So here is the OTHER of the two Bandai boxed sets, and it follows the exact same path as the Ultraman one:  30 figures, a die, and a gameboard, all in a box of awesomeness.

The back of the box is more accurate this time as well (the last one showed enemies that weren't in the set)

ULTRASEVEN is, without a doubt, a magical high point in the long lineage of Tsuburaya's flagship franchise.  We could discuss why all day, but every time I revisit it, I am overwhelmed by the feeling that something special was going on, and everybody involved was aware of it.  I have a particular fondness for the third series (THE RETURN OF ULTRAMAN, later to be named JACK), but somewhere in the middle--or possibly just after--it, the original golden age of Ultra concluded.  You could argue that the limit should be extended all the way to the more natural original ending point of ULTRAMAN TARO, but admittedly by then the series was in a major repetitive rut (not to mention the many outside forces affecting the quality and production of the show, such as oil crises and kaiju falling out of fashion).

But back to our boxed set--the show gave us many innovative creature designs, and several that have stood the test of time.  How many enemies can you name?

Once again, I pretty much failed and had to cheat, so here are the answers:

Like last time, there were some major favorites that didn't make the cut, such as:

Crazygon, the giant car-eating robot (who's probably hard to make a figure of), Miclas (who is not a foe, but actually a helper to Ultraseven), and--the design of all designs--my hero, DINOSAUR TANK.  

Bandai doesn't appear to have continued these boxed sets, which is really too bad, as there was definitely more ground to cover.  


Vintage Self-Recorded 78s! (1940's-50's)


Something very unique today!

I struggled with what to call this small collection of records that I've acquired in recent years.  "Amateur 78s" wasn't right, because it makes it sounds like these are song demos.  "Home-made Recordings" wasn't right either, because I believe one of these was made in a professional setting.  I couldn't even say "Cardboard Records," because one of them isn't!  So, I settled for the awkward "Self-Recorded 78s." It'll have to do.

It's hard to believe, but it was much easier to make a record in your own home in the early 1950's than it is today, because of the portable machines that made it possible.  Of course, they sounded terrible, due to several reasons.  One was crappy, built-in microphones, one was the media itself (which was usually coated cardboard), and one was the weighty steel needles of record players of the time, which destroyed them.

But, still, you could make a record!  If I would've been there back then, it would've been my life's mission at the time to make it happen as often as possible.  

Here was one way:  the Wilcox-Gay Recordio company was one of the most successful producers of cardboard records and portable recorders, which weren't much bigger than the average suitcase players of the day.  They ingeniously invented a vending machine [seen here at this site] where, for the princely sum of FIVE CENTS, you could speak into a telephone receiver and make a one-minute recording on a 6.5-inch disc, which then supplied you with an envelope to drop it right into the mail.  And this is the first type of record we will look at today.

1) Coin Recordio-Gram (dated 1948); unknown It's also the worst record we will look at today.  I've cleaned it, opened grooves with a magnifying lens, scrubbed it with software, run it through AI, and it still sounds terrible. In fact, the thing was so warped, I had to devise a method to even get it to play smoothly, so I resorted to a disc of corkboard and thumbtacks! That part worked.

I believe that this is a woman recording her little boy, presumably for his dad, who may be away, possibly in the U.S. Navy (about 2/3 of the way in, you can hear him say "Hello, all you land-lubbers!"), but that's just me presuming a lot.  If anyone has any other insight as to what's being said, I'm all ears. Otherwise, it's an onslaught of noise, and a good example of how these records aged.  You can see how crazed and cracked it was in the scan.  (Also, it doesn't ever appear to have been mailed, hmmm...)

2) Presto Recording Disc (1954); Janette Bryniarski 
Don't worry though, it's about to get much more audible.  These are two sides recorded a couple months apart in 1954, where the young lady named above reads a paragraph about her grandfather, then speaks about her job at a glass company. As many times as I've listened to this recording, it only recently dawned on me what's going on here.  

At the end of the first side, she says that she finally decided to do something about her accent and soft-spokeness, to help her in her job...and I realized that she was undergoing some sort of elocution lessons by a professional.  In fact, I had never noticed before how much more confident she sounded on the second side, weeks later.

Besides being recorded in someone's office, this recording benefits from being made on a Presto disc, which was an 8-inch piece of aluminum coated with lacquer, and thus has survived in much better quality than its cardboard cousins.

I even found some info about the speaker on an ancestry website.  She lived from 1923-1998 and was from the Detroit Wayne area of Michigan.  And I certainly hope that the confidence she acquired through these exercises helped her in her job and her life, which we've gotten to hear a small part of.

3) Recordio Disc (no date); Uncle Norwood & the Lavender Family  
This last disc was made at home to show off the recording machine to a visiting family member.  This is an 8-inch, two-sided recording disc, that is also coated cardboard.  It was obviously stored in decent conditions over the years (probably forgotten about).  On the first side, Uncle Norwood is allowed to bloviate about anything he sees, as well as revert back to his former job as a salesman of freezer cases, until time runs out.  What's interesting about these machines was, if you stopped the recording at any time, it automatically created a locked groove.  It causes some unnatural and entertaining samples.

The second side is called "Daddy & I," which is a young lady (the "I," I take it) singing a song I couldn't identify (perhaps original), and then she and her father doing a responsive reading from a Psalm.  

Really, these are all little glimpses into peoples' lives, and I'll bet they'd all be stunned to find out that these records survived, and that people are hearing and preserving them decades later.  You do want to hear them, don't you? Of course you do! And now you can:




We alluded to these great sets from 1990 in our post about the M.U.S.C.L.E. toy line, but they are worthy of featuring on their own.  

It gets confusing for collectors, because all types of little rubber guys like this get lumped in under the word "keshi," which literally means eraser in Japanese.  And yet, while there are figures (often using the same molds) from retail sets and gashapon machines that are literal erasers, they aren't all made for that purpose (also, the erasers are usually brighter colors).  (Bandai had been making such sets for several years--here is an awesome Godzilla Comichara set from 1984 we featured ten short years ago!)  In the U.S. of course, we had the occasional gumball machine eraser, as well as the monster erasers made by Deiner, but I never wanted to use them for their intended purpose...why would I literally disintegrate my prized monster figure?

The obvious comparison to these 30-packs are the M.U.S.C.L.E. boxed 28-packs (which were actually larger in size, when compared).  There was also an Ultraseven set (stay tuned for that), although it would have been cool if Bandai would've just gone all the way and done an Ultraman Jack set as well, but it's obvious that the most iconic of Ultraman foes were created in those first couple of years.

Here is the back of the box, which strangely shows two enemies in the bottom row that aren't even in this set, Gabora and Kemular!

Before we get to the actual figures, here is the included game board, allowing you to play a game with your keshi army:

And now, the star of the show, the inner tray holding Ultraman and 29 of his adversaries:

How many can you name? Yeah, I got stumped on several of these too, so I cheated, and I'm not above admitting it.  Here is a glossary of everyone that's included (you may have to blow it up):

Some favorites didn't make it in, such as:

Gango (usually spelled Gyango, the totem-pole-decorated kaiju), or even Bemular, from the very first episode.  Also, you would expect a Pigmon.  I wouldn't want one, but you would expect one.

A very cool set! So, did the Ultraseven one measure up, or even surpass this one? Stay tuned for the answer!


GODZILLA 1985 Video Store Standee (New World Video, 1986)


We talked about this in a catch-all post about GODZILLA 1985 items, but here is a much closer look at this particular piece (since it came in the mail yesterday).  

This is a counter-top standee (I still think that word is dumb, but that's what it is) that was sent to video rental stores for the release of GODZILLA 1985.  It's made of heavy cardstock-type material, and has a leg on the back that folds out so it can stand.

This one is completely unused, and came from a video store in Texas that closed.  It is smaller than you'd think; only 13 inches tall, and just over 9 inches wide, so as not to fill up your counterspace, of course.  It reminds us of a time that home video was a big deal (it still is, to me), and was still expensive enough that people wanted to rent copies of movies instead of buy them!


Action Figure Spotlight: Varan (Trendmasters, 1996)


Today we take a closer look at the last of the 3 hardest-to-find Trendmasters Godzilla action figures [any time you talk about Trendmasters Godzilla figures, you have to add "I mean ones that were sold in the United States from a line that wasn't cancelled"].  As I mentioned last time, after preparing for these posts, I realized that this is really the best figure of the three, and probably the most accurate...which was a surprise.

Varan is a strange creature in Toho's cosmos, and a weird design.  If it wasn't for his quick cameo in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, I'd say he was forgotten about.  Especially in the United States.  His movie is unusual too (both versions, in fact, with the English dub being all but eradicated these days, which is unfortunate).  It began as a co-production for television, which Toho ended up expanding to a theatrical film.  Basically, Varan comes out of a lake, causes a bit of trouble, and gets straight up murdered.  Perhaps his 1968 cameo was just to show us that none of these guys (like celluloid heroes*) ever really die.  

There are really two poses that you normally see him moving around in [not counting "flying squirrel mode," which was a model anyhow]:
Crawling, and...

...standing.  This figure can't crawl of course, but they pretty much nailed the second one:

As you can see, they added unnecessary spikes on the sides of his arms and legs, and his muzzle should be a lot shorter, but otherwise pretty faithful.  Adding the webbed "wings" was a nice touch.

The back is probably too purple.  It at least transitions well though;  obviously accomplished by overspray, but it works.

It's easy to judge this from the era of super-articulated SH Monsterarts-type figures, but it does share one thing in common with those:  this figure is prone to breaking quite easily.  It's not uncommon to see one with broken limbs--especially arms--and especially the one that was hanging out of the package (they shouldn't have placed him completely sideways).  This of course inflates his rarity and value.

All in all, a solid 7/10.  I'd remove the spikes, thicken then arms slightly to prevent breakage, shorten his snout, and tone down the purple slightly.  This and some swivel & knee joints would elevate it to a solid 10.  Honestly, I'd never given this figure enough attention, and after comparing and contrasting, I firmly believe he's the best of the three, and that's said even though I'm a huge Baragon fan.  If you are still hunting for him, keep searching, because he's out there! Maybe in a lake!

*for any Kinks fans out there


REVENGE OF THE JEDI - On Location (Yuma Daily Sun, May 2, 1982)


For 14 days in April, 1982, Lucasfilm and company converged on the Imperial Sand Dunes (no really, that's what they are called, you couldn't make that up!), which lie at the southeast corner of California [17 or 18 miles outside of Yuma, Arizona], to build and utilize one of the largest movie sets ever constructed and film part of the new Star Wars movie there.  The summer before, when dealing with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to secure the necessary permissions, word began to get out, and rumors began to spread.  So Lucasfilm did an interesting thing.  They went straight to the Yuma Daily Sun and offered them a deal.  If they would agree to hold off any coverage of the goings-on in the desert, and not breathe a word until filming was complete and everyone was gone, then the Sun would be allowed to send writers and photographers to the set, and have not just an exclusive, but "the world's exclusive."  It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that the newspaper heartily agreed to.

Soon after this conversation, the enormous set of Jabba's Sail Barge was constructed in the desert, along with smaller skiffs and the Sarlacc pit itself.  The rest of course is history, but what we have here is an interesting eye-witness description of it that appears nowhere else.  This is the Sun's exclusive publication, which they printed as an oversized tabloid-style supplement dated May 2, 1982, a full year before the finished film would be released (I guess the BLUE HARVEST was long over by that time).  As such, it still bears the original REVENGE title, which is pretty cool in itself.  May 2 was a Sunday, which traditionally was the day that newspapers contained the most extras, as well as the day with the biggest circulation.

A rare look at the unfinished back of the set (bottom photo)!

The 20-page publication has lots of great info, as well as behind-the-scenes photos that you won't see in the many making-of books (which is odd in itself because Lucasfilm tended to supply the photos--but, a deal's a deal). There's an interesting article detailing the construction of the sail barge, which used up a million of their $4 million Yuma filming budget.  The 20-foot high platform it sat upon was 150 by 200 feet, with the barge itself being an additional 52 feet high, consisting of "miles" of two-by-fours, "over 1,000 sheets of plywood," and used 10,000 pounds of nails! 

But we will come back to the barge in a moment--continuing on, there is an article describing how the filming was economically helpful to the local community (everyone stayed at the "Stardust Resort Motor Inn," who even took out an ad in the publication).  

The Sun writers also took opportunities to get one-on-one interviews with several of the leads.  An interesting point comes up in both Carrie Fisher's and Mark Hamill's interviews, and that is the sudden mega-stardom of Harrison Ford, specifically because of the recent RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.  I have to admit, I'd never thought seriously about it.  In retrospect, I'd always assumed everyone went right on with their business, but it must've really changed the dynamic when Ford was able to be the first one to break away from the pack, so to speak, and be hugely successful for it.  Hamill even laments not being able to be taken seriously for other roles because of the trilogy.  (Ford, meanwhile, apparently stayed completely away from any of the Sun reporters or photographers, because he's pretty much AWOL here).  Then again, it's easy to forget (from today's perspective) that Ford wasn't even planning to be in the film at all.  In retrospect, of course, we know now that he will be in absolutely anything if you throw enough money at him.

Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Anthony Daniels are also interviewed.  These are short and pretty par for the course.  Producer Howard Kazanjian and two local 20-somethings who were hired as stand-ins also get short articles.  

There is an interesting two-page spread that details how extremely boring (tedious is the word used here) film-making really is, and how dreadfully long it takes to get even the minutest of scenes set up and filmed. It's the part of movie magic that fans forget...or don't even know about.

One of the centerpieces (and longest articles) in here, though, is a sit-down with George Lucas, and he is downright depressed about how much the film is costing him to make.  This is one of those frustratingly self-effacing Lucas interviews where you wonder why he got out of bed that morning.  At one point, in attempting to explain why copycat Star Wars films fail, he even refers to his own films as "what I call a dumb movie that's just entertaining."  He does once again tell the interviewer that there will still be nine movies in the saga, though.  (Too bad that never happened...but hey, at least we have six Star Wars films!)

As we mentioned, the publication also allowed ad space, and while some of the ads are mundane, others are interesting and even hilarious.  Let's go ahead and spoil some:

Ah, K-Mart.  Do I miss K-Mart? No.  Well, yes.  I'm torn on that one...hey, Pac-Man was 30 bucks (and also famously terrible)! That was a lot of money in 1982!

You know, by now we have all heard every tired, hackneyed, cliched Star Wars pun in existence, but this cracked me up.  Also, they are flying.  Or are they supposed to be hovering like landspeeders? It just gets funnier.

And, for the grand finale, here is the back cover:

Yeah, we've all run into a CAR WARS or two in our time...this one is just funny for different reasons.

The last article we will discuss is an excellent piece called "What Becomes of the Sail Barge?" that is fascinating reading.  We learn that Lucasfilm actually tried to donate the entire structure to the city of Yuma, Arizona...and they declined (in their defense, it would've required moving it).  Another possibility that was seriously (or semi-seriously) discussed was blowing it up.  You read that right, and the article points out that the script already called for that, anyway...but ultimately the decision was made to do that in miniature, which probably was much, much more feasible in the long run.  

The third possibility mentioned was selling it to scrap and salvage merchants, and writer of the article wonders if that's what would happen...

And, we can tell you from the perspective of history, that's exactly what happened!  To this day there are people in the immediate and surrounding areas who probably have no idea that their homes, sheds, or other structures contain wood from Jabba the Hutt's Sail Barge.  What most people don't know though, is that when the demolition was complete, and with the mandate to leave the desert as clean as they found it, Lucasfilm simply pushed all of their leftover trash into the Sarlacc Pit and freaking buried it.  

I was fortunate enough to speak with a guy a few years ago who had made regular expeditions into Buttercup Valley over the years, and he was able to dig up copious amounts of foam, orange sail fabric, and wooden fragments from the barge itself! Can you imagine finding buried treasure like that?

The foam, of course, composed the mouth and tentacles of the Sarlacc.  Here are just a few of the pieces I bought from him:

The orange fabric from the giant barge sails is one of the easiest Star Wars-related relics to obtain.  There was such a surplus of the material, the Lucasfilm crew used it to make sandbags to hold down their cameras during filming, and there is still some of it in the archives today (unless the current Mouse overlords have sold it all in a garage sale or something).  In fact, you can still track down these Topps relic trading cards from several years ago that contained swatches (although the prices have gotten pretty dumb):

Real wood from the sail barge can be pretty hard to come by, but it's out there.  I was lucky enough to get this piece from the same Star Wars archaeologist I mentioned (it even has paint on it):

Finally, you know we aren't going to go on about this document without providing it for you, so here is the entire publication.  It's very hard to capture an oversized document like this without a drum scanner (you have to rig up a photo stand), but it still turned out very well. Enjoy! 


GODZILLA 1985 Ad Slicks ("Mini Ad Sheet") New World Pictures, 1985


Very cut and dry today, but here are ad slicks for GODZILLA 1985.  (We also have looked at a completely different, 4-page set in a previous post.) These are presented on one 11" x 17" page called a "Mini Ad Sheet."  It came folded anyway, so here are nice scans of both halves.  

Just think--now you can place a nice-looking ad in your local paper...if you can find one, come to think of it!


CREATURE FEATURES (Athol Research Co., 1975)


Here's a wonderful board game that you may not have heard of, but it's much-beloved by those who owned it back in the day.  It wasn't exactly a mainstream item (you will soon see why), but it takes the basic idea of "Monopoly," and makes it awesome (later versions of the instruction sheet even began with "THIS GAME PLAYS LIKE MONOPOLY").

"Monopoly," of course, is the Dr. Seuss book of board games.  Everyone thinks they love it until they have to deal with it--in the case of "Monopoly," you end up bogged down in a mind-numbingly endless session with an overly-competitive sibling (or former friend that you'll no longer speak to), all the while praying for bankruptcy.  In the case of Seuss--especially if you are reading aloud--on your 400th made-up nonsense word and sing-song rhyme, you are praying for a more permanent end.  Anyhow, this game fixes all that, and adds a dash of humor that FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine would be proud of.  

Named after the long-running CREATURE FEATURES movie show, this game can be pretty expensive these days (a super-minty copy can run into three to four hundred dollars).  One of the reasons is shown in the above photo--this game is very heavy on cards.  Lots and lots of cards.  Which as you might guess, often get lost.  

Besides the cards that take the place of properties, Chance, and Community Chest, there are two sets of small punch-out tokens, called Ghoul Star and Tombstone Award cards (seen above).  These are very often incomplete.  The property cards are the coolest, though:

Instead of streets, you as a movie producer assemble movie monsters with their respective stars, and see if your films find success.  What a great idea!

Then, of course, you continue to go around the board, being influenced by the spaces you land on, and by drawing cards, just like...you know, that other game.  
Box back!

What I really wonder though is how long they got away with all of this.  I'm sure this game was sold in monster magazines and in specialty shops, but it was only a matter of time until the myriad license holders caught up with this Roger Rabbit of board games, and it came to a crashing end.  I mean, imagine if this game were coming out today.  It would probably have lots of made-up monsters wedged between a few licensed ones, and just fail completely.

And who's going to think to include the second-best card of all? Some game store neckbeard would ask what that was, and I'd slap him. 

Like many vintage collectibles, this is the sort of thing that we don't need to come back, because it would never hold a candle to the original, so let's not try.  If you want one, I'd recommend watching  auctions, and maybe buying two reasonably-priced incomplete copies over a period of time, then putting them together to make one complete one.  It's probably the cheapest way to go, and you can always sell your leftover parts to get some of your money back.

If you do own a copy of this game, the most common thing to be missing are the instructions, so let's remedy that with the following scan-as-PDF:

The second most common thing to be absent are the small token cards called Ghoul Star and Tombstone Awards:

Sample (don't print this photo, it won't
be the correct size, see below)

I scanned some, and luckily they are printed in only red ink, so you can print these on normal cardstock and trim them out, and you'll be good to go.  This file is also a PDF, which should keep the size correct:

This game is one of the most unique standout pieces of any monster collection.  When I first discovered it, I wanted to quickly dismiss it as an unauthorized Godzilla collectible, but it quickly won me over.  It gets a giant Sphinx Seal of Approval--if for no other reason, it's made with so much genuine love for the subject matter! And that, my friends, is a rarity these days.