Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Rerun: Vinyl Movies... In Space Age Stereo!

It's frankly too damned hot to sit in front of this computer and try to compose a new and interesting, nostalgic Space: 1970 article for the weekend. So, I'm doing what the TV networks always did during the Summer when I was a kid - offering up a rerun. This post is from March 2009, and was one of the first things I wrote on this blog that really seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people. If you haven't read this already, then I hope you enjoy it - and if you have, well... 

It's sometimes difficult to remember a time before home video. We have so much media literally at our fingertips these days, that a time before VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, Tivo, streaming video, etc., seems almost unbelievable. Those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s loving genre TV and movies had to resign ourselves to watching the shows we liked only when network programmers scheduled them (assuming our parents let us watch at all), and if we wanted to revisit a favorite film, the only option we usually had was a paperback novelization (by Alan Dean Foster, most likely) - if we were lucky, and the film we liked even got novelized.

When Star Wars came along and surprised everyone with its incredible mainstream popularity, Lucas, Fox and hundreds of licensors scrambled to create new products that they could sell to Wars-hungry masses while said masses waited impatiently for the cinematic sequel.

Among those new products was The Story of Star Wars - a long-playing record album that contained an abridged version of the film story, composed of dialogue, sound effects and music from the movie soundtrack, with additional narration (by actor Roscoe Lee Browne, who had played "Box" in Logan's Run) to smooth out the audio narrative. I had this album on cassette, and I listened to it so often that even today, I can recite large swaths of the dialogue in Star Wars from memory.

Of course, being Star Wars, and with affordable videocassettes of the movie itself still several years away, the Story Of... album sold like crazy. Millions of kids like myself re-experienced that movie over and over in our heads for years. It was so successful that similar story albums were released for the next two Star Wars films, and several other genre productions, too. I know there were similar albums for Raiders of the Lost Ark ('natch), Battlestar Galactica, and The Black Hole. Probably others, as well.

If you hunt around online, you can find downloads of most of these records. They're actually pretty amazing. Most of the abridgements are expertly done (the Saga of Battlestar Galactica LP plays better than the actual pilot, in my opinion), and they're damned fun to listen to.

In fact, I often listen to them while I work on various projects - this blog, for example - at my computer.


  1. Christopher,

    Wow, this post takes me back. Still got that Empire story LP up in the loft somewhere along with a bunch of 70/80's sci-fi soundtracks. Didn't have the Star Wars one but I seem to remember I recorded a series of BBC Radio 1 story specials back in 1978 which featured all the characters voiced by different actors.

    Thanks for the trip back.

  2. I had the cassette tapes for the three Star Wars films, which I'd luckily found buried on a dusty shelf somewhere at a small store around 1984 or thereabout. I was impressed with the quality of the recordings, and happy that they used actual sound & music from the films.

    I'm going to try to find the Battlestar Galactica one online, now that you've given it such high marks on this blog entry!


  3. Extremely neat! I have a memory of seeing the Star Wars album in the stores, at least. These would have been very cool to have and to listen to, back in the day.

    At first, the closest to these things that I had were mostly from Power Records, so the Star Trek stories were new and not adaptations. And since some were written by Alan Dean Foster, whose adaptations of the Animated Series I greatly enjoyed, I was happy with them. (Eventually in the last few years I did get the single record-and-comic of The Wrath of Khan from eBay.) All original stories, like the Spider-Man album my sister owned and eventually gave to me when she tired of it.

    Then I got two Space: 1999 albums. One had Breakaway, Death's Other Dominion, and Mission of the Darians; the other had End of Eternity and Dragon's Domain, plus two original stories (one I'd seen on a record in the store and knew it was new). I did not know these weren't the original actors, music, or sound effects, but thought they were really shortened versions of the episode audio tracks. Obviously not...

    But I did have two real records of this sort, and ironically, they were both released by Disneyland records. The first was Walt Disney's Three Adventures of Davy Crockett--it was closer to what you are talking about, with the theme song and dialogue from episodes, Fess Parker as Davy and Buddy Ebsen as Georgie Russell, who also narrated. The second was from the Rankin/Bass version of The Hobbit, with 'songs and dialogue form the original motion picture soundtrack'.

    I haven't listened to these in years, but I enjoyed them immensely back in the 70s, playing them quite often. Probably drove my parents nuts... the way my sons do now, wanting to watch the same dvds over and over again; they'd watch 'em more than once a month if we let them. LOL.

    Great memories, thanks!

    Gordon Long

  4. On the subject of vintage movie 'Story Of' LPs, there was also Wonderland Records' seldom mentioned 'Official Dramatized Recording of Close Encounters of the Third Kind', which featured terrible voice actors, stock sound effects and uninspired original music. It's pretty awful, but as a lover of '70s kitsch and all things weird I highly recommend hunting down a copy.