1/31/14

Godzilla King of the Monsters CED (Vestron, 1983)

Here's an item that is as anachronistic as a rotary-dial phone...or maybe these days, even a house phone! The Capacitance Electronic Disc system was invented by RCA, and it was an early form of home video, arriving in 1981.  They were LP-sized discs, housed in permanent plastic cases that were actually read with a stylus.  You still had to turn them over, and the format was playback only; no recording.  Because of this, it was a massive failure.  For more information, there's an excellent Wikipedia article on the subject, that even shows you what the disc looks like out of the sleeve.

Here is the only Godzilla/kaiju film I know of that was released in this format, and it was late to the game, coming in 1983. [EDIT:  Turns out, there was one other (GODZILLA 1985), and also the original RODAN.]
Of course, after massive losses, this system was soon to be replaced by one with the exact same problems, but better picture quality: the laserdisc.
My own small memories of the CED include watching a demo at a department store as a kid, where they had one set up, and a crowd of shoppers had gathered around to watch a salesman, who was extolling the system and playing a movie.  The film? It was the Bee Gee's awful SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND! Needless to say, I was unimpressed, and my family bought a Betamax machine.

1/30/14

Godzilla Puffy Stickers (Benedict Pictures Corporation, 1979)

Here's a dead-mint set of the larger Godzilla puffy stickers that were available in the late 70's.  These measure 7" x 11", unlike the smaller ones that are elsewhere on this very blog in a hanging display (I'd send a link but it's not letting me find them in a search...thanks, Google).

As you can see, the artwork is, well, not very artistic.  But as a six-year old, I would have loved them.  Also, there are a couple of odd choices here that I don't recall from the cartoon right away ("Glump"??), but that doesn't mean they weren't there.  Somewhere.  

So, NOW can we please have the second season of this cartoon on some DVD's, since there is a new Hollywood American Godzilla movie coming out?????!??!??!!?

1/27/14

GODZILLA vs MEGALON Pressbook (Cinema Shares, 1976)

Very cool pressbook for MEGALON that came with a set of ad slicks.  Once again, not only are pressbooks too big to scan, but this one unfolds like a giant tri-fold brochure, making it all the more impossible:
But, we still can look at some of the more interesting parts in detail.  GODZILLA vs MEGALON has to be the Godzilla film with the most marketing materials available...though strangely, all of the ads use the poster art, and are all pretty much the same.
 Let's start with the famous 4-page comic book (elsewhere on this very blog).  It is interesting to read that theaters had full leeway of how they used the comics.  It wasn't just a one-time thing, they were allowed to buy however many they wanted to hand out (and not just in the theater, as it says above).  Oh, and they were twenty bucks for A THOUSAND.  Wow!
Tracking down original pressbooks is a way to solve mysteries.  For example, you will notice that there is no mention of LOBBY CARDS in the example above, but that 8 smaller color stills were available.  Also, notice that there were TWO trailers and FOUR TV spots.  Even one radio spot.  My question is this: last year Toho cancelled the version of the domestic MEGALON release that we got on DVD that included extras.  I would love to know if ALL of these were included, and the disc was as complete as the DESTROY ALL MOSNTERS one was.  A few got through, and they are on Ebay occasionally, but "knowing is half the battle".  I have even seen a screen shot of the menu, but it doesn't tell us if all the trailers are there!
Now we move to the famous buttons (or pins, badges, pinbacks, whatever you prefer to call them).  Interestingly, they were $42.44 for A THOUSAND, which of course we are talking about 1976 money, but still.  I have my set displayed via adhesive magnets, which works very well:
Next we come to another kooky suggestion from the makers of a movie pressbook...a Volkswagen parade:
This one is fascinating, and I wonder if this was ever attempted...and if anybody ever actually ordered the cutouts and auto panels that are mentioned...or if they were ever even made!  Why the focus on Beetles (which you just obtain "through your local dealer" of course, I can imagine that phone call)?  Sure, they were incredibly common, but I guess they wanted to produce only one shape of auto artwork.
WE GOT A GREAT BIG CONVOY, ROLLIN' THROUGH THE NIGHT........
Can you just picture that parade?
Lastly, we have an incredible SWEEPSTAKES that was running for the "best exploitation campaign."  You will be shocked to know that the prize was a 1976 Beetle (AGAIN WITH BEETLES).  But, you could also win a CB Radio or a Black & White Television set! Woo-hooo!

Here is the plot synopsis for the film...usually these say NOT FOR REPRINTING, which it doesn't this time, but you will also notice that NOWHERE in the entire document is Jet Jaguar referred to by  name.  Here, he is only THE CYBORG (??), and in the promotional comic, of course, he is ROBOTMAN.  Apparently there was some confusion over what he was going to be called in America, and they left themselves room to maneuver...although I can't imagine him called anything but JET JAGUAR.
Sample small ad
Back cover of pressbook

1/21/14

Godzilla VHS from the USA!

If this won't make you fill with nostalgia, nothing will! I always pick up Godzilla films on VHS when I find them...I can't bear to leave them behind, in fact, and this week I completed a set of each film that was available in the USA during the original reign of VHS.  Sure, there are many, many variations out there, and I even have more of some, especially in the MEGALON department.  An entire collection could probably be made out of MEGALON editions alone! 
So I laid them all on the scanner--the top photo of the Showa series makes a great desktop wallpaper, by the way.  Now, if we can just get GODZILLA 1985 out on DVD, the same can be done with DVD before another format eventually takes over.

1/17/14

Ultraman & Ultraseven (Ultra Act, Bandai)

Better late than never, but here is a review of the ultimate Ultra figures, as promised.  Bandai's line called ULTRA ACT has been out for a couple of years now, and they have been slowly making every Ultra and are even moving on to Ultra foes now, but I was after the Two Big Guys.  I should point out  now that in both cases, these figures are the "version 2" that Bandai has made, and also in both cases, improvements have been made.  The accessories differ a little bit, so be doubly sure if you are trying to purchase these figures, because it doesn't say this on the box anywhere.  The best way to know if they are Version 2 is by the window boxes, which are completely different between versions 1 and 2.
My stars, look at all the poses you can do with this figure, and it's all true.  This figure actually does all of these things, and more.  There is articulation within articulation, and the engineering behind the designs is a true wonder of technological advancement.  Double hinges, rocker joints, ball joints--you name it.  I can't verify this, but I think the Japanese below the running Ultraman says "the freaking coolest thing that ever happened."
Look closely at the backs of the knees and elbows, and you can see the double-hinges I mentioned.  And I didn't even say anything about toe articulation! I would have included a number of "points of articulation," but I don't think I can count that high.
And of course the real bonus here are the accessories, something that American toy companies are TRYING to catch on to, but I don't think they will ever get as good at.  Look at all the extra hands! And yes, that is actually a RED COLOR TIMER in the lower right, you can switch it out.  The two "explosion" thingies fit into Ultraman's feet (you can see this on the back of the box, it's really a clever stand to support him in certain positions), and the red triangle in the upper left corner is actually a plug.  Why, you ask? Because Bandai also makes incredible, articulated stands so that you can recreate any pose or fighting position. If you look closely at the figure's back, you will see removable areas that are made for these stands...you see what I mean about American toy companies having a lot to learn!
This should explain the rest...and if you can read Japanese, you will get even more out of it!
And if there is anything cooler than Ultraman, it's Ultraseven.  If there is anything cooler than Ultraseven, I don't know what it is.
"Squeal!" Hey wait, Bandai, see what you did there, you made it look like the figure's eyes light up...you already have a superior product, so let's not deceive anybody.
Wow.  Just, wow.  You can see from the top photo that he's slightly taller than Ultraman, and this wasn't a case of just re-using body sculpts, so points for Bandai on that one. 
And this figure has even MORE hands than Ultraman! Also, the extra "Eye Slugger" fits into the blue beam, for the Ultra-Slashing move.  And, realizing that certain poses would require that Seven's chest armor bend, Bandai has supplied a SECOND set of the armor that is pre-bent.  These guys think of everything! (Note: those three empty-looking sections are clips where the plastic snaps together.  Nothing is missing!)
And finally, Ultraseven's instructions--hours of fun! 

These figures really are amazing, but I should admit a couple of things here at the end--one, you really need those fancy stands if you want to display the figures doing some of these moves, because the beams make them top-heavy.  Not a big deal, but tracking down the stands means spending even more money (a set of 3 is around $40 and usually doesn't include shipping from Japan, not to mention the wait).  [EDIT:These are now available locally at Barnes and Noble stores, for around $17. Amazing!]
This is how they come--in sets of 3! Very cool.
Secondly, I have been a complete coward when it comes to switching out the hands--the plastic pegs are jointed, which is great in one sense, because it allows for posing--but on the other hand (groan), it makes me really, REALLY squeamish to think that I will break the peg on a $100 action figure that I can't easily replace, so I've been holding back.  If you have had different experiences, please chime in. Otherwise, I will still consider my long quest for the ultimate Ultraman & Seven figures at an end!

1/14/14

Godzilla's Gang (Mattel, 1978)

1978 was a good year for Godzilla in America!There was a Saturday morning cartoon, a Marvel comic, and a handful of American products in toy stores, if you knew where to look!
One of these products was a line of figures randomly-licensed from Popy in Japan, and sold by Mattel under the name GODZILLA'S GANG...the irony, though, was that none of the other kaiju in the line had anything to do with Godzilla! Luckily, they are all Ultraman monsters, so let's look at them in detail, and see exactly where they came from.

The Popy Godzilla is the star of the line, and is pretty awesome to behold.  Not only have all of these figures become more expensive in recent years, but Godzilla is going for STUPID prices on E-bay these days...now, I grant you, sometimes the auctions are just started high, but he continues to command around $90 when last I checked!
Beloved to children of Japan, Eleking is one of the most recognizable Ultra-foes, making a memorable first appearance in ULTRASEVEN, episode 3, and several appearances since.  Also, in my opinion, an inspiration to the character of Pikachu!

This cool-looking guy is Noko-Girin, an Ultraman Jack enemy who appeared in RETURN OF ULTRAMAN, episode 26.  I love the sculpt on this figure.

Another awesome combatant for Ultraseven, King Joe was first seen in episode 14, and returned in various incarnations since then.

These days, you usually see this alien called Icarus, (or Icarasu Planeter in Mattel's packaging) and he first appeared in ULTRASEVEN episode 10.  While not my favorite kaiju design, he has gotten some more screen time recently on the new GINGA show.

One of my complaints with Titanosaurus (in TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA) was that he just seemed like a generic Ultraman monster, and a good example of this is this guy, Muruchi, who fought Ultraman Jack in RETURN OF ULTRAMAN episode 33. 

Bemstar, however, is a different story.  Called by his Japanese name of Bemustar by Mattel, he first appeared in RETURN OF ULTRAMAN episode 18, and has returned several times since then.  Yes, his design might be a bit absurd...but when his starfish-like stomach engulfed an entire space station and killed everyone inside, it became a permanent part of my memory!

And then there is "Capsule Monster" and trusty sidekick Miclas, who is sort of the Angilas to Ultraseven...and also like Angilas, he doesn't get used enough.  Called MICROS by Mattel in at least one place, he also first appeared in ULTRASEVEN episode 3 (Eleking's initial outing).  Fun fact:  There is actually an argument at my house on whether he is cute or not! What side do I come down on? Well, let me put it like this: the word "adorable" is not in my lexicon, but I think he's adorable!

All in all, GODZILLA'S GANG was a very unusual toy line, and the type we simply won't see again.  If you get the chance to pick up any of these rapidly-valuing figures, I'd recommend it, while you still can. 

1/9/14

Sparkzilla (Accoutrements, 1994)

Normally, I stay away from knock-off or bootleg Godzilla items, unless they are too charming to pass up.  This little guy is a classic, and since I had the opportunity to get a boxed one, I took it. 
Not only is he clearly based on the KING KONG vs GODZILLA suit (which of course wasn't yellow, but you know how it goes), but the real star here may be the box art, which is amazing and fun.  So much so that I scanned all the sides of the box and re-assembled them for your enjoyment:
Isn't that great?