boris. But isn't it ironic that the most famous Boris of all is actually called... William?! Boris Karloff, whom we all know for his portrayal of Frankenstein's monster in the first three Universal movies, was born William Henry Pratt in 1887, and there was nothing russian about him. A bit indian on his paternal grandmother's side, but no reason for him to choose Boris Karloff as his stage name.

Before he became an icon of horror, he was an intimidating supporting actor in stage plays and a truckload of silent films. He was already 32 when he first appeared on screen. Finding these early performances can be a bit tricky, but you should be able to find a copy of Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927) somewhere.

In 1931, James Whale directed a lavish screen version of Frankenstein, which was not adapted from the book but from a successful stage play. The scientist was played by Colin Clive, but the creature was embodied by an mysterious uncredited actor, whose name was only revealed in the closing credits. Boris Karloff became a star overnight, and returned of course in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Son of Frankenstein with Basil Rathbone and Bela Lugosi (1939), House of Frankenstein (1944, where Karloff didn't play the monster but a Dr Gustav Niemann), but also played Fu Manchu, Mr Wong (a Fu Manchu ripoff), the Mummy Imhotep, various mad scientists and a bunch of villains who antagonize Dick Tracy and Charlie Chan.

In 1953, the golden age of black & white horror was almost over, and Karloff only played Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for laughs, opposite Abbott & Costello. In 1958, at a time where Hammer Films was taking over gothic horror, he played Baron Frankenstein himself in a weak movie called Frankenstein 1970, where he used body parts from a film crew to create his monster.

In the 60s, he became mostly a guest star in TV shows like I Spy and The Wild Wild West, but he also returned to Frankenstein in a weird little movie called Mad Monster Party, where he provided the voice of Baron Boris von Frankenstein (!)

Boris Karloff died in 1971, but he's very fondly remembered by classic horror fans, along with Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. However, it seems that these three never shared the same bond as their successors Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price.

Boris is the name of the dog in Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein, and I admit to it being a not-so-subtle wink to Karloff!