Cherney Berg

Famous Monsters Speak

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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.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
feat: Gabriel Dell
feat: Gabriel Dell
blue highlight denotes track pick