11/29/22

Godzilla Weirdie Wiggly Action Figure ("Jiggler," Ben Cooper, 1980)

 

Today, let's knock another vintage Godzilla toy off of the "somehow-neglected" list of empty links on our page of Chronological Vintage American Godzilla items.  You probably know the name of the Ben Cooper company, and it probably makes you think of these:

Vintage Halloween costumes from your youth; the plastic-smock kind that came in what they call "cake boxes."  You know, the ones with the mask held on with the world's weakest rubber band? As it turns out, they made other items too.  Let's start with a rubber dinosaur from 1974:

You had these types of things as a kid, and so did I, and so did nearly every child in the free world at one time.  Hard rubber dinosaur figures, about four inches high.  They became so commonplace to toy and drug stores--and nondescript--that collectors often refer to them today as "Chinasaurs," because 99% of the time, they have no maker listed on them at all.  When Ben Cooper got the Godzilla license, they made a fast change to this figure, which really only consisted of removing its horn, and quickly re-christened him "Godzilla:"

Well, maybe if you squint.

Another thing they did was add an elastic loop to hang the figure from (this I think is what resulted in the nickname of "Jigglers", and not the material they are made from.  If they were that old type of "Wacky Wall Walker" soft rubber, they'd have surely all disintegrated by now!).  This also provided a place to put the tag, which is a sticker doubled over on itself.  There are two variations to this tag, one with red ink and one with black.

There's also a bit of color variation to the figures themselves.  It becomes harder to tell with age; you never know where (or in what conditions) one of these has been stored anyhow, but some figures are more yellowish, even green, and some tend more toward brown.  Here is an example of a mega-rare display box, and you can see that the extant figures inside are all the same shade, if that's anything to go by:

I can't look at this photo without imagining them
peeping like baby chicks!

It also tells us that the official name for the toy is "Godzilla King of the Monsters Weirdie Wiggly Action Figure." It's a terrible name for a toy, but the sweet artwork on the top panel brings the idea more in line with the Hanna-Barbera, and even more so, Marvel Godzilla of the time:

So, as you can see, this toy was very much a "product of its time," but also cool in a wacky kind of way.  They don't come up very often at all, and can be tough to find.  

Unfortunately, Ben Cooper was bought by Rubie's Costume Company in 1992, but the nostalgia for the old-style Halloween costumes will never die.  This year, Super 7 made 3 different Godzilla masks in the vintage style!


11/24/22

Popeye - Pirate Treasure (Record Guild of America, 1948)

 

Here is a Thanksgiving treat that, like many, many items on this site, doesn't seem to exist anywhere else.  This is a 6 & 1/2 inch cardboard record from 1948 that is also a two-sided picture disc! According to Discogs, Record Guild of America issued tons of these 78 rpm, full-color beauties, some based on comic strips of the day (there also exists one for Flash Gordon and Terry and the Pirates, for example).  It's pretty amazing that this one, which I found in a flea market out of town for five bucks, has survived. But how well?

Extremely well, for a 75-year-old record made of carboard that's coated with a fragile, thin plastic layer.  I really wasn't sure it was going even to play.  The biggest problem I had with it was that--as you would completely expect--the record was bowed from time and temperature.  One side approximated a dome, and the other, a bowl.  It wasn't extreme, from the perspective of a collectible, but on the other hand, from the viewpoint of a stylus, less than trackable.  What to do?


I puzzled over this one for a while, trying to invent some complicated invention that would be low-profile enough for the arm of the turntable to clear...until the epiphany finally came.  It's usually the simplest ideas that work the best.  I bought a corkboard at a thrift store, cut it into a circle, and used thumbtacks to hold the record flat, so that it could be digitized.  And it worked like a charm.

Amazingly, the entire adventure, which adds up to about 3 minutes, plays without skips or mistracking.  It was extremely noisy, as you would think (this is a problem with picture discs anyhow, but in this case, wear and age play a huge part).  At first it was a struggle to hear the words.  I worked on it a long time and was able to greatly reduce the surface noise and make it completely listenable.  It's now akin to an AM radio broadcast, when before it was like having your head down in a running clothes dryer.

The record is very well-done, and seems to be emulating the early Fleischer cartoons (or possibly even one of the radio series).  Basically, Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Swee'Pea stop on an island to have a picnic, run into pirates, who Popeye trounces, and then they leave with the pirate's treasure (which Popeye probably added to his enormous wealth)! It's worth pointing out that there is no spinach to be found in this story, which points more toward the comic strip than the cartoons.

Enjoy!


Don't want to download? I have also shared this on YouTube, which I honestly need to be doing more of with this sort of thing:


11/21/22

The IMPERIAL GODZILLA Figures (Imperial, 1985/1992) part TWO

Continuing our coverage of the mighty Imperial Godzilla figure, last time we looked at the "12-inch" variety (and learned that number wasn't completely accurate).  Today, we will cover its 6-inch counterpart:


...which looks basically the exact same as his bigger brethren, but was a more accessible (and portable) scale in some ways.  


Here's one interesting thing that came out of making this post--remember with the large figures, how the Hong Kong variant was a much brighter green? It's exactly the same with the 6-inch! Weird.


Unlike the giant Godzillas, the 6-inch figures were distributed in display boxes that were meant for the front counters of toy stores.  These boxes held an army of 24 Kings of the Monsters, and weighed 26 pounds when full! The artwork for the 1985 display boxes was also awesome (some of it was also used for Imperial's "Action Stickers," which you can see at our List of American Godzilla Items).


Both sizes of figures were re-released by Imperial in 1992, but unfortunately, the artwork changed for the worse.  One new addition for the second time around was the inclusion of a carded version of the figure, which looked like this:

The figure was packaged in a running pose, which is hilarious, but man...that artwork. It's like a Joker grin.


The back of the card was completely generic, like the true rack toy that it was...did you notice the $2.76 price tag?

The counter-top display box also made a return...with the same new artwork:


If you bought the figure from the display box, you got a hang tag, which was something left off of the carded variety.

Lastly, around this time, Imperial grouped their smaller figures together for one monster (and apparently very rare) boxed set called CLASH OF THE MOVIE MONSTERS.  It's worth it for the artwork alone (I can't get around the woman who is tied...to a phonebooth.  To the outside of the phone booth.  Huh.)!


That's a look at the iconic Imperial Godzilla figures.  I meant to mention in Part One that there is a pseudo-Gigan that was sold around the same time in a couple of colors.  You may see some folks attribute the figure to Imperial also, but this isn't the case.  At least it gave kids somebody for their Imperial Godzilla to throw down in the sandbox, though!


11/18/22

The IMPERIAL GODZILLA Figures (Imperial, 1985/1992) part ONE

 

This is another post that is going to fill several gaps in our Vintage American Godzilla Items list.  Somehow, this legendary Godzilla item hasn't been featured around here, but today's the day to fix that.

Just as the Aurora model kit represented the Godzilla fan of the 1960's, and the Shogun Warriors Godzilla defined the fan of the 1970's, if you grew up in the 1980's (even if you only had one Godzilla toy), you had an Imperial Godzilla.  There was an onslaught of items around the time of GODZILLA 1985's release (unlike today, products didn't have to be slavishly specific to the film or its exact events, or be driven by corporate dictums), and Imperial Toys was there in every grocery, toy, and drug store, with a whole range of products (you can see their other items at the page linked above).  

Chunky and nearly indestructible, the largest of the Imperial Godzillas was "12 & 1/2 inches tall," according to the manufacturer's sell-sheet.  He was posable, towered over your other figures and dinosaurs, and accompanied many a kid to the sandbox, backyard, and probably even bathtub (I knew some weird kids).  One huge advantage he had over your other, cheaper dinosaurs was that other toys and their weapons couldn't go down his throat and get stuck.  The back of his throat was walled off, which was a nice touch.

There are two variations to this big figure (collectors often call him "12-inch," since that is an existing scale of figures and it rolls off the tongue much easier), and that all has to do with the under-the-foot stamp, which either says MADE IN CHINA or MADE IN HONG KONG.  I will admit to you that for years I thought they were pretty much the same...until I moved them to the same shelf, and I discovered this:


Can you see it? The following picture shows it better:


They aren't the same height! My mind is still blown.  Of course, the Hong Kong model is a brighter green, too, but it measures 12 & 3/8 inches tall, while the China variant measures a full 13 inches (measurements that, we should point out, fall on both sides of the manufacturer's officially stated height)!

The tails look a little different (which is difficult to photograph), but I think this is because the Hong Kong Godzilla is a reduced version of the China one, which means the tail is shorter.  I guess it's obvious that there would be different molds, but you would think that they would all have been identical...then again, anything's possible in the world of inexpensive toys.  Imperial was basically a rack & dimestore toy manufacturer when they got this license. As I find myself saying a lot around this blog, we solve some mysteries here, but we create others.  Here are the feet of the two figures:

The HONG KONG figure has the Imperial Toys logo and the "MADE IN" information on his RIGHT foot, and on the LEFT, "c 1985 Toho Co. Ltd"...

...while the CHINA figure has the Imperial Toys logo and "MADE IN" on his LEFT foot, and the "c 1985 Toho Co. Ltd" on his RIGHT.

Who knew, all these years, that they were different heights?  The 6-inch figures don't have this issue.  Here is a better look at the hang tag that came on these figures in 1985:

By the way, the tag for the 6-inch figure was slightly smaller.

In 1992, Imperial re-issued both the "12" and 6-inch Godzilla figures.  No changes were made to the figures themselves, which still utilized the exact same molds with the "1985" year on them.  In fact, only the hang tag was changed, and not for the better:


I'll never get used to that art, and we will see lots more of it next time, when in Part Two, we will look at the 6-inch version of this classic toy.

But, before I forget--did you notice anything weird in the "family photo" at the start of this post?


This guy.  He actually doesn't belong--this is actually a bootleg, an exact copy of the Imperial Godzilla that measures about 9 inches tall! The only major difference is the tail, which as you can see has a rounded end that's completely different.  He has no year on him, only the usual "Made in China" that most toy dinosaurs have had for decades.  It's always a testament to the popularity of a toy to see it copied, but yet in this case, they went the extra mile and invented a new size! 

11/15/22

ABC Transcription Disc: "Human Side of the News" 09/08/48 with Bizarre Extras!

 


This is a unique post, but it's also a "Part Two" to something I posted nearly two years ago, which was a record containing a Philco commercial that an amateur had added to, and obviously never expected anybody to hear it! If you recall that post, I discovered that the record contained some extra bands recorded at 78 rpm, where a person pretends to be a radio announcer, begins an episode of "Challenge of the Yukon," does lots of time checks, and at one point, barks like a dog.

The person keeps mentioning WENR from Chicago, and at the time I decided that this was most likely an aspiring radio employee who was told to practice, but it could also be that this was simply a radio employee's son who was fooling around at home.  Perhaps his dad brought home discs that were normally scheduled to be thrown away, and perhaps he was allowed to screw around on their own transcription machine.  We will never know.

This disc came from the same source [read: flea market] as the first one.  That first disc was dated November 24, 1948, and this second one is dated September 8 of that year.  In the midst of the added material, the speaker says that "Today's the 15th of January, 1949," so make of that what you will!

And now to the disc itself, which may interest some history majors.  It's a 4-and-a-half minute news broadcast, read laconically by Edwin C. Hill, who sounds like he could break into an excellent Bing Crosby impression at any time.  Southerners throwing produce at President Truman is mentioned.  The sponsor is Nash-Kelvinator, and the announcer does a refrigerator ad in the middle.  If you want to giggle at old-timey post-war husband/wife dynamics, there's plenty of that, too! (If you want to rant and make something about it, go back to Twitter.)

After that, we flip to the second side of the record, where there is one single band this time, lasting five minutes.  I couldn't tell you if it was recorded before or after the last disc we heard, but it's very similar.  I've included a transcription again this time, and all I can say is thank goodness for Audacity, which really helped me improve the sound quality (so well, that I went back and re-did the recording on the previous post and improved it, too).  We again have "Challenge of the Yukon," Bulova watches, and...barking like a dog.  Also, "a little purple hair" on the record, that gets "in the mechanism."  Do what, now?! I really can't do it justice; you'll have to hear it for yourself.  

After hearing a second recording, I'm more convinced this was an amateur playing around at home (not just every home included the equipment to record their own voice in 1949), and it's the kind of thing I would've done.  It's somebody somewhere's father and grandfather, who certainly never dreamed it would end up in a flea market 70+ years later, digitized and transcribed by some wag with a blog.  Enjoy!

LINK: ABC Transcription Disc (Human Side of the News)

11/8/22

Godzilla 50th Anniversary DVD Retail Store Poster (2004)

Of course, the photo says it all, but here is a store poster for the release of three important DVD releases in 2004, by Tristar.  They are:

GODZILLA vs. HEDORAH (Unfortunately NOT the AIP "Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster," which remains officially AWOL to this good day...instead it is Toho's international dub, which sucks. But at least Japanese was an option, and the DVD looked quite good.) Re-released by Kraken in 2014.

GODZILLA vs. GIGAN (Again, international print, but Japanese was a choice at least.) Also re-released by Kraken in 2014.

GODZILLA vs. MECHAGODZILLA (Same as above, but in this case, still the only DVD release for this film, to this day, as it got no re-release!)

These three titles were also available in boxed sets that year.  HEDORAH & GIGAN were in a 3-pack with... some other film):

And all three were available in this 5-pack that included GODZILLA 2000 (and...some other film):

If you can't tell, we are poised to add DVD to our catalog of Godzilla home video in America, and what a project it is.  Stay tuned for that!

11/4/22

Marvel Comics Rejection Letter (c.1984)

 


The image above is pretty self-explanatory, but why not tell the story to go along with it? 

When I was in grade school, I saw something about "submissions" on a comic letters page, so I thought I would entertain the higher-ups at Marvel with the homemade, notebook paper-scrawled comic books that I endlessly churned out during the long school day back then (it was better than paying attention).  At that time, I was pretty much just emulating MAD parodies, so I thought, if this "Muppet Babies" thing is such a big deal, why not carry it a step further?  Following that rationale, I presented them with..."G.I. Joe Babies."  

I don't remember much about it--which is probably for the best--or even how I managed to get it mailed (which would've required an Act of Congress in my house), but I sent it to them and awaited my invitation to move to New York City.  At least, until I completely forgot all about it.

Months later, this letter arrived.  It was bizarre because not only was it unfolded and in a document-sized envelope (which I should've probably saved), but it was a crummy photocopy.  With no original signature.  And not even a straight photocopy, but one that was crooked, and even cut off the top of the letterhead!  Of course, the reality was probably that interns were sending out hundreds of these things a day, but it didn't take the sting out of the rejection.  Also, the letterhead made use of the "new" Spider-Man, as if to further rub in the fact that everything I loved was dead (I had a New Coke reaction to the black costume like lots of other folks, but now in adulthood, I really love it...if only they'd stopped at two costumes.  IF ONLY.

Of course, the most incredible thing about this story was that this letter somehow survived all these years, and ended up in my filing cabinet, where I recently discovered it and got a good laugh.  Do you have one of these? I'm sure there are many variations of it, from over the years.  Unless of course they hired you, then I don't want to know...but then again, the joke would be on you, because then you'd be a D****y employee! There is justice.

ADDENDUM:  For a laugh, compare this to a version of the letter from just a couple of years earlier, in the Shooter era (that I found somewhere online years ago)!

10/31/22

Batman Theme Collection (Leaping Fox, 2022 upgrade!)

 

It's a frustrating part of life, but sometimes, to really finish a project, you just have to let a little time pass. I've had some requests recently to re-upload this project, and it just so happened that I'd been gathering missing files slowly, over time.  I decided to track down the last few tracks I knew of, and (gasp!) even buy some of the missing original records! Once everything was in and converted, I was able to finally put this one to bed, with SIXTY-THREE versions of the 1966 Batman theme, brand-new artwork, and a smile of accomplishment.  If you downloaded the original project, delete it, and enjoy! Also, Happy Halloween!


We should really talk about some of these versions, though.  One that stands out to me is the "Boston Pops Orchestra with Arthur Fiedler."  The person that arranged that, as well as recorded it, obviously absolutely hated the Batman Theme.  This single was released as a promo-only 45, and when you hear it, you will know why.  It's also recorded super hot, at a near-blaring level of semi-atonal cacophony that you have to hear to believe.  It's not on any of their albums, Amazon, or YouTube for that matter...imagine that!


LINK:  Batman Theme Collection 2022 Upgrade

10/22/22

Countdown To Halloween - Week Four!

 Today we conclude our Halloween countdown with three more LP's of scary stories from yesteryear! More good stuff follows:

SCARY SPOOKY STORIES (Troll Records, 1973) - This is a fun one, and I only wish I'd had it as a kid, because it has everything: familiar narrator voices from commercials and episodic TV, humor, some genuine creepy moments, and even a jump scare! It would be a super-fun record to enjoy with little kids and watch the hijinks ensue.  This one is short but good, and is expensive in good condition!    

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS GHOST STORIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE (Golden Records, 1962) - You've heard me say this before, but back in the day, they didn't necessarily dumb things down for kids to enjoy, and this is a great example.  Not only are the stories good, but the whole thing unfolds like an episode from "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," where you have wraparound segments from Hitch himself that tell a darkly funny story on their own.  This is another record that could've come off for much, much cheaper, but as a result of the effort put in, it's fondly remembered today.  We won't be saying THAT in 60 years about much of today's media.

SPIRITS AND SPOOKS FOR HALLOWE'EN (SUMMONED UP BY WILLIAM CONRAD) [Caedmon, 1973] - This is a strange one that I'd known about, yet never run into, and I actually found it at a flea market about a month ago (and cheap even), which you might say was pretty coincidental.  Of course, William Conrad was everywhere at one time--just to name a few, he was the original Sherriff Dillon on the radio version of GUNSMOKE, then there was CANNON, and most dear to me, the narrator of what we can collectively just call "ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE," ...and I almost forgot JAKE AND THE FAT MAN.  This record is all over the map, and can be a little tough to follow if you aren't paying attention.  One moment he reads short poems (the one where he moans like a ghost is about indecipherable), but that can quickly turn into a 20-minute European fairy tale about a witch, or a witch trial account with no proper context (or beginning or end, really).  They were right to release something like this on the higher-brow Caedmon label, rather than a kiddie one, because I don't think little kids are going to hang around for this harder-core, old-country type of Halloween stuff (your first clue of which is the older spelling of HALLOWE'EN).  I still really enjoyed it, and I think you will too (and like all vintage Halloween records, it ain't cheap to track down).  Happy Halloween to everyone!

LINK: Spooky Month Week 4!

_______________________________________

And don't forget last year's Spooky Month items, still undead:

Vintage Halloween Sound Effects LP Mega-Pack!

Scary Tales Featuring John Zacherley ("Good night, wherever you are!")

10/15/22

Countdown To Halloween - Week Three!

 

A real treat today--Nelson Olmsted began his career in radio with an original horror series called "Black Night" in the late 1930's.  This led to work with NBC and a national show called "Sleep No More," as well as later acting roles in movies and TV.  He became well known for his adaptations of the more sensational (read: interesting) stories culled from literature and folklore, which were all expertly narrated and acted by him, and condensed to around 8 minutes each.  Two LPs from that show were released in 1956.  The first one was called EDGAR ALLAN POE - TALES OF TERROR, which as you can guess was 100% Poe stories, followed later in the year by SLEEP NO MORE! FAMOUS GHOST AND HORROR STORIES, which are both presented here today.  
In fact, Vanguard, the label that issued these discs, later packaged them together in 1971, under the title TALES OF TERROR.  This is probably the easiest way to obtain both LPs if you can track one down.


All that remains to be said is that the stories contained on these two albums are extremely well done and greatly enjoyable! You don't want to miss these!


_______________________________________

And don't forget last year's Spooky Month items, still undead:

Vintage Halloween Sound Effects LP Mega-Pack!

Scary Tales Featuring John Zacherley