Monday, October 24, 2011

An Evening with Boris Karloff and His Friends

Side 1
Introduction (1:44)
Dracula (2:59)
All About the Monster (1:53)
Frankenstein (3:22)
The Mummy (1:57)

Side 2
The Bride of Frankenstein (3:03)
The Son of Frankenstein (3:37)
The Wolf Man (2:09)
The House of Frankenstein (1:24)
Finale (1:24)

'Twas a dark and dismal day back in the year 2010 when I unearthed this relic from that forbidding, haunted corner of the planet where insatiable shadow-beings feed upon the wretched, dust-shrouded leavings of bygone days (aka the thrift store record department). For many moons, since falling into my possession, this artifact has lain undisturbed, quietly resting in peace, touched not by human hand nor diamond stylus ... until now.
With Halloween drawing near, I figured this would be a perfect record to post, so I gave it a long overdue spin and dug up some info on it. The cover is a bit worn, but surprisingly, the inner sleeve and disc are virtually flawless and the sound is excellent. I would have loved to own this one as a child—when I was heavily into monster movies and other assorted monster-related paraphernalia. Judging by the scuff and fingerprint-free playing surface, I'd wager this particular copy never made it into the hands of any very young monster movie fans.

An Evening with Boris Karloff and His Friends
1967 Decca Records DL 74833 (stereo)
The subtitle on the cover and label reads: Original Soundtracks from Universal's Greatest Monster Movies Narrated by Boris Karloff, meaning that we get to hear scenes from the original movies interspersed with Boris Karloff talking about the films (over a bed of great, spooky incidental music).

Boris Karloff (real name William Henry Pratt), as you may know, was an English actor who made his way to Hollywood, where he appeared in scores of films over a period of about 12 years before eventually finding fame when he took on the role of Frankenstein's Monster in 1931. He acted in more than a dozen films released in 1931 alone! Best remembered for his extensive work in the horror/monster movie genre, he also played in other types of films, but typically still portrayed characters who had rather sinister personalities: an Irish gangster in Scarface (1932); a maniacal doctor in the comedy/drama The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947); and the voice of the Grinch (as well as the narrator) in the animated TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), among others.

The credits specify that this record was written and produced by Verne Langdon, Milt Larsen, and Forrest J. Ackerman. Ackerman, who wrote the script that Karloff reads, has been credited with coining the term "sci-fi" in the 1950s and was also the original editor and primary writer for Famous Monsters of Filmland  magazine, which is probably familiar to many of you who grew up in the 1960s, '70s, or '80s. Often referred to as sci-fi's number one fan, he spent a lifetime amassing what was possibly the world's largest personal collection of science-fiction, horror, and fantasy memorabilia. In this video on YouTube, the man himself gives a mini-tour of his creature-laden home/museum.

In this interview, Verne Langdon mentions how the record was pulled from the market by Decca/Universal (sometime around or before 1972) due to a lawsuit, which, among other things, prohibited the use of Bela Lugosi's voice on the recording. As far as I can tell, it is still out of print, but an alternate "original" (demo?) version containing different music and editing was made available recently as an mp3 download or CD-R. It can be purchased at where you can also read a couple informative reviews of it.