In 1985 the power struggle we were used to in the Masters of the Universe toyline was about to change. This was of course because of the much hyped arrival of a third faction upon Eternia. No longer would it solely be He-Man and his heroic allies locked in an epic struggle with Skeletor and his minions. No, now the two forces would learn of The Power of the Evil Horde as Hordak arrived to conqueror all!
Around the time that Mattel decided to introduce both Hordak and his Evil Horde. My Father, a single parent, was finally earning a living wage. Which meant I was fortunate to finally be getting an allowance. As soon as I started seeing the TV ads for Hordak I began to save up. One evening just before our local Walmart closed for the night, I asked my Father to drive me up and let me buy Hordak. I literally paid for the evil tyrant and walked out the building as they were locking the doors for the evening.
I can certainly say that to my thirteen year old mind it was totally worth it. While I will indeed admit that when playing, He-Man and his allies would always prevail, they had to work harder than ever before to protect Eternia. Hordak quickly overthrew Skeletor in my toy universe, the skeletal conqueror was now merely a foot soldier. Bowing down to The Power of the Evil Horde!
Having said all of that however, I did not know this 1985 book and cassette tape had been made. It’s an interesting bit of media for a few different reasons. For one thing it is a little longer than the book and records we are used to. Furthermore it just so happens to have been illustrated by Bruce Timm. Yes, THAT Bruce Timm who seven years later would help produce the definitive version of Batman.
Most importantly of all, after reading and listening to the story. It uses not only the sound cues from the classic Filmation series but most of the same actors as well. John Erwin as Prince Adam and He-Man. With Lou Scheimer as Orko and naturally Alan Oppenheimer as both Skeletor as well as Man-At-Arms. Hordak is voiced by George Dicenzo and this tale focuses on his assault again Eternia. It also features the now well established lore that Skeletor was once a pupil to the evil tyrant.
Did I happen to mention that the awesome Fright Zone playset plays a large part in the story?
Okay, enough background information. It’s time for you to sit back and enjoy The Power of the Evil Horde!
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!