Jeff Burr Talks From a Whisper to a Scream
Hot on the heels of Scream! Factory giving the royal restoration treatment to director Jeff Burr’s 1987 horror anthology, From a Whisper to a Scream (review), we managed to grab a few minutes with Mr. Burr himself. He was only too happy to offer up some entertaining answers to our questions so settle in and enjoy!
Dread Central – How did it come to be that Scream! Factory decided to honor this film with such a stellar presentation? Were they in contact with you the whole time?
Jeff Burr – I knew I wanted to do a special edition of this movie, and I was pretty PO’d that MGM just put this out about 10 years ago on DVD without even contacting us, so in 2012 I was making some phone calls, and trying to obtain the domestic rights to any film is very difficult, even if you own it, so long story short, after speaking with a company that I thought owned the rights, it turns out that they didn’t have the rights to do Blu-ray or single titles. Scream! Factory had actually gotten in touch with me about another title, and I said, “Hey, I’ve got this title – we should really try to get this one,” and they were able to. Cliff McMillan was really trying to help me on it, and the assumption at the time was that there was an H-D master of the film, which turned out not to be true, so that was an added expense that they had to go through – so Scream! Factory was involved, and it was like a perfect match for this title. They knew it was a very personal title for me, and they knew that I would supervise and get the extras they way I wanted them, as opposed to farming it out to someone. I then contacted Daniel Griffith and told him, “Look, this isn’t going to be some small production – there is a shitload of extras here,” so with all of the extras and documentaries, it’s like two feature films in addition to the main title.
DC – Now I read this story online recently, but for the people that don’t know – can you tell us about how you approached Vincent Price to be in this film?
JB – Well, I hate to sound like a self-promotional asshole but the way to know that story is to buy the disc – it’s such a long convoluted story that it’s impossible to tell in a short period of time, but the bullet-point version is that we literally knocked on doors with script in hand, and he (Price) answered the door and invited us in – this was in 1985, and he read the script and said, “You know, fellas, this is a little much – it’s not really my style,” but he didn’t say no, so we came back and re-pursued it, and we got it – going through non-conventional methods to get him, and maybe it was as simple as him getting sick of hearing us talk about it and said, “Okay, fine… I’ll do it! – if it gets rid of you guys, okay!” He was just beyond a wonderful man and it was an honor to work with him – once we got him on the set, and he started working, it was magic – just seeing him create from the ground up, it was unreal.
DC – So what was it that brought you into the world of horror? Where was the tipping point where you said, “I’ve got to jump into this!”?
JB – I always loved horror films growing up, and I just want to reiterate that they weren’t the ONLY kind of movies that I wanted to make. I love the genre, and I’m not the kind of guy that wants to make one film, get rich, and then just sit around – I came to the genre from a position of love, and I still do, and the genre is capable of so much more, and it’s an always changing and never satisfied audience – there’s no perfect horror movie – it’s yet to be made. There have been some beautiful, groundbreaking movies, but there’s not that one film that is the end of the genre and that’s it – there’s so many sub-genres in horror, that it’s an incredibly malleable genre.
DC – You directed Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III – what was your mode of thinking at the onset of filming, knowing that Tobe Hooper had directed the first two – were you a little nervous?
JB – Well, as most people know, I came on very late so it wasn’t like I had a whole lot of time to think and develop and contemplate – it was really just me diving in and having to get everything ready to shoot because it couldn’t be pushed back. I replaced another director well into pre-production, and I had to start shooting by a certain date to make a theatrical release date months down the line, so I didn’t have a huge feeling of trepidation, simply because it all went so quick. I had wanted to get Gunnar Hansen for this one and make it a true sequel – the second one didn’t have him, and I thought that this could have been a real selling point, and we could have something to tie in to. So we offered the movie to him, and the financial offer that New Line made wasn’t in the ballpark of what he wanted to have – Gunnar is a very black and white guy, and he’s like, “Here’s what I want,” and there was no negotiation, and New Line said, “We can’t pay that.” Gunnar said, “Is that your final offer?” -New Line said, “Yes,” and Gunner said, “No, I can’t.” So that was a little disappointing on one hand, but it was great on the other because that allowed me the chance to offer it to R.A. Mihailoff, who I’d known and worked with, and he really dove into the role and was wonderful – not that Gunnar wouldn’t have been terrific, but R.A. was wonderful and had his own interpretation of the character. I was kind of a compromise for New Line – there was never an instance of “We’ve got to have Jeff Burr direct this!” It just happened – and going in, I was naïve, thinking that they wanted my vision, and while I was struggling in my head of making this movie like I’d had it written up in my mind, their struggle was making a movie that they’d hoped would have made a lot of money.
DC – Lastly, is there anything that you’re working on right now?
JB – Oh sure! I’m always working on stuff – I’ve been writing some scripts, and I’m back here in Georgia for family reasons, and it’s reigniting my love for independent films, so I’m trying to get a few things going here, like a comedy and another horror film.
Scream Factory puts From a Whisper to a Scream on Blu-ray for the very first time on April 28, 2015, the release jam-packed with an array of new bonus features, including two audio commentaries and the feature-length documentary Return to Oldfield: The Making of Whisper to a Scream.
Vincent Price plays historian Julian White in the film. On the night his niece is executed for committing a string of brutal killings, White reveals the sinister secrets of her hometown, Oldfield, Tennessee, a horrific hamlet that spawns evil.
But as the town’s murderous legacy is exposed with White’s chilling accounts – including stories of a necrophilic madman, a voodoo priest with life-prolonging powers, and a legion of children with an appetite for flesh – White doesn’t realize that he is about the write the final chapter of Oldfield’s morbid history… in his own blood!
- Return to Oldfield: The Making of Whisper to a Scream – A comprehensive feature-length documentary about the making of From a Whisper to a Scream, featuring director Jeff Burr, producer Darin Scott, co-screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner, star Clu Gulager, and many more!
- A Decade Under the Innocence: Adventures in Super 8 Filmmaking – A feature-length documentary about teenage adventures in ‘Super 8’ filmmaking during the 1970’s in Georgia, featuring director Jeff Burr and more!
- Audio Commentary with writer/director Jeff Burr
- Audio Commentary with writer/producer Darin Scott and writer C. Courtney Joyner
- Still Gallery with commentary by writer/director Jeff Burr
- Theatrical Trailer
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