When I was a kid we had a saying about the comic book writers – I mean the really good ones – who wrote some of our favorite characters: “This writer has ‘the stuff’, we would proclaim loudly to the pals in our comic collecting circles as we swigged on chilled Ne-Hi Grape Soda (in a glass bottle, natch!), gorged on our Dolly Madison Peanut Zingers and eagerly traded back and forth with one another our four colored treasures. Only a select few writers back in my youth – the 1970s – carried the particular cache guaranteed to make me drop that coveted Cary Bates Superman comic or that All-Star Comics yarn by Paul Levitz in favor of something else altogether. Don Glut was one of those elite writers who breathed purified air, as far as I was concerned; he had the stuff. In ’78 I thrilled to his work on Marvel Comics Group’s Captain America and the Falcon as well as his solid fill-in work for legendary writer Roy Thomas over on The Invaders. These books were my towheaded early versions of The Great Gatsby or For Whom the Bell Tolls and I carried them forward as if they were the Golden Menorah or the Ark of the Covenant.
Fast forward all of these years later and my vision has become a little less myopic on Don Glut and his many contributions. Turns out that this guy is no piker and comic books are but a small part of his life’s work. When not thrilling starry-eyed kids from Halls, Tennessee, this renaissance-man has worked as a professional musician, an executive producer, cinematographer, photographer, actor, magazine editor and proofreader. More relevant to this article, he has also plied his wares successfully as a writer-director with 55 directing credits to his name.
I had the good fortune to sit and talk with my childhood hero recently about many things, with a solid focus on his most recent film, the frightening and funny Tales of Frankenstein which reads like an unabashed love letter to the old Frankenstein films that rolled out of 1930s-40s Universal as well as the Hammer Frankie flicks from the 50s-60s. I’m happy to report that Don was a true mensch and accommodated my fanlike squeals and shrieks as I bombarded him with questions I’m sure he gets all of the time. Folks, I’m happy to report that Don Glut still has “the stuff.”
Vents: It’s such a pleasure to be speaking with you today, Don and I really do appreciate the time you’re giving me. To kick things off, how have you been doing during these pretty tumultuous times?
Don Glut: Fine, thanks. Like everyone else in the world and the industry I’m just taking it one day at the time; there’s not much else we can do! The funny thing is that I would probably be well into filming a new movie now if not for the lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Vents: One of the neatest bits of casting in your superlative film Tales of Frankenstein – which as a tremendous comic book fan I really appreciated – was the casting of the great Len Wein as Helmut Frankenstein. Can you talk a little bit about what Len was like as not only an actor in your film, but also as a person whom you’ve had a long history with?
DG: He was everything I had hoped he would be and more. He was actually quite ill once we started shooting but he was such a trooper that you would never look at his performance on the screen and be able to tell that there was anything wrong…Because of the nature of his character and the story I know that I was nervous about what Len’s wife would think about the final product, that it might hit too close to home for her (Interviewer’s Note: Len Wein passed away shortly before the premiere of Tales of Frankenstein). I brought it up with her and she was just incredibly supportive. She attended the premiere and she really enjoyed what Len had done.
Vents: What is the status on a sequel to “Tales of Frankenstein”?
DG: As of this moment, I have a full script written – which I wrote while the first film was in post-production. It’s based on four more of the published stories in my Tales of Frankenstein book collection. I have some actors and locations in mind. What I don’t have – yet – is the money to make the movie. And without the money in place, you don’t really have a project.
Vents: Over two hundred years later, people are still thrilling to Mary Shelley’s novel, “Frankenstein.” What do you feel is the seemingly timeless appeal to Shelley’s creation?
DG: Despite Frankenstein being a difficult read for today’s audiences, the novel contains certain truths that we can all relate to – such as the father-and-son relationship between Victor Frankenstein and the Monster he created. Victor creates a being that he rejects and to whom he denies any happiness. A child being rejected by its parent is a heavy idea. And, of course, there are many other ideas in Mary’s novel. But a lot of readers are directed to the book after having been turned on by the movies and so forth.
Vents: One of the more unappreciated portrayals of the Frankenstein Monster is from actor Glenn Strange. What are your thoughts on Glenn’s work as the Monster?
DG: I agree; after Karloff’s, I like Glenn Strange’s portrayal of the Monster best of all. His only problem was the scripts he was given – never much to do, except he was given more screen time in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Glenn was quite a good actor, as can be seen in his many performances in Western movies and TV shows. And as the Frankenstein Monster, he looked great.
Vents: Is there a favorite moment from Tales of Frankenstein that resounds for you, something that you’re happy you were able to accomplish?
DG: I love so much of that movie. But, because of how you phrased the question, I think that moment would be where, in the “Karnstein” story, the new monster, created from vampire parts, looks into the mirror and only see his clothes and his non-vampire, human brain reflected. It was a simple enough shot to do, based on my old amateur movie-making experience and practical effects techniques, that almost everyone on set told me would not work. Guess I showed them!
Vents: You did some brilliant work on Marvel’s The Invaders and Captain America. Cap has had major success since your tenure on his star-spangled adventures, yet the Invaders has gone through several iterations since your work on the WW2 team, each time struggling to find that coveted audience. If you (along with creator Roy Thomas) were given another crack at the team, what would the take on them be? Should their adventures roundly reside in the 1940s?
DG: I think Roy and I are on the same page here – that we’d have pretty much kept things status quo, set in the `1940s where we’d left off. I have no idea what’s been done with The Invaders since I was writing that title.
Vents: Final (Silly) Question: Better writer: Gardner Fox or Robert Kanigher?
DG: Roy Thomas will disagree with me about this one, but I’m going to go with Kanigher, although I also love Gardner’s writing and he created so many characters that are still around today. Kanigher though, his work on DC’s war books are impressive and memorable.
Don Glut’s chilling and fun Tales of Frankenstein can currently be seen on streaming courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.