Carl Laemmle was born in 1867 in Laupheim, Germany. He immigrated to America in 1884 at the age of 17 and settled in Chicago, Illinois. In case you didn’t notice, Carl and I have very similar last names. In fact, the way he spelled it, Laemmle, is how my family originally spelled their name when they came to America from the same part of Germany that Carl’s family was from. I’ve tried to find a connecting branch on our family trees, but so far I’ve come up with nothing, but I’m still hopeful I’ll find one. Either way, it’s always been kind of a fun story to tell at cocktail parties.
My potential relation to Carl is not what he’s best-known for, though. In 1906, Carl entered a nickelodeon and became enamored with motion pictures. He wound up opening one of the first film studios in Chicago and soon got into film distribution. In 1915 he moved to California and opened Universal Studios Hollywood. In 1928, Carl made his son, Carl, Jr., the head of production, gifting him the position for his 21st birthday.
Junior had a mission to update Universal Pictures’ offerings for a more modern audience. He talked his father into producing Dracula in 1931 starring Bela Lugosi. The film was actually a pretty big gamble for the studio. Even though audiences had seen thrillers before, Dracula was the first that didn’t include a lot of comedy to downplay the horror, and didn’t have a twist ending negating the supernatural occurrences seen throughout the film. The film stood on its own as one of the first examples of a true horror film.
The gamble paid off and Dracula wound up being Universal’s biggest box office success of the year. This encouraged production on another film that same year, Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff, which became another runaway success.
Over the next decade, Universal Pictures would become known for their horror films starring a host of iconic monsters like the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Bride of Frankenstein, and the Wolfman. Many of their big films received sequels, often to less critical and commercial success, but it was enough to keep the studio producing more.
Some of these sequels became known as “monster rally” films, where Universal’s monsters would come together in a common story, usually battling against one another. The first of these Monster Rallies was Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 1943, followed soon after with 1944’s House of Frankenstein, which saw Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, Dracula, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and a mad scientist together. A year later, in 1945, the sequel, House of Dracula was released.
These Monster Rally films were not very well received, but that didn’t stop kids from watching them once they hit television syndication in the 1960s. And it’s with that legacy that today’s read-along record book, A Story of Dracula, The Wolfman, and Frankenstein, was produced by Peter Pan Records under the Power Records imprint in 1975. In the accompanying comic by legendary artist Neal Adams, the three monsters come together through an ever-growing series of coincidences for the ultimate showdown.
While Power Records might have produced the album, it was re-released in 1982 by Parade Records under the title, House of Terror. Parade was a label that mainly focused on home fitness albums, like The Jazzercise Workout, as well as music compilation albums, like The World’s Greatest Marches, and as far as I can tell, House of Terror was it’s one and only audio drama record. Aside from the original Power Records story, House of Terror includes a second LP with a few short horror audio dramas, as well as classic Halloween novelty songs like The Purple People Eater, The Witch Doctor, and The Monster Mash.
As you might have guessed, I had every intention of releasing this album as part of my podcast, When You Hear This Sound. But, I generally try not to step on copyright owner’s toes if their works are still active. In 2003, Neal Adams released the comic book that accompanied these records as the graphic novel, Monsters. In addition, the small press label Studio Chikara has just put out a re-release of House of Terror including Adams’ Monsters graphic novel. So, if you really want to check out this record, go buy a copy of the comic or the re-release; it’s well worth the money.