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Mashing up horrific and historical characters has been all
the rage in print for the past few years, and some of those best-selling books
are now on the way to theaters. But they were beaten to the punch by BONNIE
& CLYDE VS. DRACULA, an ambitious independent production that has already
played a number of festivals and limited theatrical release, and arrives on DVD
tomorrow, April 26 from Indican Pictures. It’s the second feature, following 2007’s
CADAVERELLA, from writer/director Timothy Friend.
Boasting strong period production values for its low budget
and a clever script, the movie sees the real-life criminal couple (played by
Tiffany Shepis and Trent Haaga) on the run through the Depression-era Midwest.
Friend’s storyline puts them on a collision course with Dr. Loveless (Allen
Lowman), a weirdo scientist who keeps his sister Annabelle (Jennifer Friend,
the filmmaker’s wife, who also produced with Joseph Allen) captive in his
mansion, where he has resurrected Dracula himself (Russell Friend, the
writer/director’s brother). The movie is a praiseworthy achievement for its
creator—especially when he reveals how quickly it was shot…
FANGORIA: What was the initial inspiration for BONNIE &
CLYDE VS. DRACULA?
TIMOTHY FRIEND: The initial inspiration came from comic
books. I’ve always been a fan of them, and I was reading some old EC comics and
HOUSE OF MYSTERY when it occurred to me that I’d never seen a movie involving
classic gangsters and classic monsters.
FANG: Were you influenced by older, similar mashup films
like BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA?
FRIEND: I was inspired more by the titles of movies like
BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA and JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER than
the movies themselves. Most modern viewers enjoy those films as camp, and
that’s not really what I was going for—although I do think ABBOTT AND COSTELLO
MEET FRANKENSTEIN is a great movie. I wanted to take the loopy concept and make
a real movie with real characters the audience could be invested in.
FANG: Did you have any concerns about doing a period piece
on a low budget?
FRIEND: Far fewer than I should have. If I’d known before I
started just how difficult it would be to recreate 1933, I probably wouldn’t
have done it. Once we got started, though, it was too late to turn back. It
took months to gather all the props and make sure that, with the exception of
Dr. Loveless’ anachronistic inventions, our props were accurate. For example,
in the script I had Dr. Loveless using a reel-to-reel recorder. After doing
some research, it turned out that it was more likely he would have had a wire
recorder for dictation, so we had to hunt one of those down. It’s unlikely that
the average viewer will know or care about that, but I have the satisfaction of
knowing it’s accurate. We had to research everything, right down to the candy
corn Annabel eats. If anyone’s curious, candy corn was created in the 1880s.
FANG: How much historical research went into the project?
FRIEND: I did some on Bonnie and Clyde, but not a lot. They
really were on the run from the law after a botched dragnet in Grand Prairie,
so I used that as a starting point. And I kept certain aspects of the
historical Bonnie’s personality in mind when writing the script. Since the story
ultimately veers into alternate-history territory, I didn’t worry too much
about how closely the movie Bonnie and Clyde matched their historical
FANG: How did you attempt to make this movie’s Dracula your
FRIEND: I tried to start off with a more contemporary
version of the vampire, and then work backwards to the more classic Dracula.
Early in the movie, Dracula is closer to the feral, monstrous ghouls we see in
a lot of modern films. But by the end, he is fully transformed into the classic,
FANG: Did you write the leads with Shepis and Haaga in mind?
If not, how did they land the roles? How were they to work with?
FRIEND: I did write the role of Bonnie with Tiffany in mind.
I had no idea if we would be able to get her for the movie, but I had seen her
in THE HAZING and thought she was great. So it was her voice in my head
whenever I was writing Bonnie’s dialogue. My wife sent her the script, and
luckily she liked it enough to sign on. We met Trent through our special effects guy, Jeffrey
Sisson. He’d worked with us on CADAVERELLA, and he’s good friends with Trent
and passed the script on to him.
Both of them were fantastic to work with. Maybe all those
years of working at Troma got them used to less-than-stellar working
conditions, because they worked long hours and stayed cheerful and fun
throughout the shoot. Here’s an example: We had lunchmeat sandwiches every
single day for lunch during the shoot, and every single day, Trent would eat
them with a smile and continue working. About a year later, Jennifer and I went
out to dinner with Trent and his wife, and Trent leaned over to me and said,
“Y’know, I haven’t had a lunchmeat sandwich since we wrapped.” He probably
still hasn’t! But he never complained on the set.
FANG: What were the best parts and biggest challenges of the
FRIEND: The biggest challenge was getting the movie in the
can with only 11 days of principal photography. That made for some ridiculously
long days. One of the best parts was doing the bedroom scene with Trent and
Tiffany. We were in the attic of an old carriage house, there was only one
window and it had to be shut for lighting purposes, so it was well over 100
degrees in the room. We all felt like we were going to die of heat stroke. But despite
all the discomfort, everything about the scene clicked—the actors, the
lighting, the pace. I think that was the point when we all began to feel as if
we were working on something really unique.
FANG: How was it directing your brother as Dracula?
FRIEND: Directing my brother was easy. We work together
well, and he’s great to brainstorm ideas with. Although when he agreed to play
the part, I don’t think he knew I was going to ask him to shave his head and
crawl around naked on the floor of an old wine cellar. And neither of us knew
that the floor was going to be covered with bits of broken pottery. His chest
and stomach were cut to ribbons by the time we were done. He looked like Iggy
Pop after a concert.
There are a lot of actors, musicians and filmmakers among my
friends and family, so there was a wealth of talent to draw from. Plus, working
with people you know makes for a very fun set.
FANG: Has the fact that it’s a period piece helped or hurt
the movie in the marketplace?
FRIEND: I don’t know that it has had any effect one way or
the other. Some people have been impressed that we could pull off a period
piece on our budget, but I don’t know that it has had any impact on it
FANG: (SPOILER ALERT) I have to ask—given the title, how
come Bonnie and Clyde don’t actually encounter Dracula until the end of the
movie? Were there previous drafts in which they had more interaction?
FRIEND: The encounter between the titular characters was
always intended to come late in the film. The “VS.” of the title refers as much
to the conflict between the dual narratives as it does to the characters. I
wanted the film to have two distinct looks, and two distinct styles. That meant
devoting a significant amount of time to each storyline, and allowing the characters
to develop before the two worlds collide, alter each other permanently and then
part again. It’s different from what some people expect, but it’s exactly the
movie I intended it to be.
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