Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson and Butch Patrick (aka Eddie Munster) are in Melbourne for Monsterfest. Photo: Simon Schluter
When NFL star Fred "The Hammer" Williamson decided that he wanted to start making films in earnest in the early 1970s, he took a pro-active approach. "I called a press conference and said I was coming into the movie business. And I have three rules to adhere to. One, you can't kill me in a movie. Two, I win all my fights. And three, I get the girl at the end of the movie if I want." And to make sure that this happened, he started producing, directing and writing as well, setting up a production company in 1974.
"I had to," he says, "they weren't giving me what I wanted to do. They want to kill the black guy first, then have Schwarzenegger avenge his death." That's not the way he thought it could be, he says. "Kill Schwarzenegger, let me avenge him."
Fred Williamson in From Dusk Til Dawn. Photo: Supplied
Did he ever die? Well, he says, he died in From Dusk Till Dawn, the 1996 Robert Rodriguez vampire movie written by Quentin Tarantino. "But I didn't die as The Hammer, I died as a thing." So as far as he is concerned, the rule remains unbroken.
Williamson is one of a host of guests at Monster Fest, a four-day celebration of cult movies and pop culture that takes place at the Lido Cinemas in Hawthorn from November 26-29. He's going to be the main attraction on November 27, when he will introduce the world premiere of Atomic Eden, a film he has produced for German director Nico Sentner, to be followed by a screening of one of his best-known films, Larry Cohen's gangster feature Black Caesar, culminating in a 9am screening of his boxing drama, Hammer.
"Quentin seems to emulate me," he notes, when we talk about Tarantino and his influences. Williamson was in The Inglorious Bastards, the 1978 World War II movie whose title Tarantino borrowed and deliberately misspelled, and he starred in The Legend of Nigger Charley, a 1972 slave revolt movie that Tarantino has said was a reference point for Django Unchained.
Butch Patrick (second from left) as Eddie Munster in the cult 1960s TV show.
Williamson, who played for the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs, says he looked beyond sports from his earliest days. "I started architecture and engineering, and I practised worked in the off-season for the whole 10 years I played pro football. But 9 to 5 did not suit my personality." He played Diahann Carroll's boyfriend in the TV series Julia,a role he says he talked the producers into creating for him. His first movie role was in M*A*S*H, in a football scene. He had a cameo in Star Trek, a small role in Otto Preminger's Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon, but he had his eye on starring roles and features that fulfilled his three rules. Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson were his models, and he says he wanted to show Hollywood "that there was a black audience out there waiting to be satisfied."
He is full of stories, opinions and angles, but he's not particularly caught up in nostalgia: he's thinking about what's to come. At 77, he's still working at a furious rate. "I'm hungry to do everything and what makes me even more hungry is when they say to me, no, we can't finance that. Then I find a way."
Another Monster Fest guest is Butch Patrick best known as Eddie Munster, the werewolf boy in the Little Lord Fauntleroy suit in The Munsters, the legendary TV show that ran between 1964 and 1966, with 70 episodes in two seasons.
Patrick was a child actor before he was cast as Eddie, and he continued to work until he was 19. At that point, he said, he'd had enough. "I wanted to go spend my money, there was partying and bad behaviour was accepted, a lot of things came into play. And I never really wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be a racecar driver."
But the Munster connection endured. Thirty years ago, Patrick formed a rock band, and performed a song called Whatever Happened To Eddie? on MTV. "We were the first unsigned act to be on MTV and we did some fun things, but right about then, promoters started hosting conventions and looking for people who had a fan base. This started about 25 years ago, and kicked in big 20 years ago."
Conventions and fan events are not for every actor, he says, but he's happy to embrace them. He's run the website Munsters.com since 1995, and says that he takes pride in having been part of a popular TV show that still means a lot to people. "Kids watch it with their parents and grandparents, he says: the Munsters might have been monsters, but they embody "wholesome family values. It's not The Walking Dead or The Vampire Diaries, but it's very good entertainment."
At Monster Fest, Munster events take place on Sunday, and include a "clip and tell" session with Patrick, a screening of the feature Munster, Go Home and a rock and burlesque afternoon he will host.
And Patrick has a new angle to keep things fresh; he has bought the Munster vehicles that were part of the show. "I have the Munster Koach, the DRAG-U-LA, I have a 32-foot long trailer with cars and props. I've jumped from being an autograph signer to having an event situation. I've taken the car-related angle, which I've always loved, and applied it to the Munster fanbase. And I love it."
Monsterfest is at the Lido Cinemas, Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, from November 26-29.