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!
The Universal Monsters are hands down my favorite series of films. Indeed of all time. I have shared my literally earliest film memories on the site before. Which of course was for James Whale’s 1931 cinematic masterpiece Frankenstein. However that was only my first taste of the beautiful dark universe that the studio had to offer.
This is a fact that I’ve shared on the Saturday Frights podcast once or twice before. Even as a young boy I sided with the Universal Monsters. The Frankenstein Monster, the Wolf Man, and Creature from the Black Lagoon were hunted and hounded by mobs and interlopers.
Granted of course the actions of Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera and The Invisible Man are a little more harder to defend.
Having said that though I still side a little with them. The outcasts,the forgotten and shunned, are feelings I understood as I was growing up. Luckily the midnight movies I could tune in on our TV antennae, gave me a first class education on the classic horror films offered by Universal Pictures.
Now I do realize I am not in the minority when it comes to loving the Universal Monsters. Thanks to my co-writer on the Saturday Frights Facebook page, Rockford Jay, I learned this evening of a new art exhibit.
Illustration images courtesy of Mondo.
Taking place at this very moment in Austin, Texas – you can visit the Mondo Gallery. Checking out the beautiful artwork of such talented artists like Francesco Francavilla.
I would be remiss in not pointing out that one of personal favorites happens to be Eric Powell’s. Focusing on my favorite of the Universal Monsters – The Wolf Man!
Let us not forget Jonathan Burton’s take on 1933’s The Invisible Man. A character that I feel you can still sympathize with as it was his experiment that unintentionally drove him mad.
Then there is Stan & Vince’s work featuring The Mummy. In truth, while not my favorite Universal Monster, I personally feel this illustration captures the spirit of the classic film posters of old.
Want to get a better taste of the Universal Monsters artwork being featured? Thankfully there is a video that has been uploaded to YouTube!
Burger Chef and Jeff, does that name ring a bell? For those of us that grew up in the 70s of course it brings to mind the Funmeal. A boxed kids meal that provided puzzles and stories. Focusing on the adventures of Burger Chef and Jeff of course. The Funmeal also generally contained a toy or small collectible as well.
These were the mascots of the Burger Chef chain of fast food restaurants. Obviously. It bears pointing out that in addition to beating McDonald’s to the idea of the Happy Meal. Burger Chef was also quick to land the licensing for a little 1977 movie called Star Wars!
I will get to the subject of our Retro Records for this week in just a second. However I felt I should share a little more information about Burger Chef first. The restaurant got it’s start back in 1957, opening in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Thanks in no small part to focusing on smaller cities, for example my neck of the woods, they quickly expanded their reach. Furthermore in 1968 the chain was scooped up by General Mills which of course faciliated the expansion. By 1972 in fact they had 1,200 restaurants across the United States. It is important to realize that in that same year McDonald’s only had 400 more locations at the time.
I guess what I’m getting at is that it wasn’t a small operation. Now Burger Chef and Jeff were more than mascots, at least that was the case for me. I have mentioned before that growing up my Father and I didn’t have much. So generally once a month when I was taken to Burger Chef it was certainly a treat. One of those reasons I said they were more than mascots to myself is thanks in part to the TV commercials.
I believe I have stated on more than one occasion that I was in fact a monster kid growing up. The kooky characters that Burger Chef and Jeff came into contact with like Wolfburger as well as Count Fangburger, the talking ape Burgerilla, and Cackleburger the Witch! I feel confident in saying these characters were certainly right up my alley!
Which indeed means I was very excited when Burger Chef was offering on of their 33 1/3 records. For this installment of Retro Records we are sharing Cackleburger Casts A Spell. I have hard a rather hard time tracking down the exact date but a few sources online point to 1976. You might also notice that the spelling on the record is different than the spelling for the character.
Also of interest is that Burger Chef is voiced by the late and great Paul Winchell. Whose voice I think you might recognize from the massive animated series he was affiliated with. Paul provided the voice of Gargamel in the Smurfs, was Fleegle Beagle in The Banana Splits, as well as Dick Dastardly for many of the Hanna-Barbera shows.
So please join us on Retro Records as we listen to the adventures of Burger Chef and Jeff!
Let’s look at some trading cards. 1980 brought us the wonderful trading card series known as Creature Feature or You’ll Die Laughing and there’s one card in particular that holds a special meaning and moment for me. This series was first produced in the early seventies and Topps decided to resurrect the series with some packaging, design and content changes.
What was better than riding a bike to the corner store to get milk and cigarettes for your stepmother and maybe using some of the change on candy or comics? (Yes it’s true, she wrote me a note in case of any trouble. I’m certain I wasn’t the only kid to have that as a chore?) Anyway, while at the store, getting a pack of Creature Feature cards was worth the effort!
The cards had great still photography of movie monsters in black and white, from the thirties on up to the modern era. Giant radioactive creatures, human monsters, aliens, oh my! The photos (let’s pick the Mummy carrying a damsel) had goofy captions, like “Gee kid, you weigh a ton!” Each pack of cards came with a sticker. The backs of those stickers each had a section of a larger photo. Once you assembled them, they made a photo of a movie monster. On the back of the cards, were jokes and rhymes.
Which card , even now, has a hold on me and is one of many influences on my writing as the Man of a Thousand Bad Monster Jokes? Any guesses? How about you, the freaky thing lurking in the corner? Ok, I’ll let the black cat out of the bag. It’s number 79. It Came From Outer Space.
I’m not a huge fan of the alien on the front, but the rhyme on the back still has me! I can recite it without looking , even now.
“A thought inside my cranium.
This prophecy that I make-
If a monster eats uranium.
He’ll get atomic ache.”
It’s weirdly wonderful and I thought, if I were ever to write a poem, I’d try to write something like that. I understood the mix of monsters and humor from Mad Magazine and Famous Monsters and these cards, but I didn’t have the writing bug or the mechanics of it. Not a lot of eleven year old boys did. Little did I know that I’d have a writing assignment for school that year, that required poetry.
I chose a limerick for my style and I had card number 79 as my guide or template. I tried to fuse the words with the imagery and I didn’t have it. I wrote the card’s rhyme on a sheet of paper and left it in my desk. I was out sick for a few days and when I got back, the paper was gone. I thought I had to makeup the work, as my limerick was nowhere near complete. But, nothing was said until a month or two later. I was told that my poem was selected for a school anthology of poetry. I was a little confused because I couldn’t recall what I submitted. When I saw what was in my copy of the anthology, I wanted to barf! It was the contents of my sheet of paper- the copied limerick from the card!
When I got home, I tried to explain what happened to my parents and maybe I was so intimidated by them that it didn’t come out right, maybe it would, but it didn’t. They thought I willfully turned in that paper. I got so verbally chastised that I felt like a monster, myself! Oh, I was told that as a plagiarizer,(yeah they jumped that far) I could go to juvenile hall or get fined by the government. Add to that, they let it be known that I couldn’t have possibly come up something so well done as that! My eleven year old brain, writing and vocabulary were simply that of a filthy chimpanzee. Well, that was a fun month. I knew that one day, I would write something of equal value. Ok, it took awhile, but I think I have. In fact, one of my books, “Ha-Ha! Horror,” won an award for humor. A gold medal.
My next book, “Bride of Ha-Ha! Horror,” was nominated for a Rondo Classic Horror award. I’m working on the upcoming book, “Son of Ha-Ha! Horror.” Each book has over 500 Bad Monster Jokes, rhymes, cartoons, song parody lyrics, etc.
Rhymes and jokes like…
Why was Wolfman mad at his health care provider?
They won’t pay for his FLEA DIPS!
What’s the Phantom of the Opera’s favorite coffee drink?
It’s raining, it’s pouring.
The old Vampire Bat is soaring,
Across the lake to flee the stakes,
That Van Helsing is carving and scoring.
After all of that, do I love or loathe the Creature Feature cards? LOVE! It’s the only answer. The cards are a form of monster fun and entertainment as well as a reminder of what it’s like to see a path and follow it, no matter how long it takes . To get there and take those steps. Knowing in your heart, that you have what it takes to do it.
If you’re interested in hunting down these cards, they are relatively easy to find, not too expensive. They are a blast! If you need a note from your stepmother for cigarettes, you’re on your own.