Friends, I hope you are ready for a howling good time. Okay, I promise no more puns like that. For your retro listening pleasure today we have an 1977 LP entitled The Wolfman Speaks. Featuring none other than the esteemed Lon Chaney Jr. as narrator, for a nice selection of ghost stories.
I will obviously point out the oddness of the original LP cover for The Wolfman Speaks. You notice it too, right? I was a little shocked to see not an image from 1941’s The Wolf Man but 1961’s The Curse of the Werewolf instead. I will of course admit that as cinematic lycanthropes go, Oliver Reed’s take as a wolfman is pretty amazing too.
In fact I am rather surprised that the 1961 film hasn’t been subject of a remake yet. On the other hand there are some who might claim that it has been. Or at the very least some plot points were perhaps a little similar?
The Wolfman Speaks besides being recorded in what was billed as “Non-Living Scary-O”, features the last recordings of Chaney. The actor had passed away back in 1973 with his final film role being Dracula vs. Frankenstein in 1971. So as to how this record came to be I’m not really sure. I believe that Chaney lost his ability to speak without a throat mic around 1970. I wonder if perhaps this audio was meant for another LP similar to likes that David McCallum or Roddy McDowall produced?
When it comes to Lon Chaney Jr, I will admit I have always felt a bit of sadness. As an actor I think he was always under the impression that he had to escape the shadow that was his Father’s legacy. Naturally I believe he did that in spades with some of his own films. However, much like Bela Lugosi he was typecast into certain roles and it appears that his means of escape came in a bottle. Personally it is hard to watch some of his later work, you can see how time had been unkind to him. At the very least he left a solid legacy of his own behind in his earlier films as well as radio!
Now then, grab your favorite beverage and snacks, sit back and enjoy The Wolfman Speaks!
Did you know that 1979’s Moonraker was made into a book and record? I certainly did not until I stumbled across an auction the other day. In the interest of full disclosure, it was the Projectionist who discovered it. He was kind enough to call me into the control room, down here in the Vault. The auction was for a complete set of 1985 Kid Stuff book and records featuring James Bond. Dr. No, A View to a Kill, The Spy Who Loved Me as well as Moonraker. Not just the book and record sets but the “deluxe talking storybook” with cassette tapes too.
I, of course, wish I could tell that we won the auction. The sad fact of the matter is that someone in Germany took the prize. Outbid us by a long shot. I suppose whomever got the set was a bigger James Bond fan than ourselves. Maybe it was Blofeld?
Anyway, I am quite willing to bet you are as surprised as I was. I mean, Kid Stuff tackled all manner of popular properties, back in the day. James Bond however is a far cry from the likes of Garfield, Transformers, and Knight Rider, right?
What I would love to know is how they picked which films to adapt into “children’s stories”? Obviously A View to a Kill marked the swan song of Roger Moore as 007. In fact it was the seventh film with Moore portraying James Bond. Moonraker lends itself to an exciting tale, plus it too starred Moore. I think that Dr. No is the odd choice, breaking the trend of Moore films and of course tackling a Sean Connery version. Imagine what they would have done with 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service!
Obviously the folks at Kid Stuff have condensed much of Moonraker. They naturally had to since it had to tell a tale in a little over ten minutes. But I would point out that it’s pretty obvious it was still a little more violent than you might think.
Let us hop back to 1985 and sit back as we listen and read Moonraker on Retro Records!
Fun fact, friends. 1985’s The Black Cauldron was actually intended to be released in 1984. In fact it was intended to be the big Holiday release for Walt Disney Pictures. The reason for the delay? It might have had something to do with the test screening of The Black Cauldron. The one that rumors claim sent smaller children running from the private theater in Burbank, California. That might of course be hard to believe at first, but I would ask you to certainly check out the teaser trailer, before making your decision!
For The Black Cauldron things looked pretty grim. It’s even been said that Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was the studio chairman, took the film and attempted to edit it himself. Against the wishes of producer Joe Hale (Robin Hood, The Black Hole) in fact. Supposedly it was the CEO of Disney at the time, Michael Eisner, that stopped that editing, but Katzenberg felt strongly that changes needed to be made. So not only did The Black Cauldron get pushed from it’s Holiday spot to July of 1985, but some of the more darker aspects were excised as well.
However, in the end much like 1979’s The Black Hole the film failed to reach its audience. Or at the very least the movie going public of the time weren’t ready to embrace the film. Furthermore it wasn’t even until August 4th, 1998 that The Black Cauldron was released for home media!
That isn’t to say I knew anything about all of that behind the scenes drama in my youth. As a matter of fact the first time I even knew a movie was coming out was thanks to a collectible butter tub featuring scenes from the film. Of course there were puzzles, children’s books, as well as coloring books.
Naturally there was also a wonderful book and record for The Black Cauldron.
So, go grab your favorite beverage and snack. Sit back and let us journey back to 1985 as we listen and read The Black Cauldron on Retro Records!
Audio, the final frontier. These are the continuing voyages of Retro Records and this time we have Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan! In truth I had an interesting time trying to nail down when this was released. I have found sites that claimed it came out in 1985. Others purported however that is was 1984. Since of course I couldn’t see the inside of the book itself I had to keep looking. Finally I did indeed come across the correct information and Buena Vista’s adaptation of 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan looks like it was published in 1983.
I have mentioned in the past how much time I spent alone as a child. While there were neighborhood kids to play with when visiting my Grandparents. I mostly entertained myself when at home with my books and toys. Granted the Atari 2600 and a subscription to the Buena Vista book and record club went a long way to helping too.
With this adaptation of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, you can safely assume they have streamlined the film a bit. Of course they have also toned down quite a bit of the death count from the movie. Which is totally understandable considering the age of their target audience. That doesn’t mean they don’t take the opportunity to show off a mortally wounded Khan!
Honestly this 1983 adaptation does a fine job of presenting the overall story from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Although I am going to have to bring up that the impersonation of Admiral James T. Kirk…is odd to my ears.
This is the first Buena Vista book and record that I have noticed they colored out a background character’s face. Seriously, what is going on back there? Did Scotty accept an trainee from Ariannus – maybe another mutation?
Most importantly of all, Buena Vista managed to capture the excitement of the movie. Yet again while not showing us all of the poor crew members of the Enterprise that were hurt and killed during the epic space duel. You still however get that thrill as well as the tension of the film itself. Thanks to not just the narration but the chosen photos used throughout the book.
Grab your favorite snack and beverage. Relax and travel back to 1983 as we listen and read Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan