Movie Within a Commentary? What is Rodney Ascher up to with Terror of Frankenstein?


Rodney Ascher has swiftly established himself as a singular voice. With docs like The S From Hell, Room 237 and this year’s spectacularly eerie The Nightmare, the director has revealed layers to his filmmaking fascinations; how we’re affected by the things we watch, the things we dream and where our minds take us during both activities. The S From Hell charted spectators terrified of the 1960s Screen Gems logo. Room 237 infamously, kaleidoscopically brought the voices of six theorists together to offer their extreme analyses of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. In Sleep Paralysis doc The Nightmare, Ascher will often survey the whole scene, revealing camera equipment, himself conducting the interview and even the haunting shadow people roaming between the sets of nightmare recreations. Still, with Director’s Commentary: Terror of Frankenstein, he seems to be taking it even further. 

Newly launched on Kickstarter is a $15,000-hopeful campaign for Director’s Commentary: Terror of Frankenstein, which sees Ascher and his producer Tim Kirk record an audio track over Terror of Frankenstein, the Calvin Floyd-directed, Leon Vitali-starring 1977 film. Also involved are Kubrick friend and assistant Vitali and beloved genre character actor Clu Gulager in what’s described as an original commentary track and project that “transforms the film into an entirely new, all too human, horror story. It’s less Mystery Science Theater 3000 and more Sartre, an icy satire of the monsters onscreen, behind the camera, and in the audience.”

Vitali narrates the brief campaign video with this: “My name is Leon Vitali and you may know me from my appearances in Stanley Kubrick’s films, Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut. 30-odd years ago, I starred in a picture called Terror of Frankenstein. Cast and crew were most proud of the fact that this was the film version closest to Mary Shelley’s original story, but I suppose all you people want to hear about is the murder and madness that happened after the cameras had stopped rolling.”

Is Director’s Commentary then an audio descent into madness, a fictional expose of real-life horror crafted around this 1977 picture? Seeing how the images onscreen affect our understanding of the dissonant horror story unfolding aurally? In a conversation with Shock’s former editor Ryan Turek, he sharply wondered if it’s “breaking down the medium that breaks down the medium. The thing that lends insight into filmmaking is the very thing driving a story.”  The Kickstarter continues:

Our DIRECTOR’S COMMENTARY reunites director, writer and star for the first time since the explosive trial that followed the release of the film. They discuss the making of the film, the tragic events that haunted it, and the cult following that has made it a perennial Midnight Movie.

We promise you that what you learn about this film will be brand new!


Tim speaking: When my daughter was born, I knew I wanted to make films that created a new way of looking at the greatest horror films about fatherhood. Having just completed a film about THE SHINING, it was time to tackle #2.  FRANKENSTEIN.

My cousin Jay had a similar fascination with The Man Who Made A Monster.

Rodney here for a sec: I’m especially fascinated by experimenting with format, remixes, and genre-blurring, so I loved the idea of an agonizing horror/drama (with maybe a few laughs) inserted into a commentary track. When I met Leon Vitali at The Stanley Film Festival in Colorado, the choice of Frankenstein films to start from got a whole lot easier (assuming he would agree to do it…)

Quick answer is:  we had to.

And so Director’s Commentary: Terror of Frankenstein sounds yet another, utterly unique work from Ascher. The film is apparently finished production and in post, looking to raise funds to get to the “finish line.” If you’re as intrigued as I, learn more at the Kickstarter here.


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