Peter Pan Records had been putting out children’s music and material for decades before I was born. Their LPs featured nursery rhymes and kid’s songs and other child-friendly fare. Their biggest sellers were their “book-and-record” sets. As indicated by the name, these sets combined a book, usually an oversized comic book that was printed as part of the album sleeve, along with a record that contained the book’s narration. Budding young readers could read through the book while listening to the recorded narration, and if they got lost in the text somewhere along the way, a helpful chime told them when to turn the picture. It was beauty in simplicity.
Many of these book-and-record sets were released under the Peter Pan label, but many others were released under the Power Records imprint. Both featured characters from classic literature as well as the popular comic books and TV shows of the day, but the Power Records were aimed at a slightly older audience, having more advanced texts with more mature themes.
So which book-and-record set did Mom get me? Star Trek? Nope. The Six-Million Dollar Man? Un-uh. Spider-man? Superman? Huck Finn? Are you crazy? No, she didn’t get me any of these pure, upstanding sets. Rather, she got me a twisted little set called “A Story of Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein”.
Now in Mom’s defense, she probably didn’t just pick this out and drop it on my unsuspecting mind. I no doubt begged her to buy this set for me as I had developed a love of monsters, particularly the classic Universal Monsters. But you do have to question Power Records/Peter Pan Records’ decision to put this out for the underage public in the first place. And I don’t just say that from some prudish aversion toward monsters; I don’t think the mere presence of monsters automatically removes a work from a children’s audience. I say that because the book was macabre. Really, really macabre. The storyline itself was questionable. That story line follows Vincent Von Frankenstein (the nephew of the original Dr. Frankenstein) and his fiancé Ericka as they are chased into Dracula’s castle and forced by the Prince of Darkness to create a new Frankenstein’s monster. Along the way, we witness murder, slavery, abuse, revenge, and just about any other unpleasant thing that humans can do to each other (or that monsters can do to humans, as the case may be). Not only so, but the artwork was truly terrifying. Famed DC and Marvel artist Neal Adams drew the book, and he drew it well. Maybe too well. I’m not certain if the artwork was really good or if I just paid more attention to it at that impressionable age, but I do know that some of those scenes drew me in. Deeply, deeply in. When Vincent and Ericka flee across a glen from ravening dogs, I could feel their fear. When Frankenstein grabbed Dracula by the throat, I couldn’t breathe. When Vincent throws fire on Dracula, I could smell the burning flesh. On top of all this were the record’s moody music and sound effects which made this disturbing story all the more palpable. Sure, they pulled their punches a little on this one for their young audience. But they only pulled them a little. It still remained a terrifying story, a terrifying story that played itself out in my bedroom almost every afternoon.
But even that terror was not enough to keep me from questioning some of the stranger elements of this story. Neal Adams did the best he could to bring the three classic monsters together in one less-than-20-minute tale, but that best still left some gaps. For one thing, Vincent is not Dr. Frankenstein but Dr. Frankenstein’s nephew who conveniently knows all that Dr. Frankenstein knew about raising the dead. We couldn’t get Dr. Frankenstein himself, or at least his son? For another, the werewolf is not a Wolfman. Ericka is the werewolf. That would make her the Wolfwoman. And worst of all, Dracula is blond. No kidding. Blond.
Despite these oddities, this story of Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein did not end with the 1975 Power Records edition. It was rereleased years later by Parade Records under the name “House of Terror”. This release paired the original story with a sound effect LP that was much like Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. They would also release each of the portions of this story on individual Dracula, Frankenstein, and Wolfman 33s. And Adams would rework this story and artwork on a few occasions as well, most notably in his Monsters graphic novel. But my preference is for the original, the one that terrified and delighted me so many times.