‘Frankenweenie’: Martin Landau is part Vincent Price, part ‘Slob’

Oct. 03, 2012 | 11:41 a.m.

Actor Martin Landau attends the L.A. premiere of “Frankenweenie.” (John Shearer/Invision/AP)

In Tim Burton’s black-and-white, stop-motion-animated monster movie “Frankenweenie,” Martin Landau supplies the voice of Mr. Rzykruski, a mysterious science teacher who sparks curiosity in the kids of the town of New Holland. But John August’s screenplay for the film simply described Mr. Rzykruski as “European,” Landau said, so the actor created a fictional country for his character.

“I decided he came from the wonderful country of Slobovia, where the Slobs are from,” Landau said in an interview at a special advance showing of the film last week as part of the Hero Complex IMAX Screening Series.

Watch the video to see Landau perform Mr. Rzykruski with his Slobovian accent and explain one of the character’s other inspirations — horror legend Vincent Price.

Mr. Rzykruski’s sharply angled face bears a striking resemblance to Price, who was an influential figure in Burton’s life, Landau said. Thirty years ago, Burton directed a short film called “Vincent,” about a boy who idolized Price — Price supplied the narration for that movie in his distinctive timbre, and later appeared as the inventor in Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands” before his death in 1993.

The tenderness of Price and Burton’s relationship was mirrored in Burton’s 1994 film, “Ed Wood,” in which Landau earned an Oscar for playing another late-in-life horror icon, Bela Lugosi.

“Ed Wood’s relationship to Lugosi was sort of like [Burton's] with Vincent,” Landau said. “His empathy for Vincent was enormous.”

“Frankenweenie” opens in theaters Friday.

– Rebecca Keegan

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