We at Horror Facts had the opportunity to go behind the scenes with renowned filmmaker Charles Band to discuss his recently released, long-lost creature feature The Primevals. This little-known sci-fi adventure was originally shot in the 1990s by revered stop-motion artist David Allen, but the untimely passing of Allen stopped the production, leaving it heartbreakingly incomplete and stuck in limbo. Now, over 30 years later, Band and his team have resurrected Allen’s imaginative world, overcoming challenges and limitations to finally complete the film’s special effects and stop-motion sequences.
In our illuminating conversation, Band provided fascinating insights into the process and persistence required to finish this retro passion project decades after filming first began.
Our revealing one-on-one interview with Band dives into the unique resurrection of this lost sci-fi film and the director’s undying passion for imaginative filmmaking. Read on for the full inside scoop straight from Charles Band on the cinematic labor of love that brought The Primevals out of the vault and onto the big screen after over 30 years in the making.
Horror Facts: Before we begin I wanted to say that I am a big fan of your work and it’s an honor to have this opportunity to speak with you today.
Charles Band: You know it’s funny when you work in your own bubble, which I have for years, you leave a trail of so many movies. So I appreciate what you’re saying.
HF: The Primevals is finally completed. How long did it take to make this film from start to finish?
CB: It was back in 1978 when Dave Allen first approached me about making this film. Then it wasn’t until ’93 or ’94, that we finally had the financing to do it. At the time it was the most expensive movie I had been involved with, over $4 million, I guess by Hollywood standards that’s still low budget. We initially shot for 12 weeks all over the Italian Dolomites and Romania. The plan after filming was to spend two years doing 250-260 stop-motion shots. Sadly, about a year in, Dave passed away from cancer. Around the same time, our fortunes turned for the worse. So, we boxed everything up and waited for the day till we could finish the movie. That day finally came about 5 years ago when Dave’s right-hand man Chris Endicott, was able to carry on the torch and assemble a crew to begin working on getting those remaining shots completed. The picture was finally finished at the end of last year. So, from when we started shooting to now it has been about 30 years.
HF: The film seemed like a passion project for David Allen. What about this story captivated him to want to make it?
CB: Oh, it was a passion project for Dave. When I first met Dave in ’78, he had already for about 9-10 years been talking about this project. It was the cover story of a magazine that most people wouldn’t know about today, but back then it was called Cinnefantastic. I remember seeing that issue way before I met Dave. I think it came out in ’69. It had these amazing lizard creatures. I thought “Wow that looks amazing”. So when Dave started working with me on stop motion, he gave me the script and history and said “We gotta make this one day.” I told Dave, “I’d love to make this when I can afford it.”Over 15 years, Dave worked on 8-10 movies for me that needed stop motion – Puppet Master, Dolls, etc. But every time I started a new project needing stop motion, he’d say “Charlie, Primeval, you promised, when are we going to make Primeval?” Finally in ’93-’94, we had some extra money and I told Dave that we could finally make it. It had been his passion project for years. So, it’s been important to me and Chris Endicott to find a way over time to finish the movie.
HF: What were some of the biggest challenges in completing the film decades after it was originally shot?
CB: You know, everything was a challenge. Not to minimize in any way the movie itself, which is so charming and so cool, but the story behind making this movie is epic. One day someone is going to piece it all together and there’s going to be a movie about how this movie was made. To give you an example, all the expensive stop motion animation models, the lizard creature, the yeti, all the material disintegrated over all these years. So all that had to be rebuilt, luckily the armatures in many cases survived, but as you know or people who are into stop motion animation know, so much depends on the accuracy of how well built these things are. And when we finally took them out of the boxes, luckily a lot of the sets remained, so a lot of those could be cleaned up. But it took roughly eight months, just to get all the characters and creatures back into shooting shape.
HF: So everything had fallen apart over the years?
CB: Sure. Think of it. We shot it in 94 and closed up shop in 96. I mean that’s 28 years ago. If you have any artifacts that are delicate or made of a certain rubber, eventually they just begin to disintegrate. Also remember, it’s not like you can spray it and keep it in some form of a display case and never be touched. With these stop-motion animation characters, we had to be able to touch, press and move them. You have to be able to move the little skeleton inside a quarter of a centimeter at a time, so you can’t do that and have the rubber either fall apart or not react the way it needs to react. So yeah, it all had to be rebuilt.
HF: Now that it’s complete, how close does the film compare to David Allen’s original plan?
CB: I think this was his original plan. There were a couple of scenes, literally two, that we had to abandon because they didn’t move the story forward, and I didn’t want to wait another year or two to get those scenes done. In one scene, our characters are on a raft and they’re attacked by this, I don’t want to say a prehistoric monster, but this sort of lizard creature. We ended up having to cut that whole scene, but unless you knew it existed, it doesn’t really hurt the movie in any way. What Chris Endicott and I agreed to do is have an alternate cut on the Blu-Ray, when it’s released down the road. On the Blu-Ray there will be the finished commercial version, and then you’ll also have Dave Allen’s original version, the way he intended it to be. How we’re going to do that is, we’re going to use the storyboards in place of the missing stop-motion animation. What’s cool is that Dave storyboarded the whole movie. So, for those few missing scenes, you’ll be able to see what we originally intended to do. The live-action segments with the actors screaming and fighting were shot, so you’ll see that, but where the stop motion of the lizard creature would have been, you’ll see the storyboards instead. I think it will be fun for people to watch this extended version.
HF: When is the Blu-Ray Coming out?
CB: Wow. That’s the million-dollar question. This is the question I have been asked thousands of times over the last 30 years. Well, now that we’re in the festival circuit and were screening the movie at some of these festivals we don’t really know exactly when the film will be commercially released. But if I had to guess it will probably have some sort of limited theatrical run either at the end of the year or in January. Then probably some months later between March – May it will finally be released on Blu-Ray.
HF: You mentioned there were a few scenes that had to be cut. Was there anything that had to be re-imagined because it just didn’t work?
CB: No, I think the thing was so well planned. Now again, if you get down to the real technical part, Chris Endicott would be the best person to ask. Because I’m sure within the realm of what he was able to do, there would have had to be some moments where instead of doing this, he had to do that. It’s hard for me to comment on the specifics. But Chris is my partner in making this happen. He really stuck with it and devoted a lot of time, as I did.
HF: What do you think David Allen would say if he could see the finished film now?
CB: I think he would be very happy, there’s no question of that. We all did right by Dave. He would be amazed if he popped in now 24 years after his passing, that were just only finishing it now in the year 2023. He’d go “What the F***, how did that happen.” So, he’d be amazed that it took that long to get it done. But we did it.
HF: Now that stop-motion is seen less often in films, what excites you about revisiting and revitalizing this kind of practical effects work?
CB: Sadly, I’m spoiled in that I was around to see a lot of great movies get made and released. Yes you can look at ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ or the ‘Seventh Voyage of Sinbad’ and you can see that it’s dated, but there was magic in these movies that rarely exists today. The effects weren’t wall to wall, they were a seasoning, they were magic, but then you also had stories you cared about, characters you cared about. These were character-driven movies, they weren’t just endless amounts of meaningless CGI. If I was tasked with making these big expensive movies I wouldn’t go in that direction. I would create characters you really like and I’d be more sparing with the effects. I mean I don’t know how many times we can see cities getting destroyed and planets being blown up. It’s like ok, we’re jaded, we’ve seen it all – give us characters we care about. I mean look, I’m not against CGI. It’s a tool. But as well done as it is, it looks like a cartoon and actors perform against green screens. It’s very hard to interact, I don’t care how good you are. With practical effects, characters interact with something organic, so I think that resonates more. I think people will enjoy Primevals and there won’t be a movie like it again. Stop-motion days are gone, it’s not what people want. The guys who knew how to do it like Dave Allen are gone. Thank God for Chris Endicott, he’s talented and finished the shots, but stop-motion definitely isn’t the future, but I’m happy we’re able to bring Primevals out.
HF: What are you most excited for audiences to experience when they finally get to see The Primevals?
CB: I’m excited to see the movie for the first time with an audience. It’s a beautifully well-appointed adventure that leaves you going “Wow, this is really cool and different”. Now again, is it the best movie ever? Probably not. But it’s a really well-told, fun 90 minutes. I don’t think anyone is going to get bored. It’s charming and clever enough. Plus, it deals with topics that are internal, not just a simple tale. I don’t want to spoil it, but it relates to things we’re talking about today, though it was conceived 60 years ago. I think people will totally enjoy it.
HF: What’s next for you and Full Moon Features? Do you have any other long-lost projects you’d like to resurrect?
CB: (Laughs) No. We have some really cool projects that we’re working on. We’re always trying to keep things fresh and different here. I hate to just follow trends and replicate things. Over the years making movies, I never jumped on crazes, like for example when there was the whole slasher movie craze. I never made any of those. First off, I’m not a huge fan of that stuff. I’m a fan of clever movies. Give me something like ‘The Sixth Sense’ or more recently ‘Get Out’ – movies that you don’t know where you’re going because you haven’t seen it before. But when you see the same variations fifty times, like “Oh god, another little girl crawling on the ceiling,” alright I get it. It’s hard because so many movies exist, so how do you make something that feels fresh and clever? You have to dream up new ideas. So we have a whole slew of movies either produced or coming out, plus a couple of really cool ones we’re making over the next few months. We average 7-8 movies a year, forever it seems. The movie we’re about to shoot is my 390th, so yeah, we’ll keep them coming!
HF: As a big fan of ‘Demonic Toys’, I am most excited about your spin-off film, ‘Jack Attack’ coming out.
CB: Yeah, that’s coming out real soon. That’s totally fun, mindless, ridiculous, and silly. We did a little different spin on it. I made the original ‘Demonic Toys’ thirty years ago then we decided to resurrect some of those characters. It was a few years ago I made a movie called ‘Baby Oopsie’, and you know it’s different. I didn’t go for the cookie-cutter hot chick. We did something that I thought turned out clever and different. Not everyone agrees but it got a lot of good notices. So, we sort of went in that direction with ‘Jack Attack’, it’s not exactly what you would think, but it’s full of fun and silliness for sure.
HF: For the record, I am also a big fan of your ‘Puppet Master’ films.
CB: That’s great. You know we made the first one in 89, it’s hard to believe I just made the most recent one last year. Every few years we keep making a new one. They’re fun to make and its part of what people know Full Moon for, but I also like the odd movies I’ve made, like I made a movie a few years ago called ‘Head of the Family’, which is still one of my favorite movies that I’ve made over forty-odd-years. Hideous movies that are just off-center, those movies last forever, because you can make a movie like any of these recent horror movies and there are a thousand of them, but how many movies are about a huge head? Just a head that controls its siblings and gets them into this misadventure, and in the end, the head gets thrown down a stairway. I mean you know it’s a weird concoction. A lot of people have seen it even though it’s not what most people know Full Moon for, but for people who haven’t seen it, after they watch ‘Head of the Family’, go “F*** that movie was crazy. I couldn’t even believe what I was watching” and then I say “Yeah well thank you, can you think of any other big giant head movies?”.
HF: When I think of Full Moon Features I always think of obscure movies like ‘The Gingerdead Man’.
CB: Right. There you go a p***ed off evil cookie played by Gary Busey that’s pretty out there.
HF: Thanks for taking the time to speak with Horror Facts about ‘The Primevals’ and also for allowing me to talk about some of my favorite works of yours.
CB: Well thanks for being so kind and keep spreading the word because it’s no longer theatrical, it’s no longer you can find these movies at the video store, at the end of the day how we survive now is by people subscribing to Fullmoonfeatures.com. That keeps us alive. That’s our video store so not only are our movies coming out there, premiering there, we also license a lot of other crazy genre movies and you know for $6.99 a month it’s pretty reasonably priced and that’s it. As long as people subscribe, they’ll get to see all of our stuff. Will have ‘Jack Attack’ coming out in a few weeks, and there’s another one right behind it, one after the other that’s what we do and I think there are seven hundred movies on there. So, you can keep watching these wacky movies. Along with movies, there is also a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff on there. I was one of the first to do a lot of that stuff as well back in the early 90s, so it’s nice to have captured a lot of cool things as we were making these films all over the world. So go to Fullmoonfeatures.com and everybody should look for ‘The Primevals’. It will be out for sure later this year or next year.
Band’s persistence in the face of obstacles pays sincere tribute to dedicated artists, like Allen, who devoted themselves wholly to the craft of practical and imaginative filmmaking. It speaks to the commitment required to see a creative vision through from start to finish. Though Allen tragically could not live to complete this work himself, Band admirably picked up the mantle in his honor.
Through dedication and resilience in surmounting setbacks, Charles Band was able to finally bring this long-lost labor of love back to life and transform Allen’s original imaginative vision into a completed film. Through their hard work, Band and Endicott have ensured that The Primevals finally has its long-overdue moment in the spotlight. Though it languished unfinished for decades, this retro sci-fi passion project can now be appreciated in full by audiences, bringing Allen’s inventive creatures and worlds to fantastical life just as Allen had first envisioned them so many years ago.
As an added bonus, we at Horror Facts wanted to provide you with some exclusive clips below, showcasing some of the behind-the-scenes work that went into bringing The Primevals to life.