Photo illustration: Joe Blevins

Their heyday has largely passed, but for decades, novelizations played an important part in movie marketing. These quasi-novels, based on the screenplays for major motion pictures, were rushed out in cheap paperback form to bookstores everywhere. Before VHS, DVD, and streaming video took over, these flimsy books were just about the only way to relive movies once they had left theaters. Today, vintage novelizations are weird curios from a time gone by, prized by some collectors but largely forgotten. What becomes of these obsolete, utterly ephemeral volumes? For one thing, a site called Audiobooks For The Damned has been dutifully turning them into audio recordings and sharing them with the public for free. The site’s YouTube channel, still updated regularly, is a gloriously ridiculous exercise in nostalgia. Each video lasts in the neighborhood of four to seven hours. That’s how long it takes to read, for instance, the novelizations for Back To The Future Part II or Squirm word for word. It’s difficult to say which is the oddest inclusion here. The surprisingly ornate novel of cult favorite Clue, maybe?

Or maybe this spoken word rendering of Saturday Night Fever, minus all the music and dancing:

If any author can be said to be the king of novelizations, it’s Alan Dean Foster. Rest assured, Mr. Foster is represented here, via his novel for John Carpenter’s Dark Star:

Many flavors of fandom are served up here, from Beatles to Ninja Turtles to Super Mario Bros. The channel is a bit light on Star Wars content, but boy are David Cronenberg fans in luck. Titles here include: Rabid, The Brood, Scanners, and Videodrome. Audiobooks For The Damned’s amusing “About” page shows that the people behind this project, including volunteers Jon Olsen and Amy Mullin, know precisely how silly this all is. The question the project asks again and again is: Why watch a movie for two hours when you can listen to it for six? Then again, some superfans may want to pay close attention to these late-arriving audiobooks. Movie novelizations were frequently based on early drafts of screenplays and can therefore differ from the finished movies. Perhaps some additional insight is lurking within the yellowing pages of Desperately Seeking Susan: The Novel.

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