Friday, October 21, 2011


Any Monster Kid worth their salty blood remembers the one great vinyl LP that we all simply could not live without . . . FAMOUS MONSTERS SPEAK.

Most of us were made aware of the 33 1/3 long playing record in the pages of -- where else? -- FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND.

I wish could tell you where I finally landed my copy, but I don't think it was from Captain Company. It might've been someplace as crazy-sounding as Sear's (!). I bought my first rock n' roll album from a Sears record bin (Joe Byrd's The United States of America), so why not FMS?

Anyway, I remember being a little disappointed the first time through. I was expecting knock-offs of Boris and Bela, of course. Instead, I got Gabriel Dell. But, hey, this was a monster record through and through, and I soon wore the grooves outta that puppy. It has since become something of a legend and certainly known for its above-average production and recording. It is widely bootlegged, but also has been jealously guarded by the copyright holder.

Full-page ad from FAMOUS MONSTERS #28.

The original vinul LP version of FAMOUS MONSTERS SPEAK was released by A.A. Records in May of 1963 as #AR-3 and distributed by Affiliated Publishers. It sold for $1.98. It was produced by Hudson Productions, Inc. The stories were scripted by Cherney Berg with voices by Gabriel Dell. Sound effects were by Hal Johnson. The memorable jacket cover is uncredited. The two tracks were titled: "Frankenstein's Monster Talks!" and "Dracula Returns". The playing time was about 50 minutes, which was pretty long for LP's of that day.

In 1973, FAMOUS MONSTERS SPEAK was re-issued by Wonderland Records, a division of A.A./Golden Record. The album jacket was the same as the first version, with the exception of the "Wonderland Records" logo on the upper right of the front jacket.

FAMOUS MONSTERS SPEAK was re-issued a second time in 2002 by Image Entertainment. This time it was sold on compact disc instead of vinyl. The cover art changed to suit the aspect ratio of the CD jewel case. The retail price was $14.98.

Now, is offering the 2002 Image Entertainmen CD re-release for a mere $5.98. That's even less expensive than some of the bootlegs that are out there right now! So, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of a legit version.

The original LP album jacket.
Notice the Bela Lugosi Dracula and Glenn Strange Frankenstein Monster.

The back of the album jacket (Wonderland Records re-issue).

Here is the product description given at the webpage, although for the life of me, I can't figure out why:

"Children of certain generations drooled over the pages of advertisements for monster-related merchandise in the back pages of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. Since a great percentage of the magazine's profit came from these ads, one can assume many of said items were actually purchased, although only a few people might actually admit to having been a customer. This album was one of several phonograph records available by mail order from Famous Monsters, the others including the soundtracks to War of the Worlds and Psycho. Memories dimmed by the haze of monster magazine collections slowly corroding do insist that this Famous Monsters Speak was available in the '60s as well, and when the magazine's franchise was picked up again in the '90s, a compact-disc version of the same recording was once again for sale. So what is this, anyway? It isn't a complete rip-off, as official permission must have been granted by Universal studios to use the copyrighted images of Frankestein and Dracula. And, as was par for the course anytime after the '40s, the appearance of just one of these monsters wasn't enough for the salivating monster lover, and so there are cameos from The Creature From the Black Lagoon, sometimes known as The Creature or Blacky Lagoon; The Wolfman; and the slow-moving Mummy. This is not one of the many fine recordings made by actors associated with vintage horror films, such as Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, or Basil Rathbone, which were also distributed through Famous Monsters and certainly represented the most cultured material available from their mail order department. Gabriel Dell, a character actor mostly known for doing voices in Huckleberry Hound-era cartoons, takes on the whole fiendish cast of characters and does an admirable job, aided by a whole series of sound effects that border on the chintzy, as they should. The recording is supposed to be the result of a live press conference in which Dr. Victor Frankenstein -- the real Frankenstein, as every monster lover worth their fangs knows the dude with the bolts in his neck is really named The Monster -- announces to the entire world that the story of his monster is actually true. Furthermore, rare recordings actually exist of the monster speaking, which fans of the Universal films will remember he only really did in the classic Bride of Frankenstein. In that film, the monster really didn't have much to say, either, although in his choice of the words "smoke," "friend," "food," and "wine" he did manage to nail just about all the important words in the English language. On this album, the monster is much more chatty, groaning and pontificating about his ordeals in life as if he was a film noir character strapped to an operating table. Dell's vampire won't make anyone forget Bela Lugosi, but for the purposes of this production he does perfectly alright, even injecting a bit of menace into the grooves. What does a reviewer compare an album such as this to, anyway? It is simultaneously horrible but more interesting to listen to than anything recorded by the Grateful Dead, who are mentioned here because the band's name definitely reflects the monster's point of view, in the end. ~ Eugene Chadbourne"

"Blacky Lagoon"? Who is this guy and why is the mega monster friendly using this as "promotional" material to sell their product? Did anybody actually read this before it was plastered on the buy page? A mystery for the ages, I guess.

If you're interested, copies of the original recording are available. The Wonderland versions are numerous on eBay and are selling for around 25 to 70 bucks. But, I would strongly suggest passing on the 43 dollar version of the CD that I saw and just buy the same thing at for $5.98.

[NOTE: Some of the historical information contained in this post was obtained from the book, GATHERING HORROR by David Horne.]


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