1/19/21

DINOSAURS! (Leo the Lion, 1966)


I suppose the actual title of this record is:  "DINOSAURS! A Dramatic Version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's THE LOST WORLD Featuring Basil Rathbone....." but where do you stop?

It doesn't matter, because mark my words, my friends, this is great stuff.  This record is so well-made, it would seemingly belittle it to classify it as a children's record.  However, to be fair, it comes from an era where solid entertainment could be made for kids without feeling the need to completely dumb everything down to levels of absurdity.

Featuring a delightfully over-the-top performance by the great Basil Rathbone, as well as the also-great Peter Fernandez (whose name should be familiar to you from Speed Racer, let alone the great American dubs of Godzilla/Toho movies done at Titra/Titan studios), this is a top-notch effort that will impress you.  It even stays overwhelmingly faithful to the book, although simplifying the plot (also there is one minor change that surprised me--without spoiling the story, it has to do with the proof that the group brings back from the Lost World) somewhat, which is obviously required when you reduce a novel to a 38-minute audio story.   The script, sound effects, and performances are all enthralling.  Even when brief educational factoids are thrown in about a specific dinosaur, it doesn't hinder the plot (if you can believe that)! I enjoyed it immensely, and I think any kaiju and/or dinosaur fan will too!

LINK:  Dinosaurs! (not the Jim Henson sitcom with the baby)

1/18/21

Play-Doh Star Wars Action Set (Kenner, 1979)



From 1979, here is the great Play-Doh Star Wars Action Set.  If you are like me, you have many fond memories of this set.  It's complete, apparently unused, and it only took me four different auctions to finish (vintage Play-Doh cans take some time to find, these days)!

I cleaned the box, repaired one tear with acid-free glue, and also ironed some of it.  This is a trick I learned from a board game collector, using a regular steam iron (with no water in it).  You can achieve some pretty amazing results, especially for the thinner cardboard.  I've certainly never tried corrugated or super-heavy cardboard, but I doubt that would be very effective.

The set from my childhood "lived" at my grandparents' house, so I only got to play with it when I was over there.  Along with an X-Wing fighter, three molds are included, allowing the user to make Darth Vader, R2-D2, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker.  There has been some debate over exactly what Darth Vader's weapon is.  It looks like a laser rifle (which Luke also has), but on the box, he is made to hold it like his lightsaber.  I vote for "gun" because, if not, it's the worst lightsaber I've ever seen.


Play-Doh sets usually (and wisely) included a plastic play-mat, and the one for this set is pretty ingenious.  You get a three-quarter, cutaway Death Star to play around in, as well as some space to fly your X-Wing.  Bonus points for including the Dianoga!

The set also includes the famous yellow Play-Doh knife (the other famous tool was the wooden rolling pin, not included in this set).  As I mentioned, the hardest parts to find in completing this set were the vintage cans from the same year.  If you recall, the cans of this era had steel bottoms, and you can hardly find any that aren't rusted to some degree.  I was pretty lucky, but one of the three had a bit of light rust, which I sanded off (NOTE: If you do so, be extremely careful, as the metal is extremely THIN here).  Afterwards, I coated the bottoms of the cans with a rust inhibitor, which is made for treating tools, and which you can buy in any hardware store.  (Another tip, if you go this route, do NOT over-apply, and allow plenty of time to dry, especially if it's cold outside).  After all of this, the cans were ready to be stored safely!


As you can see, I was REALLY excited about this piece, and even had a custom acrylic case made for it! Collectors always make a huge deal about having the original inserts, but the truth is, they can actually do the most damage to your items. When storing old toys like this, the important thing is to make sure that nothing touches the cardboard for long-term storage.  I wrapped each part in acid-free tissue paper (which, if you don't want to order it, can be easily obtained at Container Store).  I didn't mention the original Star Wars booklet, or the small Play-Doh catalog, but these, along with the playmat, were put into comic bags with acid-free boards.  And speaking of the Play-Doh catalog...

If you've never seen this Kenner...product, then you are in for a teat.  (A thousand apologies for that one.  I got carried away.) This was a real thing...somehow...and there was actually a TV commercial for it (see below).  I don't know who thought of this, but it's just weird, no matter how you look at it.  I mean, look at the photo.  The girl is ecstatic, and she's not even getting to do anything.  The boy...is having some sort of moment; I don't even want to know.  
To top it off, it came with powder to make "pretend milk." I have no idea what "pretend milk" is made of, but I assume it was non-toxic, because you know all the little paste-eaters who received this toy were drinking it. Observe in bewilderment:

1/4/21

Introducing THE GODZILLA FILES (Leaping Fox)

 

Happy New Year.  Let's force this to be a better year, right out of the chute.  After just bestowing 22 discs of superhero goodness on you the other day...here are more than 8 of Godzilla perfection!

At the left side of this page is a list of the blog's sub-pages, and the godzilla files is the last one listed.  I'd tell you all the details about this project, but why repeat myself? They are all on the page.  Just click the thing, and enjoy!

This one will probably absolutely be a limited-time offer, so as they say on TV, act now, operators are standing by!

12/17/20

GOJIRA Advertising Balloon from 1954 Discovered!

The original Ebay seller's photo.

Some days, you don't know exactly what you are looking at*.

That was me, earlier this week.  One of my myriad saved Ebay searches yielded the above washed-out photo, which I thought was cool.  The caption stated "Kodachrome Slide, Godzilla Balloon, Osaka, 1950's," which was all the information available.  

Right away I noticed a couple of easy things:  first, the red characters on the banner obviously said "Gojira."  Second, there was a giant Toho logo on top of the building at the left, so it must be a theater.  Therefore, I concluded that this was an advertising campaign for GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, the 1955 sequel to the original film.  After all, that film has a lot to do with Osaka, so it all just made sense, right?

Nope!  I forwarded the link to Sean Linkenback, author of AN UNAUTHORIZED GUIDE TO GODZILLA COLLECTIBLES (among many others), and good friend to this blog.  He was able to quickly add more information to the investigation.  First, he found another photo of the same theater from the seller's other slides:

After I did a little contrast correction to it, we can see that the name of the theater is the "Umeda Koma Stadium," and it was quite large (this page says the theater is no longer there, having relocated in 2005).  Secondly, and back to the original slide, Sean immediately suspected that the figure in the lower-right was Audrey Hepburn (more on that in a moment).  Next, he was able to find out what the text on the hanging banner said:  "Great Toho proudly announces the science fiction movie of the century GODZILLA."  

Suddenly, we were in completely different territory.  

We know that Toho released GOJIRA, nationwide, in November of 1954...so, why Audrey Hepburn? Because of the hit film SABRINA, which a little research showed, was released in Japan in mid-September! What we were looking at was a hitherto-unknown promotion for the original GOJIRA, and one that as far as I can tell, had never been discussed anywhere! Heck, it's entirely possible that the film hadn't even premiered yet, and the balloon and banner were part of building up hype! And there it was, hidden in a cache of old travel slides, no doubt snapped quickly by a traveling American businessman who was taking in the sights of Osaka and photographing whatever caught his eye.

By the time we'd deduced all these things, the auction was gone (actually ended by the seller as "no longer in stock," so the slide's fate is unknown).  It would've been great to own this piece of history, and it would be equally exciting to know whatever became of the Godzilla balloon itself!  

One silver lining to the whole thing is that I was able to clean up the image quite a bit, remove the watermark, and adjust the contrast and color, restoring it to what it most likely would have looked like originally.  I can't do anything about the slight blur to the photo, but I improved it quite a bit:


It makes me feel a bit like a UFO researcher, blowing up grainy old photos:

Enhanced image of strange object seen flying over the skies of Osaka, Japan, 1954.

_____________________________________________

(*Apologies to English teachers of the past.  I ended a sentence with a preposition, there, but it was for dramatic effect, so it's okay.)


12/16/20

Journey to the Moon (Buddah, 1969)

Here is a fun record that I found this week, and transferred for your enjoyment.  On the (lunar) surface, it appears to be a moon landing documentary, of which there were several issued in 1969.  This is true, but it's the only one that I know of that presents the story interspersed with some interesting rock music, here credited to a group called "Sound of Genesis," (no, nothing to do with Genesis).  In reality, I'm sure this was a conglomerate of studio musicians, but being 1969, there is plenty of electric sitar and synthesizer action to keep you entertained.  

You could make the argument that this record has something of an identity crisis; there is narrative, audio clips, instrumental music, and, sometimes, everything all at once.  However, as someone who has sat through most all of these Moon Fever albums, I have to say this was the most enjoyable of them all.

A couple of trivial factoids for your enjoyment:  
1) The track entitled "Lunar Landing: Moon Plaque" is presented on the front cover as "Moon Plague"! That would have been an interesting direction, indeed!
2) The track "Nineteen Ninety-Nine" was co-written by a young Daryll Hall.
3) The opening track was released as a single, but was credited only to "Genesis" (The more famous Genesis did of course exist at this time, and issued their first album that same year.) Enjoy!

12/15/20

The Things That I See (continued)

 We haven't done one of these in quite a while, and, well, even in Virus World, I keep seeing things.  So, let's jump right in.

First off, here is a cool dollhouse-scale miniature of the vintage Ideal Godzilla board game, which I bought from an Ebay seller who crafts these things.  It's very well-detailed, down to the tiny playing pieces in the opening. [Note that, when you start buying the same collectibles that you already own in a different scale, you are then in need of two things:  1)more storage space, and 2)therapy.]

Some gold old thrift-store Engrish.  What strikes me about this photo now is the weird and slightly cool globe thingy in front of the, er, lamp.  Now I wish I'd picked it up and examined it further.

Here is a cool sticker that was actually on a Kingston Trio album that I saw somewhere.  The fortune teller amuses me. "Wait, I see...regret.  No--you'll actually hate this; save your money!"

While we are talking about thrift-store LPs, here is one of those Stereo demonstration records.  These were really popular in the early 1960's, when hi-fi systems were being pushed on the hipsters of the day.  The pseudo-art deco-ness of the cover caught me eye.  I figured it would be fun to experience jet planes and thunderstorms indoors in my own home.  It wasn't.  At all.  The record was completely fried, which, as it turns out, really interferes with your enjoyment of horses randomly neighing.  I was about to toss it, when I saw the listing for side two, which contained disappointing horrors:
Firstly, track one was pigeons.  "In A Hayloft," but whatever, it's pigeons.  That's your lead track. You can open a widow in any large city and hear that.
Now, let your eye drop to track #6.  What was wrong with people back then? "Hey, you know what would be fun for all the groovy hep hi-fi bachelor pad swingin' sound systems? Pigs being massacred." (If you're morbidly curious, like I was:  it's a short track, that sounds exactly like a barn full of pigs, with some voices calling out numbers, followed by one or two ear-piercing squealing shrieks.)

And, for the youth of America, Amazon wants to sell you a wig that commemorates President Ben Franklin.  I mean, he's on money, so that's how you get the title, right?

Here's a sign that was in the restroom at my own work.  Okay, fine, I made this...

This is a colorfully-labeled package of hardware from a furniture kit.  I should've give you some sense of scale, but it was about the size of a burrito.  It's not just that the label looked like it was yelling at me...it's just that I don't like being told what to do.

A photo from an Ebay auction for vintage Mego dolls.  So, it strikes me that this was a, I don't know, mischievous way to pose them, by the seller?  Maybe it's just the nature of my own depraved mind, but it certainly doesn't help Batman's image any. 

So, you know those cheap portable video game systems, that they sell in drugstores, that are made to look like smaller versions of an old Game Gear, or a Wii U gamepad? They advertise hundreds of full-color games, and show photos of delightful clones of early NES games on their packaging.
  
News flash: they are terrible.  I got so desperate and bored on a trip last year, that I bought one, and I figured hey, at the very least, it would be good for a laugh.  Turns out, the laughing was done at my expense, because everything included was mind-numbingly stupid.  
Nothing pictured was included, and, to give you a critical review:  the gameplay fell slightly short of "LED watch game," while game design was slightly worse than that of, oh, "Nokia phone." Most were really weak shooting-type or matching games, but there were one or two fake platformers, such as this gem:  MAGIC JONY (no, it's not "Magic Tony;" that's the guy in the alley behind the drugstore.)  JONY was a flawed, wonky not-quite-platformer...but, why am I trying to describe it to you, when you can just read its gripping story?
Really, though...still better than the Sequel Trilogy.
Really, though...still better than the Sequel Trilogy.

Finally, in this age of ubiquitous and unrelenting video-conferencing, I leave you with one that will resonate with many of us.  I present to you, Thanos' most embarrassing moment, where he didn't quite end the meeting in time:

12/10/20

GODZILLA'S GANG Hi-Res Logo (Mattel, 1978)

 

For a personal project, I scanned the backing card of an unopened GODZILLA'S GANG figure at high resolution, then meticulously cleaned it up and completely cropped it out in Photoshop. (It killed an evening, let me tell you.)



I figured, this might be useful to somebody around here, so why not add it to the blog? By the way, this is a PNG file with transparency, so it isn't rectangular. (I may or may not have a couple of cool T-Shirts on the way, but you didn't hear that from me.) Enjoy!

12/9/20

Vintage Kenner DAGOBAH ACTION PLAYSET box (1981)

 


Take a look at this Dagobah Playset box, which I acquired recently.  It has an original mailing label from Kenner, who sent it to the purchaser.  As cool as this is, this strikes me as a real Amazon sort of move.  Of course, today, it's even more important to disguise the item you are mailing, so it doesn't get stolen...which is what they make brown paper for.

The big takeaway here, though, is the postal label: $1.86! This would cost, what, like $25 to mail today?!

12/2/20

(Reintroducing) THE SUPERHERO FILES

I've had lots of requests over the last few years to re-upload some historical projects that I've posted here, and I thought the time was right to gather all of them together, and make one mega-page.

The Superhero Files is an uber-project made up of ten projects and 22 discs:

  • the batman theme collection
  • the batman files
  • the spider-man files
  • the superman files
  • the hulk files
  • the avengers files
  • the fantastic four files
  • the justice league files
  • the leftover files
  • the non-Marvel-and-DC files

 If you will examine the extreme left side of this blog, under the heading of PAGES, you will see a link to the dedicated page for this collection.  A complete description of these projects, as well as the 540 tracks included, can be found there! Enjoy!

11/24/20

Monster Zero and Biollante VCD's (Video CD's)

 

Around here, we talk quite a bit about the formats that Godzilla movies have been released on.  My primary interest is in releases from the USA, but today we have a couple of examples of Video CD's (commonly just called VCD's), a format which really didn't take off in the United States.  

VCD's were really what they sounded like.  Without getting too technical, they were CD's that utilized MPEG-1 encoding to present video and audio.  They were playable on computers and DVD players alike, and tended to match their audio cousins in capacity:  the old 74-minute blanks held 74 minutes of VCD content, and 80 minutes for the, well, 80-minute discs.  The main draw was that they were easy to record/encode and could be copied as easily as an audio disc. They were huge in Asian countries, and were quickly eclipsed by the higher quality (and, for the manufacturers, copy protection restraints) of DVD.

Here we have Video CD releases for GODZILLA vs. MONSTER ZERO and GODZILLA vs. BIOLLANTE.  The former is interesting because it utilizes the title, artwork, and design of the 1998 Simitar release here in the USA, which here was obviously licensed to Progress Video for the release in Hong Kong.  Interestingly enough, while this item wasn't sold in America, a very similar one still was (though very sparsely):


There isn't much difference between a VCD and a "DVD-ROM."  Other than that the PC version comes with a launcher or program of some kind.  (If you are keeping score at home, it's not even clear that Simitar released all five of their Godzilla titles this way.  I personally have seen DVD-ROM releases for both MONSTER ZERO and GODZILLA vs. THE THING only.)


This BIOLLANTE disc is completely unique, though, and made by the Mei Ah Laser Disc company in Hong Kong. (Apologies for the slight blur--these came to me sealed, and the shrink plus the slight distance from the scanner glass causes some fuzziness.)


On the back, we have the moment that resulted in what was recently called "Biollante Bile" Godzilla in a NECA action figure release.  

VCD's were/are an interesting part of the history of video technology.   For completeness, I should include mention of the Phillips CD-I (which survives in infamy among game historians, since it gave us HOTEL MARIO and a couple of meme-tastic Zelda games) because VCD movies were available for that system...but like their larger relative, the laserdiscs, long movies still meant multiple discs, and interruptions.

For the record, I will admit that around 2001-2002, I dove into the format with full force.  I even purchased a recorder called a "Terapin" and began dumping VHS onto discs by the score, determined this was the successor to tapes.   Bad move.

11/11/20

GODZILLA 2000 Original Ending Card (Tristar VHS Demo, 2000)

 


Say, remember GODZILLA 2000? No, it's not one that I go back to and watch either, really.  It was fun to get another Godzilla movie to appear in American theaters (woah, that was 20 years ago...it wouldn't happen again until SHIN GODZILLA!), but even at the time, the CGI seemed behind the curve.  I'm sure it hasn't aged too well, but it gave us a great Godzilla design, as well as an interesting and fun villain monster in Orga.  I remember really liking the battles, and the part where Orga attempts to swallow Godzilla is unforgettable.

If you were like me, and got to see the film in theaters, you would remember a completely different thing happening at the ending, other than what you can see on VHS/DVD/Blu-Ray/TV airings.  In fact, here is a commenter from IMDB explaining it better than I could:



A year or so ago, I lucked into a demo copy of the U.S. VHS version of the film, made by VDI Multimedia.  The entire demo is time-coded, as below:


Years ago, there had been a YouTube video (not sure if it's still up***) showing the original ending card of the film, and I remembered that it, too, was time-coded. This video was just somebody filming their TV, so it wasn't great quality, but it struck me suddenly that they must have also had a similar demo tape...so, it was time to dig out the VCR that I keep in my garage for emergency purposes, such as this!


And there it was.  Obviously, Toho's request to remove the ending card came after some sample VHS tapes had been made, but there was still time to remove it for the finished product. 

So there you have it.  Not a crucial part of Godzilla history, but an interesting footnote, nonetheless!

***NOTE:  The video is gone, but now there is a much better one, by the great SpaceHunterM (I should've known):


11/6/20

STAR WORN: CASHING IN (Leaping Fox)

 

In the early years of this blog, we attempted to publish a compilation of songs that came out around the time of the original STAR WARS, which were trying very hard to capitalize on its success...you know, jump on the bandwagon...pick up some of the pennies that fell on the floor as Lucas walked by...that sort of thing.  Unfortunately, there wasn't enough material, and in the end the collection couldn't decide what to be.  So it disappeared.

This problem has been corrected!  A hard-core dive into the time period--and lots of research--has resulted in two solid discs presenting over two hours of rip-offs, clever allusions, and general spaciness, all from a time when every form of media imaginable assumed a veneer of science fiction. It's hard to imagine, but if you were there, it was pretty much everywhere.  (I mean, you couldn't even buy a cassette recorder...see the second disc's artwork and it will become clear.)   

We adhered very hard to the time period of the original film, and before the sequel; in fact, there's nothing from 1980 at all.  Also, being the late 70's, there is lots of funk, proto-new-wave, disco, and synth goodness that you may actually enjoy.  (Personally, a couple of unknown tracks ended up being quite rewarding. Many remain unavailable on disc and come from vinyl sources.)


Not to say that you will leave your Cringe Factor at the door.  Oh no, good listeners, there are some moments, because once again...it was the 70's. In fact, you will hear one of the dumbest country songs ever, and that's saying something.  (TWO, come to think of it.  The second is so weak, I keep forgetting it even exists.)

So get ready, because this is a good one.  The next time we visit Star Wars for another volume in this series, we are going to be biting off more than can be chewed.  But more on that later, since at the moment, we are waiting for a few items to show up courtesy of the pathetically slow U.S. Postal Service...

STAR WORN: CASHING IN

11/2/20

The Unused "Monsters of the Movies" Godzilla Model Kit That Shouldn't Exist

 

As we have discussed here (for a full history of Aurora's Godzilla model kits, containing everything you need to know, see this comprehensive article at Sean Linkenback's Showcase Daikaiju!), Aurora produced a "Monsters of the Movies" series in 1975.  

These kits were designed by the late, legendary Marvel artist Dave Cockrum.  However, another of the designs he submitted was for a Godzilla (you can see a photo of the prototype, now in the hands of a private collector, at the aforementioned link).  This went as far as being sculpted by Ray Meyers, but, for reasons unknown, never saw the light of day.  

But then, a couple of years ago, as my Ebay seller wrote, "someone got a hold of [the] Aurora patterns...took the resin kit to make styrene plastic kits." My understanding is that a limited run of 100 were produced, and quietly sold online for a short time.  It's my belief that the leftovers of this run are what has recently been sold off on Ebay.  

At 7" tall, the kit shows Godzilla in a dynamic action pose, with one foot plantarflexed behind him as he steps forward to lean over a destroyed Tokyo Tower.  What's even cooler is, he holds remnants of the tower in both hands! This would've been a strong addition to the line of models, and, honestly, would've offered a huge amount of star power.  The closest Aurora Godzilla to the M.O.M. line was the 1972 glow kit reissue, and it didn't match Ghidrah and Rodan nearly as well as this design would've.  

The kit is without instructions or box, since it never got any farther in the design stages.  However, I can only thank "someone" for making it possible to see what this part of Godzilla history would've looked like, in three dimensions!