Godzilla Lobby Cards (part five), Revoltech Baragon, Mothra, & Rodan, and more!

This is going to be a miscellaneous one.
Firstly, I sculpted a Mothra larva to keep my Superdeformed Godzilla company, and it turned out like this:
So now I had two figures, and it just made sense that they needed a home.  So, another diorama project was born.  It turned out like this:
I used Sculpy and a pack of model railroad trees...it was supposed to be Monster Island, but I didn't know when to stop, and I added a cardboard backdrop that was featured inside of the Godzilla Chess Pieces made by X-Plus, thusly:
And, with Mount Fuji in place, it's done.

Next up is a lovely lobby card for GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER that I just acquired.  I love the artwork of Rodan carrying Godzilla!
When going through kitchen cabinets recently, I rediscovered two collectibles from my youth: 

"Castle Dracula" mug from defunct Universal Studios attraction, that my parents brought me from their 1980 trip to Los Angeles.

When they returned to Universal, they took us along, and I think that's where I got this (slightly dodgy and off-model) Bullwinkle mug.  Note the yellow gloves!
Next on the agenda are some super-detailed, super-articulated Japanese figures that I discovered.  I'd like to say I got these for Christmas, but I actually just bought these for myself.  These are "Revoltech" figures, made by Kaiyodo.  They did a handful of kaiju, but apparently their popularity caused Bandai to jerk back the license from them (?) to start making their OWN super-articulated kaiju, which is the recent "SH Monsterarts" line (from which one of my Christmas presents actually DID come, the '94 Godzilla).
This Baragon is completely amazing, and includes everything you need to make your own diorama of one of his FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD scenes, horse included!

With regard to paint and sculpt, this is the greatest figure of adult Mothra that I have ever seen. 
And here we have a splendid Rodan, complete with building to crush.  Having such an amazing sculpt of the classic Rodan suddenly makes me realize how little I like the "Fire Rodan" redesign!
These Revoltech kaiju figures began to come out around 2010, and are still relatively affordable.  I think all three of these were around $40 each.  There's also a "Mysterians" Mogera, as well as an Angilas and Gigan, but unfortunately those last two are pretty pricey...the Gigan alone is often around $100 on Ebay currently (see future post for these)! They also had a super-detailed Maser Cannon, but as you'd expect, it's way out of scale with their other releases...or else it wouldn't be as super-detailed, I guess. Oh, and also a classic Gamera and Gayos that are worth checking out.

Now that we are all caught up around here, and as we prepare to ring in another New Year!


Singing Science Records Sampler (Motivation Records, 1961)

Here's another gem I recently rescued from an old storage building, cleaned, washed, and converted for your enjoyment.  There are a couple of good samples to be found here, my favorite being "How much would I weigh on the Moon?" from the middle of side one.
Also, you may be familiar with the first track; there was an excellent cover done by They Might Be Giants.


The Birchwood Pops Orchestra - Theme from "Star Wars" (Pickwick, 1977)

If you were alive in 1977, you remember these records.  In fact, there were dozens of renditions of the STAR WARS theme done that year (with Meco being the biggest success, after the official soundtrack, I suppose).  Well, here is another one.  A concept disc of nothing but interpretations of this theme would be interesting....but maybe dull, I may have just talked myself out of that one.  


In case you haven't noticed, we are now down to ONE Godzilla film of the twenty-eight that lacks an official release in the U.S.A., and that is GODZILLA 1985.  I was happy that BIOLLANTE came out first--and shocked--but it's too bad that the legalities of it didn't allow for a 2-pack or mini box-set of both films in one go.
Now, onto the disc itself.  As with most official releases, there's good and bad news, and really the bad news will be received differently, depending on how "particular" the collector is.  Firstly, if you are the least bit interested, this release is a must-own.  Secondly, the price--$8 for the Blu-Ray and $5 for the DVD on Amazon? Are you kidding me? That's amazing.
After the excitement of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS and MEGALON, I went with the Blu-Ray, but honestly, after viewing it, I concluded that it really didn't matter, and I almost wish I had gotten the DVD version.  The picture quality is fine, but it has that 1989 softness to it, and I doubt one format would be any better than the other.  Another problem is the English dub, which is always a problem with these releases, because if there is a source available at all (and often there isn't), it's a reel-to-reel tape that's sat in a janitor closet for decades, and usually in bad shape.  Here, the word is "muffled."  So much so that, after watching the film, I switched over to the two Japanese audio tracks available (stereo and 5.1), and was shocked at the clarity.  Also, this is one of those lackluster "International" dubs that Toho is famous for, where English-speakers were pulled off the street and offered a Big Mac for their time, and contains the term (as has been noted elsewhere) "Godziller" which kept cracking us up.  (This is the same dub as what was on cable and home video, by the way.)  But, if you don't want to have to continuously read subtitles to the younger Children in the room, this is the choice for you--although I will warn you, I had forgotten that there was as much swearing in the film as there was...and it's also comical in its over-the-top delivery.
As to the film itself, you gotta give them credit for the plot, which is pretty ingenious, though a bit convoluted, and difficult to follow for the kids in the room, since there are two different factions of enemy agents involved, and the action jumps all over the place.  The "new" Godzilla design is debuted here, which would continue through the 90's to "Destroyah," and thank goodness for that, because the GODZILLA 1985 suit was just comical (indeed, when they use stock footage during the opening credits, linking the film to "1985," they keep using angles that don't show the face).  Also, the longest-running continual character of Miki Segusa is introduced, and she also stayed around for the duration of the Heisei series.  So, it's important to view the film as a launch into new territory, with a new generation of filmmakers.  Also, don't throw away your old BIOLLANTE VHS, because this is a Japanese print--no English titles or credits here. I understand this, but I wish that both could have been included on the disc; at least the titles sequences, because I think the old-fashioned font of the "GODZILLA vs. BIOLLANTE" title screen is pretty necessary.
But the biggest problem with BIOLLANTE is that there simply isn't enough Biollante in it.  What there is, is masterfully done, and holds up well; better than the rest of the effects in the film, even.  It's just a long journey to get to the ending payoff, and that fight is waaaay too short.
That said, the MAKING OF BIOLLANTE documentary is the best item on the disc, and it's worth the price of admission by itself.  This 50-minute special is fully subtitled, and contains every deleted scene you have seen or read about, and one brief one that isn't even listed at Toho Kingdom's website.  The documentary glosses over nothing, and shows you the successes AND failures of making the film.  Just to see the famous "big pool" at Toho (now long gone) being used about got me choked up.

I almost hate to make this a footnote, because this may even be a bigger deal! Never in my lifetime did I think we would get ULTRASEVEN released on DVD, in any format.  I'm not even going to ask what mystical forces the DVD gods had to use to align the planets on this one; I'm just going to take it and run.
Yes, the greatest of the classic Ultra series has been officially released, in its six discs of uncut glory, with Japanese audio and newly-created subtitles.  Supposedly, the Canadian TNT-dub was not completely available, and has been partially lost.....but who cares.  That's the sort of thing to get from third-party fan-DVD sellers anyway. This is the real thing.
Now, it doesn't mean you don't need both--the infamous "banned" episode isn't on this official set, and was included in the TNT run, so go figure. (It's called "Crystallized Corpuscles" there, by the way.)
So, this isn't a totally "perfect" set--in fact, I was watching one episode last night where, near the end, the action suddenly skipped back about ten seconds, and then caught up with itself, which was bizarre (perhaps a film break)--but it's the one that we are going to get in our lifetimes, and I am thankful for it.  The booklet by August Ragone is excellent reading, too.  There are no extras, and no Blu-Ray, and we need neither! It's also available at Amazon, and could be the greatest Christmas present you receive this year.


Vintage Jaymar Disney Puzzles!

I recently inherited both of these--I have fond memories of working the "On The Farm" one many, many times with my grandmother. Strangely, that puzzle is undated, and appears to be from the late 1960's, but more likely, the very early 1970's.  The artwork is much older, and there are frame-tray versions of it on Ebay from the 50's.
 The second one is called "A Jungle Snap," and is dated 1962.  Both, luckily, are complete!


Godzilla "100 GIANT Piece" Tricephalon Puzzle (HG Toys, 1978)

Here is an item that is as monstrously rare as it is huge.  I have mentioned the infamous "Godzilla vs. Tricephalon" playset made by HG Toys in 1978, and they also produced three regular-sized 150-piece puzzles that year with original art (see previous posts, but here they are anyway): 

For their fourth and last, they utilized the artwork made for the box of the Tricephalon playset, and went all-out.  When complete, this puzzle is 36" x 14 1/2"! I suspect that the larger size made it a bit more expensive than the regular-sized puzzles, which must contribute to it's rare-ness.  
I know I often use words like "beautiful" to describe Godzilla items, but when completed, this puzzle is simply a beautiful thing to behold! It's the only one of the four to show crowd reaction, and the entire section, about 3/4 of the way down, is made up of horrified onlookers!
Oh, and Lando Calrissian.
Here's where a sort of odd problem occurs, though...Tricephalon is obviously a beast created by HG Toys, and, also obviously, it has three heads [TRI meaning three, and....well, you get it]:
This is where I start singing "Magic Bus" to myself: "I WANT IT, I WANT IT, I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANNNNNNNT IT...."
Inexplicably, though....there are four heads wreaking destruction in the artwork.  Oh, I'll wait while you count them.....yep, told you there were four.  The only thing I can come up with is (besides extreme artistic license) that it's actually a montage, for lack of a better word.  Why else would the ENTIRE CROWD be facing away from the action? If Godzilla was standing behind you, partially destroying a robotic three-headed monster, would you face the opposite direction? Actually, if you think about it, they would have been facing a BRICK WALL if we are to really take the artwork literally.   It's a little unfortunate that the trunk of the neck of the leftmost head (now THERE'S a sentence that would have given one of my English professors a coronary) looks as if it directly connects to the bonus fourth head bursting through the ground.  It's just one of those little things that bug me. I tend to think about these things all day.

I should also point out that, while our three-headed friend is obviously based on King Ghidorah, it's interesting to me that he ALSO sort of predicts Mecha King-Ghidorah...I think there's something to that!

After years of searching, I finally acquired the mighty Tricephalon playset.  I have a two-part review of it here and here if you want to read all about it!

4-25-13 UPDATE:   In the comments below, you will see that Greg Johnson kindly shared with me a photo of a salesman's sample, a mock-up of this puzzle that he owns! Compare this photo with the finished artwork; it's very interesting!! I would like to know more about this--the mystery deepens!


A Week of Random Coolness

This is just a handful of strangeness today, but it's a pretty good indication of what makes up a standard week-or-two period in my life.
First up, you know those small white vinyl figures you can buy in craft stores (and sometimes Targets) that come with markers or stickers for decorating? I bought a small one that was supposed to be a "dinosaur," but it looked more like Snoopy.  It was pretty awful, and the tail was short and pointed.  You might have gotten a Yoshi out of it with some help, but really, more like Snoopy, without the ears.  I wish I had taken a photo of it first, but if you have read this blog at all, you know where this is going.
Yep.  Covering the whole thing in Sculpy, and building up the head, eyebrows, arms, legs, and tail, and by adding the eyes, nose, fingers, toes, teeth and plates (I should have just said everything), it made a superdeformed Godzilla, which I baked and painted.

Maybe I'll make a "Mothra worm" to go with him.  Meanwhile, I photographed a bizarre videotape at a thrift store and made this Demotivational:
Yesterday, my friend sent me an even more bizarre picture, which he found on Ebay, and once I recovered, I made THIS Demotivational:
You just can't make this sort of thing up...finally, I found a really neat item at the coin store, where I haven't been in a year or so.  Apparently this was a reward for buying or selling bonds, given out after World War II.  The cool thing is, it's made FROM MELTED DOWN CAPTURED GERMAN CANNONS.  You read that right.  It's the coolest thing I have seen all week.
We now return you to the audio portion of the blog, already in progress...


Yogi Bear - Original TV Soundtracks! (Colpix, 1961)

Whereas yesterday's Warner Bros. LP included stories specially made for record, this product is literally what it says: TV soundtracks.  In other words, audio lifted directly from four animated shorts, with limited interruption from an overdubbed narrator to help move things along, saying things like, "Look out, Yogi! You're going to hit that tree!" as if that helps very much...he's going to hit the tree anyway.
If your mom ever made audio cassettes of the television for you to listen to on car trips as a kid (What? Mine did....I can't be the only one!), then you will take right to this record. Which, by the way, looks like it was issued on CD at one time, but is available only as an import now.  If I'm wrong, will some kind soul please drop me a line, and I'll take it down.


Bugs Bunny & His Friends (Capitol, 1961)

Things aren't rosy here at The Sphinx.  Apparently one of the last LP's I discussed is available as an official CD, so it was pulled....which is totally my fault, and I will be researching the official availability of items from now on.  That said, it's hard for me to imagine anyone getting bent out of shape over a crackly old LP rip.  It's like me walking up to you on the street, and handing you a blotchy photocopy of the Declaration of Independence...it's not the real thing; it's an image of the real thing.  If you wanted the real thing, you would go and buy it...and, maybe the photocopy I gave you would encourage you to actually DO that, after all!
That said, I am always willing to INSTANTLY remove anything that doesn't need to be here.  Of course, I have to be asked, which is the least the offended party can do.
That's strike two.  Next time something like that happens, and I bind up somebody's panties, it will be the end of any vinyl rarities on this blog, and we can just talk about collecting Godzilla stuff all day.

Okay, rant over. Here we have a neat old LP that is pretty rare (and unavailable on CD, I will hasten to add).  This is a Capitol album issued in 1961, with some neat Chuck Jones-era-styled artwork, that is actually a compilation of 78's that were issued much earlier, in the 40's and 50's.  All of this wouldn't have mattered to any kid in 1961, because by then, television had made the Warner Bros. cartoons even more accessible, and part of any child's mindset.
While many records of this ilk can be pretty sparse and occasionally dull, these stories actually come close to being audio cartoons, because some of the same writers, artists, etc., worked on them; because of the presence of Mel Blanc and June Foray, and because their running length is equivalent to an animated short.  

Enjoy these, in the spirit in which it is intended!


How To Realize Your Ambitions in the Amazing Automotive Service Industry (Earl Nightingale, 1960)

You know, when I find records like this, I am attracted to them for a variety of reasons--the covers, the inordinate amount of superlatives,  the promises of how they will change your life (see below), and, let us not forget, the potential for lots of great samples.
While all these things are true, and while the long title is pretty comical and random, this turned out to be a pretty solid piece of a vinyl pep talk.  
Earl Nightingale was a prolific motivational speaker, and there's a good Wikipedia article that chronicles his career, which included voice work (you will see why he worked as an announcer when you hear him).  As a teen, he was on a ship at Pearl Harbor, and was one of 12 marines on board that survived the attack.
His message here can be summed up pretty basically, and you have heard it before, no doubt:  we are what we think, so therefore we become what we think about, and the amount of reward or success we receive depends on that thinking, as well as, inversely, the amount of service we are willing to give to others.
Some of those promises I mentioned.
At first, it seemed like little more than "positive thinking," but I thought he made some good points.  What struck me the most was how unpopular this message would be in today's climate, where hard work isn't regarded in the same way it was in the past.  
More of the text I was talking about...$5 was a lot for a record in 1960, wasn't it?
Also, sadly, the concept of service is even farther away from our modern thinking.  It's something that everyone wants--even EXPECTS--but how many times a week do you really experience good "customer service" anymore? More so, how often do you hear somebody complaining about the lack thereof?
Either way: if you need some positive reinforcement, or if you are just looking for some sampling potential (and I always am), OR if you are just attracted by an amusingly random title (and I always am) then it's here. Enjoy!


Two MONSTER Record Reviews (1963 and 1965)

Today, what you can regard as a ridiculously late Halloween post (or ridiculously early for next year).  We have two vintage LP's with similar themes, that would technically be filed in the same categories, but couldn't be any further apart in terms of content.

First up  is an LP issued by Wonderland Records in 1963, in conjunction with Famous Monsters magazine.  The gimmick was that you would get to hear two of the most famous monsters in history speak.  You may cringe when I report to you that both sides are basically monologues, and that there is only one major voice actor on the entire record, but amazingly, he pulls it off.  What is keeping me from describing it very thoroughly to you is the fact that I am still reeling from how disturbingly frightening this record was, er, is.  I mean, this is basically a kids' record, and it was 1963, but don't let either of those stop you.  One the first side, we hear the actual voice of the Frankenstein monster--cleverly framed using the device of an auditorium of scientists who have assembled to hear this historic recording--and we get to hear the monster bemoan his state of affairs, make murderous promises to his creator, and then go on a destructive rampage of smashing and killing.  There are a couple of points where the scientists have to "change reels," which allow the listener to catch their breath, before it's back to the action, which concludes with the castle burning down, as if you didn't know.
Side two is even more gruesome.  A condemned man types out the story of his encounter with the actual Dracula, who, he accidentally discovered, is real.  As we experience his horror first-hand, the gory high point comes when Dracula entices a young girl into a London alley, bites her, and sucks her blood...although the more accurate word is SLURP.  This sounds sort of comical, but the whole thing is done very straightforward in a tone of sheer menace.
The sound effects are top-notch, and I am left to conclude that there are therapists somewhere who became quite wealthy because this record existed, and because unknowing parents sent young Freddie to his room to listen to records, so they could "look at" television. 
And then we have this.  "Frankie Stein and His Ghouls - Monster Sounds And Dance Music."  Notable for being a very early product by Power Records, in 1965, the same Power Records that is connected to Peter Pan and brought us all of those awesome superhero stories.
It's incredibly easy to poke fun at this record......so I'm going to do it anyway. Yes, it's another record for kids, and yes, it's another monster record, but one at the opposite, polar end of the spectrum.  This is one of those "dance" records of generic, mid-60's pop music, and is intended for kids to use at their "dance party."  In fact, the track listing claims that there is a different dance you are supposed to perform for each track.  You have seen these types of things before, and the difference here is that there are scary noises distributed throughout the tracks, such as screams, moans, and.....the slide whistle.  Yes, I said slide whistle.  
The problem is, it's going to be a very short dance party, as both sides clock in at 11 minutes each.  By the time you learned exactly how to do the "Frug," without getting arrested, it would be on to the next song.  A couple of numbers come dangerously close to infringement--I swear they are a hair's breadth from breaking into "Tequila" a couple of times, and one track on side 2 is The Beatles "All My Loving," for all intents and purposes.  But hey, who's counting. An interesting moment comes in the middle of side 2, where one song begins with a false start, some banter, and they just leave it in.  It's like nobody's taking this very seriously, so I won't either.
Besides, I  need something else to think about, other than the Famous Monsters record, or I will be sleeping with the lights on all weekend.


THE LONE RANGER (Wrather Corporation, date unknown)

I love OTR (Old-Time Radio), which as Stan Freberg always says, can accomplish things that television never could.  I get sucked into a good story in a matter of seconds, and when I saw this LP with its lovely cover painting, I knew it was for me.  I loved watching reruns of The Lone Ranger as a kid, after all.

I can't find much information about this record.  It was put out by The Wrather Corporation (who owned the property at the time), and the text on the back is a little misleading--in trying to say this is the first album (and I can't find a trace of a second volume in this series), they sort of make it sound like this is the "first adventure," but this isn't true.  The hit radio show began in 1933, and lasted for an incredible 2,956 episodes (you read that right)! The actor who voiced the Lone Ranger in these particular two episodes was Brace Beemer (I love that name, it's like Dash Riprock or something), and he took the job in 1941, and kept it until the series ended in 1954.  So these two episodes fall into that time period, and that's the best I can do.

One more note on the scratchiness of the recording--sometimes, when I apply pop-reducing software to certain recordings, it squashes or flattens them beyond recognition.  This happened here, so I left well enough alone.  I think it's because of a double whammy--the original recording was that way, and then made into a record, which became even MORE that way.  In any case, it won't interfere with your enjoyment of this classic show. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear!

Fun Factoid of the Day:  In my research, I learned that (since they had the same creators) the Lone Ranger is the Green Hornet's great uncle! How cool is that?


Original Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots (Marx, 1960's)

I spent the past two nights cleaning and restoring a vintage, original "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots" by Marx.  It was among my late uncle's items, and had been in a storage building for ten years.  Unfortunately, it wasn't even protected very well, it sat at the top of a box, uncovered, and had accumulated years of grime.  To my amazement, I discovered it was not only intact, but working, so I set out to restore it to its original luster!
 I've cleaned up a lot of old toys in my time, but this was one of the worst! When a can of compressed air wouldn't even budge the filth, I ended up using an old toothbrush, and innumerable paper towels and cotton swabs.  The photo above shows a "before and after" shot of the progress.

But the finished results were worth it! And, it looks pretty nice sitting on top of one of my bookcases!