Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Universal Monsters Retro Cloth Figure Dracula (2011, Diamond Select and Emce Toys)

Universal Monsters Retro Cloth Figure Dracula (2011, Diamond Select and Emce Toys)

Beginning in 2010, Diamond Select began releasing retro cloth Universal Monsters figures in the vintage Mego style.  The figures were designed and sculpted by Emce Toys.  I'll be reviewing every figure from this line this month as part of "Mad Monster Month," and I'll begin with Dracula.  This Dracula was part of Series 2 of the Universal Monsters line, and was originally released in 2011.

Left: Mad Monsters Dreadful Dracula,  Right: Universal Monsters Retro Cloth Figure Dracula

It's a really nice looking figure, and is a more modern take on the old Mego style, while still retaining the vintage vibe.  The cloth outfit fits the character very well, as opposed to most vintage Mego type figures, which either tended to be overly baggy and loose looking, or skin tight with the details screen-printed on.  This figure has no screen-printed details, his vest and tie are made out of separate layers of cloth, and his medallion is made of plastic and cloth.  One fun tie-in to the original Mego Mad Monster Dracula are the shoes, which are identical.  Whether that was a deliberate homage, or just a cost-saving measure (why design new shoes when perfectly good ones already exist?), it works out great.

Dracula Up Close

The sculpt is very nice, too.  Like virtually all official Dracula products, it does not feature Bela Lugosi's likeness.  It's my understanding that the Lugosi estate is very picky about granting a license to use Bela's likeness, so you can't blame Diamond Select or Emce toys for that.  But even though it doesn't look like Lugosi, it does capture that same suave, yet menacing European vibe that Lugosi had.  I think it's one of the best classic Dracula sculpts I've seen to capture the feel of Dracula without being able to look like Bela Lugosi.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Remco 9 Inch Count Dracula Action Figure (1980)

From 1974 to 1976, Azrak-Hamway International (aka AHI) had their own line of 8 inch, cloth outfit, Universal Studios Monster action figures, that were heavily inspired by Mego's similar figures in the 1970s.  The figures were fairly cheaply made, and were obviously imitating Mego's figures, but unlike Mego's figures, these were officially licensed from Universal Studios, so they were actually able to get closer to the likeness of the characters from the movies.  In 1980 and 1981, AHI revisited this license through their child company Remco, producing a series of 9 inch Universal Monsters figures with cloth outfits.  Aside from being slightly bigger than their original figures, these all had an arm closing action feature when you pressed a button on their backs, it sort of made it look like they were grabbing ahold of their victims and crushing them to death.

The 1980 Dracula figure's face is nicely sculpted, although it looks closer to Frank Langella or George Hamilton's Dracula than Bela Lugosi.  It's body looks quite a bit bulkier than Bela's, as well.  His vest, medallion, and tie are screen printed on to his shirt, similar to the Mego Mad Monster Dracula.  He also has a black cape with red lining, like the Mego version.  One nice feature is that his cape has loops on it that fit over his wrists, so that when you activate his arm crushing feature, he actually wraps his cape around his victim along with his arms, which definitely has a great "Dracula" feel to it.


Hot Blood - Soul Dracula


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1998, Figures Toy Company)

This Elvira figure is from the early days of Figures Toy Company, way back in 1998.  These days they are probably the top company making Mego reissue figures, and new figures in the classic Mego style, but back then they were just starting out in the action figure business.  I think Elvira was one of their first (if not THE first) character licenses.  There were two primary versions of their Elvira figure: the "regular" version, which I have here, and the "witch" version, which was basically the same figure, but it came with a witch hat and a broom instead of a chainsaw and a snake.  There were also all-white glow-in-the-dark versions of both figures made in limited quantities.

The articulation on this figure is not that great.  It has hinged elbows, and cut joints at the shoulders and hips, and that's it.  Nothing for the neck, hips, wrists, knees, etc...  She comes holding a chainsaw, and while I like it as an accessory, it's unfortunately attached to her hand.  Like I said, I like the chainsaw, but it would be nice to have as an OPTION, it's not something I would want her carrying around all the time.  I don't know if the "witch" version of this figure has it's broomstick permanently attached, but if it doesn't, it might be a better choice if you are looking to pick one of these up.

The facial sculpt and paint job are a little mixed.  From some angles and lighting conditions it looks really good and captures the likeness of Cassandra Peterson as Elvira, but from other angles or under different light it can look really awkward.  Look at my photos and judge that for yourself.

Even though it's not a perfect figure, I still like it.  I grew up watching Elvira's Movie Macabre when it was a local show on KHJ Channel 9 in Southern California.  Elvira was responsible for a great deal of my love of B-movie horror, and it's great having a figure of her to add to my Mego monster collection.


Ghoultown - Mistress of the Dark


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mad Monster Castle

PINK - The Color of Fear
The Mad Monster Castle was originally released by Mego in 1974 for use with their Mad Monsters action figures.  It was reissued in 2012 by Figures Toy Company, where it is still available to purchase today (the reissued version is the one I have in these photos).  It is made of cardboard and vinyl, and features an operating table, a working drawbridge, and cartoony horror artwork printed on the walls.

Dreadful Dracula Operates on Frankenstein's Monster Inside the Castle

Mego wisely chose to make the castle pink, as everyone knows that pink is the color of fear.  While the cardboard and vinyl construction might seem cheap by modern standards, and the artwork might seem kind of cheesy, if you're of the right mindset, that becomes part of the appeal.  It's goofiness is a perfect fit for the Mad Monster figures, as they are more on the wacky side of the monster scale themselves.  It's definitely worth buying for anyone who is a fan of vintage monster toys.

Raven's Eye View

Friday, October 2, 2015

Return of the Fly (1959)

At the end of the 1958's The Fly, Phillipe Delambre, the young son of Andre Delambre, the scientist who became "The Fly," ask his uncle Francois (played by Vincent Price) about the death of his father. 

Phillipe, "Why did he die?"  They are seated outside in a beautiful green garden, along with Phillipe's mother Helene.  Birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and soft music starts to swell in the background.

"Well Phillipe," begins Francois, "He died because of his work.  He was like an... like an explorer in a wild country where no one had ever been before.  He was searching for the truth.  He almost found a great truth.  But for one instant he was careless."

Phillipe responds, "That's what killed him?"

"Search for the truth is the most important work in the whole world," answers Francois, "and the most dangerous."

"I'd like that," exclaims Phillipe, "I'd like to be an explorer like him.  Well you help me, Uncle Francois?"

"Yes, Phillipe," says Francois, as he and Helene beam with pride at the child.  I guess that is supposed to be a happy ending, as the son takes something positive away from his father's horrifying death.  But seriously, his father just died by having his head and arm crushed in a metal press, to destroy the evidence that he had turned in to a hideous half-human half-fly monster.  Are you sure you want to encourage the kid to follow in his father's footsteps?

If it was me, I'd be, like, "You sure you wouldn't rather work at McDonald's, son?  You can have all the french fries you could ever want to eat!"

To which Phillipe would reply, "Gosh Uncle, that sounds great!  I'm going to work at McDonald's when I grow up!"


The Adult Phillipe and His Uncle Vincent

But nope, that's not what happened.  Instead, in 1959's Return of The Fly,  a now adult Phillipe has decided he still wants to be an "explorer" like his old man, and reprise his dad's science experiments.  But certainly, armed with the knowledge of what happened to his father, he won't repeat his father's mistakes and transform himself in to a hideous half-fly creature, right?


Well, I guess it wouldn't be much of a return of "The Fly" if that happened.  So yeah, he turns in to a hideous fly creature.  In the previous film The Fly had a human body with a fly head and fly arm.  This films one-ups it by giving The Fly, Jr. a fly head, arm, AND foot.  So there's that, I guess.

Fly Foot
The 1958 film was a fairly high quality, full color production, but the sequel is much lower budget flick, filmed in black and white, and reusing the same sets and props that had been built for the original.  It's also got more of a b-movie plot involving industrial espionage, murderous criminals, an evil mortician, and shoot-outs with the police.  It does make one nice addition to the half-human, half-animal monster menagerie with a pair of half-man half-guinea pig creatures.  The man with guinea pig hands and feet really just looks silly, sort of like someone in a White Rabbit costume from a high school theater production of Alice in Wonderland.  But the reverse creature:  a guinea pig with tiny little human hands flailing around at his sides, is weirdly surreal, especially when it's horrified onlooker stomps on it, and then has to clean up the bloody mess on the floor.  That was my favorite thing in the movie, unfortunately it only occupies the screen for a few seconds.

The Guinea Pig with Human Hands
None of the original cast returns except for Vincent Price, but for a horror fan like myself, ANY film with Vincent Price in it is worth a look, so if they could only afford to bring back one actor, they made the right choice.

Vincent Price
Unlike the first film in this series, the sequel is not a classic, and I don't think it would make anyone's must-see list.  But if your like me, and you enjoy watching bad and cheesy horror movies almost as much as you like good ones, then this can still be fun diversion.  There was a third sequel "Curse of the Fly" released in 1965, which does not feature Vincent Price.  I'm almost afraid to watch that one, but I suppose if I've made it this far, I should probably keep going, so I'm probably going to watch that one next.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Fly (1958)

The Fly (1958)

The Fly is a bit of a mixed bag as far as classic horror movies go.  It starts off strong, with a bloody scene of housewife Helene Delambre killing her scientist husband Andre by crushing him to death in a sheet metal press.  But it quickly derails as it flashes back to the events that lead up to this death. It seems like about two-thirds of the film establish what a nice, happy couple they were, and what a great family life they had, before the horror begins anew for the final third of the film.  Getting to know them is a good thing, otherwise we wouldn't care when things go bad, but they spend way too much time with it.  If they had cut back on the establishing stuff and spent more time drawing out the horror, instead of packing most of it in at the end, it would have been a much better paced movie.

"Hi folks, I'm The Fly!"

Still, it has some strong elements, and it is definitely a classic.  To begin with, the main monster, "The Fly," is awesome.  It's one of the all-time great movie monsters.  The scenes before the fly make-up is revealed, when Andre hides in his lab with a cloth draped over his head to hide his face, are very effective. I particularly like when he ate his meals by lowering his draped head over his plate.  You couldn't see what was happening, all you could do was hear the disgusting slurping sounds, but that was enough to let you know that something really horrible had happened to his face. And when his face is finally revealed as a giant fly head on the body of a man, it's not a let-down.  The make-up is still effective to this day.

I Spy With My Fly Eye
There are several highly memorable, iconic moments in this film, like when Andre's wife starts to scream at the sight of him, and the camera cuts to a kaleidoscope of screaming heads from the compound eye view of The Fly.  And of course the final scene when we finally see the reverse of the man with the head of a fly, the fly with a human head, screaming "help me" as it is about to be devoured by spider.  It's ridiculous, campy, and horrifying all at the same time.  Also notable is the supporting role by horror legend Vincent Price as Andre's brother Francois Delambre.  All in all, while not perfect, the film is still a sci-fi horror classic, and introduces one of the most unique and memorable movie monsters of all time, and is a must-see for all fans of vintage horror and science fiction films.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mad Monster Month is Coming...

It's that time of year again!  Join me starting October 1st for 31 days of ghoulish horror fun leading up to the most wonderful day of the year: HALLOWEEN!  I'll be reviewing horror movies, sharing some of my favorite spooky music, and photographing plenty of  monster action figures for your viewing pleasure.  This year I'm focusing on Mego style 8 inch retro figures, such as Mego's Mad Monsters who I'm naming this month after, although I might throw in a few non-Mego figures as well.  Movie reviews will include Vincent Price in "The Fly,"  Hammer Films' "Horror of Dracula,"  Universal's "Creature From The Black Lagoon,"  David Cronenberg's "The Brood," and more.  I'll be photographing action figures of Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf-Man, The Phantom of the Opera, Elvira, Herman Munster, and others.  Plus I'm making a series of custom monster figures based on Tomland's Famous Monsters of Legend and Star Raiders figures from the 1970s.  This is the first time I've made custom figures, and I'll be sharing the figures as well as some of the techniques that went in to making them here on the blog.  Most of the year I only blog sporadically, but in October, for the Countdown to Halloween, I usually post every day, so be sure and check back often.

The fun begins October 1st!

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