Mar 29, 2013

Mailbox Invaders - Burger King Creature from the Black Lagoon

Not sure if I knew this existed before I found it. I was browsing eBay for Creature from the Black Lagoon stuff and happened on this 1997 Burger King Kids' Club toy.
I ended up winning it for minimum the bid of $3. Great deal!

1997 burger king creature from the black lagoon universal monster toy figure

For a fast food premium, he's actually pretty cool! He stands about 4" tall and is molded in a semi-translucent green plastic. He's only got 4 points of articulation because his head is molded on to the body, but I'm not complaining.

1997 burger king creature from the black lagoon universal monster toy figure

His chest is a big button which didn't do anything when I pushed it. I thought maybe his batteries had died in the years since he was made until I did some research. Turns out, it's a squirt feature! You press the button and hold him underwater to suck in the water. Then you press it again to spit. It's a logical feature, maybe he's got some poison dart frog DNA in him, but the other figures came with a neat accessory.

1997 burger king kids club universal monsters toy figure flyer

Looks like they all also had a glow in the dark sticker too.

Mar 28, 2013

League Post - Young Love

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This week brings another slightly vague topic from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers

When I was a kid, my favorite _______ was _______.

The idea was originally proposed by Cal from Canadian Cave of Cool as your favorite childhood movie. While I could still answer it that way, for me it's a "No Duh" question.
One that I can reflexively answer without even thinking about it.

But this is partly where I'm going with my reply. When I was a kid, my favorite toys were also Star Wars. To get even more specific, the Hammerhead action figure.

kenner hammerhead action figure star wars

To this day, I still couldn't tell you exactly why this guy stood out to me as a kid. Sure, I liked aliens and monsters as much as the next kid but ol' Hammerhead was without a doubt my bestie, I remember bringing him around with me. Was it the soothing aqua of his one piece jumper/tunic? Was is his gnarly, veiny skin that kinda looks like a tree? Was it the unique head shape? Or was it his sideways glancing, shifty eyes? Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Walrus Man?
Back in '78, there wasn't the glut of action figures to choose from like there is today. Star Wars pretty much started the 3.75" size standard. Before that it you had to get your action in 12": G.I. Joe, Barbie or Mego. Smaller figures meant easier portability for kids and more bang for a parent's buck (ie: more figures!)

Just seeing any of these little guys is like being able to see the pure essence of my childhood. Having epic battles and adventures, either alone or with friends. Taking toys to the nearby swamp or outside is the winter to photograph my own scenes (wish I still had those pics). Making up my own stories because at the time, all we had were the movies, a weird Marvel comics series (I still want a Jaxxon figure, non-ironically even) and a few Han Solo books.

Sure, they only have five points of articulation and in some cases barely resembled the actors but at the time, we didn't care. Having figures that were close enough was good enough. Before getting a Millennium Falcon for my guys to cruise around in, I used The Eagle from Space:1999. It was still a pretty cool ship!

I still have foggy memories of getting the Early Bird Kit and eventually, the figures themselves. The other big memory I still vaguely have is of my dad calling a toy store at a mall 45 minutes away to see if they had Yoda because none of the local stores had him. Ah, the days when phone books were still a thing. Thanks, dad!

Enough of my waxing nostalgic, other Leaguers are also showing the love
Fortune and Glory Days held on to some classic toy photos
Toys seem to be popular this week with Goodwill Geek too
Crooked Ninja Turtle shares another of my childhood loves, except about a decade later

Mar 25, 2013

An Interview with the View-Master Master

A few weeks ago, The League of Extraordinary Bloggers assignment had me go on a mythical spending spree at Hake's Americana. One of the items I picked out was a lot of View-Master reels, because one of them featured the Addams Family.

addams family view-master world

Shortly after, Shawn from Branded in the 80s pointed me to a fantastic View-Master site called View-Master World which has scans of the same reels and lots more. Not only does he scan and digitally master the images, he also includes the text from the accompanying books.

I exchanged a few emails with the man behind the curtain and ended up selling him an older Red Riding Hood set of reels I had. Because I really dig his site and the effort he's putting in to preserve these pieces of pop culture history, I did a little interview with him.
Click through to read it.

Mar 22, 2013

Halloween Garage - New Rides

Nothing says it's spring like buying a new car, right? Well, I bought three!

One of the local malls has a store called Little Shop of Treasures and they've got all kinds of pop culture goodies both modern and vintage. They had a spinner of Hot Wheels by the entrance so I decided to have a look and walked away with three new additions
 to the ol' Halloween Garage.

None of these are specifically Halloween themed but I think they're better than most of the ones in last year's Halloween 5-pack.

First is Evil Twin which has had close to 20 releases since 2001. This 2002 version was #1 of 4 in a series called Grave Rave. I actually found one of the other cars, Rigor Mortis, at a closeout store last year. It's got some kooky cartoon skulls.
 I could totally see this in a look Dia De Los Muertos parade, possibly with hydraulics.

2002 hot wheels grave rave evil twin

Next is Shoe Box from 2002. Why is it called Shoe Box? If I had to guess I'd say it's because of the shape. But that is just a guess. How this design hasn't ended up in a Halloween pack is a mystery. It's got spiderweb highlights and eerie green flames. It even says "Ghost Rider" on the hood. Just don't tell Johnny Blaze.

2002 hot wheels show box

Last is a Halloween classic: the hearse. You can never go wrong with a hearse! I've seen other versions of this car but they're usually painted to look like a woody wagon. This 2003 version of 8 Crate just says hearse to me! Only there's not much room for an extra body in this ride. The "cargo" space is taken up by a huge motor under the purple tinted moon roof.

2003 hot wheels 8 crate hearse

Mar 20, 2013

League Post - Guilty Pleasures

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Another, fairly vague topic for the League assignment this week:

Guilty Pleasures

 There's plenty of things about me that someone might put on their own list
  • I love 80s glam/hairbands
  • I purposely seek out bad movies
  • I still collect toys and comic books

    But this is all me and nothing I wouldn't admit to anyone on the virtual street.
    So what is the thing I keep under wraps?

    Bubblegum pop

    Now, I'm no Belieber. I've never heard an entire song by him and if I have any choice, I never will. I also don't go all teenage girl and plaster my walls with posters but I enjoy some pop music.
I liked Britney's early stuff before she went all shave your head crazy.
I also downloaded just about every remix I could get my digital hands on.
I'm a sucker for remixes in general anyway.

I listened to this album waaaaay more than any man my age at the time should have.
All I can say is, it's a good thing they can't put you on the sex offender watch list based on what music you listen to.

These guys are the only current bubblegum pop I enjoy. I do like a little JT on occasion but I think he's above the bubblegum pop label.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for catchy, upbeat pop music.

What are other Leaguers confessing to?
Shezcrafti has her own musical obsession
The one who suggested this topic, Goodwill Geek, runs down some movies
Flashlights are Something to Eat has a whole list of things

Mar 18, 2013

Once Up-Tron A Time

There used to be a time when I'd totally geek out when Star Wars was mentioned in a TV show or movie. It's become so mainstream that you can often see the setup coming a mile away now and it's more like "Oh they did that." than "Oh! They did that!"

I had one of those moments last night while watching ABC's Once Upon A Time (S2E17), only it wasn't Star Wars that set me off, but Tron. It shouldn't be a shock to find a Tron reference on a show that airs on a Disney owned network and was co-created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, the screenwriters of Tron: Legacy. In fact, this is the third one I've caught.
And yet, there was nothing Tron related in Wreck-It Ralph. Go figure!

Here's a screencap from last night's episode showing a bench ad for the "new" HS Series 50 32-Bit Personal Computer (Starting at $2995.99!). While the ad isn't much, the red grid background and the company name are. Encom is the company that Flynn worked for in the original Tron. It's on screen for no more than two seconds, plenty of time to recognize that logo. There's also the fact that the ad appears to be from 1983, but that's more into the show mythology than I'm going right now.

once upon a time encom bench ad Tron

As I said, this was at least the third reference that's been in the show. The first was in "What Happened to Frederick" (S1E13) where Regina give Henry a Space Paranoids handheld game. Space Paranoids is a hit game created by Flynn in Tron, he's playing it when we first meet him in the movie (1:23 in the video below). You can play it online!

Later, Emma sees him playing it and tells him "It's all in the wrists." which is how
Flynn explains his expertise (2:03).

The second appearance is in "The Stranger" (S1E20) where Regina brings Henry his forgotten lunchbox at school. What I really enjoy about this one is the dichotomy of the old school lunchbox with Tron: Legacy graphics on it.

That's one show prop I'd love to own because I'm pretty sure they never marketed them!

Mar 14, 2013

League Post - Seeing Red

Another photo assignment from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers this week!
The topic: I'm Seeing Red

 I decided to go in a more local direction with the topic as I'm too lazy to set up a bunch of red things and photograph them. And you might even do some learnin'.

Red's Sandwich Shop is located in downtown Salem MA. They have great home-cooked food, reasonable prices and big servings. Seriously, you don't order a stack of pancakes here unless you need to feed your family. One pancake is bigger than your plate!

Red's Sandwich Shop Salem MA restaurant

Even though it's in the middle of downtown, it's near a pedestrian mall off the main street so tourists may miss it. But I make a point to bring any visitors there because it's that good! If you look just SW on that map link, you'll see a park area with trees which is where the
Witch Trial Memorial is located.

Good eats aside, this building has some notable history. That red line on the sidewalk is the Salem Heritage Trail, a free walking tour of the city. You can do it on your own with a map or seasonally, there are folks in period costume that will lead and narrate the tour.

Red's Sandwich Shop Salem MA restaurant London Coffee House 1698

You can see this sign in the building photo on the left side. I think it's a neat bit of history to be able to grab lunch in a place where Patriots (real ones, not the football team) met before the Revolution. Every town has that one place where the "locals" go and for me, it's Red's.

Other League Members
Neato Coolville's photo overloads with nostalgia
You've got red on you, Branded in the 80s
The Goodwill Geek spells it all out

Mar 12, 2013

Book of the Moment - Atari Inc., Business Is Fun

Way back in late 2011, I found out about the Kickstarter for what sounded like an amazing book: Atari Inc. - Business is Fun. It tells the history of Atari from its beginnings, explosion into coin-op machines, home consoles and computers to its near self-destruction during the video game crash. What was going to set this apart from other Atari histories (of which I've read none) were interviews with the people that worked for Atari during those times.

Being born in 1970, I've been able to experience the evolution of video games. Before I got my 2600 I remember going to a friend's to play Pong. Yes kids, there was a time when Pong was a home console. That's all it did. It let you play Pong on your TV. This particular version didn't even have wired controllers so you had sit right next to your opponent.

Atari Pong home console video game

After getting my 2600, it made me an Atari kid for life. I spent hours playing Combat (which I think counts as the first home video game deathmatch) Adventure, Yar's Revenge and so many others. Yes, even the bad ones! I remember going to the corner store, the mall and even the YMCA where my middle school did PE classes and having to put my quarter on the screen for next game. Excuse me for getting a bit off track! My point is, I've loved video games since there have been video games, so this book was something I couldn't pass up!

As I said, I pledged in late 2011 and the book was scheduled for July 2012 release. The actual release was November 2012 on Amazon. I just got my Kickstarer copy last month, February 2013. The authors were good about sending progress updates but there were people that were curious why it took so long for supporters to get their books and why we paid $15 more than the Amazon price. The answer about the price is that we were helping fund the last bit of the project costs to help get it published and the book was a reward for pledging.

My experience with other projects has been getting the product for retail, if not less than, as a pledge incentive. In all honesty, if I'd realized I could have pre-ordered for retail I would have but after finishing the book, I'm glad I could help make it happen.

That's my first completed "physical item" Kickstarter experience and doesn't change how I feel about the book: I love it! This thing is a beast at 796 pages. They deliver on what they promised and more. Marty Goldberg and Curt Vendel have spent over 8 years putting this together. And what a couple of guys. Goldberg has been writing about gaming for 13 years and Vendel is the founder of the Atari Museum.

This is the first in a planned trilogy of Atari histories and covers Atari's birth up to the industry crash in 1984. The book is packed with b&w photos of employees at work and play, product ads and images, and assorted documents. The chapters are setup so that the images come at the end as a sort of visual recap. I think it makes the narrative flow well in that respect so I'm not getting distracted while reading.

Atari Gotcha video game ad flyer
Image from Flickr user Duke of Crydee
I can't even begin to go on about how much is in this book, but here's a few cool things:

  • Nolan Bushnell went on to create Chuck E Cheese after leaving Atari.
  • Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak designed the original prototype for Breakout.
  • One of my favorite games, Yar's Revenge, was created in response to a proposed port of the arcade game Star Castle. I can't believe I never connected them.
  • Atari had a communications division called AtariTel that created a video phone.

One complaint I've seen is there is no index in the book, which is something essential for an almost 800 page book! The authors have addressed this on the Kickstarter page and in reply to an Amazon review. This was due to the publishing restrictions at Amazon so they're putting together a downloadable pdf with the help of some crowd sourcing.

Anyway, to stop this before I go on too long, I'd recommend this book for 3 types of people:

1 - The Atari Kid: Anyone that grew up in the 70s/80s playing Atari at home or in the arcade and wants to know more about the company that made their favorite games.

2 - The Video Game/Arcade Historian: If you want to see where the roots of gaming began to grow, this is a great place to start.

3 - Future Contestant on a Nerd Competition Show: So that you don't look silly after boasting to know all about video game history and then incorrectly give the creators of Pong as the guys from King of Kong, losing the challenge. And also so that you realize video games started way before PlayStation.

Mar 8, 2013

Friday Funnies

We're getting more snow here in New England...hooray. As a consequence, you get a not very well planned out post today with some random comic panels from the 50s and 60s.

poison quill at midnight

Egads! A flying poisoned quill! It's probably possessed or something but I prefer to think there's an assassin that specializes in ironically killing off authors.

specters in shaft 13

It's ok, Red, don't hurry. Roger is obviously not in any serious danger of being choked because he's able to yell for help.

the thing that grew

I got a lot of hits from a previous Friday Funnies post with a panel titled "The Big Snake." I wonder how "The Thing That Grew!" will do? Also, this guy needs to get out more as he's obviously never seen Jurassic Park.

mr miggs from mercury

It's been awhile since I pulled this panel so I don't remember how the story went.
He looks like a less cheery intergalactic version of Mary Poppins.

Mar 6, 2013

League Post - Hake's Shopping Spree

The League of Extraordinary Bloggers challenges me to a shopping spree!

You have very deep pockets but your shelves are bare. Go on a shopping spree at Hake’s Americana and Collectibles to make your place a little more awesome.

The challenge is that I'm limiting myself to three things.
There's so much cool stuff but where to start?

Naturally, my first search was for Star Wars items. While they have some vintage (and by that I mean truly vintage from the 70s/80s) carded figures, they're not doing much for me. But this...

Kenner Alien figure 1979
Alien auction

I know this 18" tall guy is on a lot of collectors' lists and with a box in decent shape? Ohhh yeah! This was made by Kenner in 1979 and probably the first action figure from an R rated movie. Had I seen this on the shelf back then even without any idea about the movie, I would have been clamoring for it. And then it would have been inflicting untold horrors on my Star Wars figures with its snapping jaws and glow-in-the-dark brain.

And I was still browsing the Space/SciFi stuff when this next piece screamed at me.

Strato Gun toy cap gun 1955
Strato Gun auction
This gorgeous piece of retro goodness is actually a cap gun! I think it was a law before that whole "orange cap in the gun barrel" thing that all toy guns containing metal had to shoot caps. I absolutely love the retro future scifi aesthetic and I would get a nice custom stand/case to show this off.

I also did a bit of poking around for anything Halloween or Creature from the Black Lagoon related but nothing really grabbed my attention. But I did find some sweet Viewmaster reels.

Addams Family Viewmaster reels
Viewmaster auction
I'm scooping up this lot just for the Addams Family one. I don't give a bat's ass about Dark Shadows and I'll probably only keep the Munsters ones if they have Uncle Gilbert.

As Shawn points out in the comments, the Munsters and Addams Family images can be viewed at View Master World. Head over there and check the bottom of the page to see what else they have.

What Other League Members Are Buying
Branded in the 80s beat me to some amazing prototype figures
Superman and Dino-Riders go home with Robot's Pajamas
Henchgirl might be a crazy cat lady in the making

Mar 4, 2013

Now Hear This - Sound Barrier

Welcome to another installment of Now Hear This where I share some of my favorite albums and artists. Today we're setting the Wayback Machine for the late 80s! Ever since a friend had me listen to Mötley Crüe's Shout at the Devil in middle school I've been into hair bands and metal. Today's band would probably land in the glam/power/speed metal areas.

Waaaay back in '88, it was around the time when CDs were starting to really take off with the mass market. I had my first car which was a year older than me. It took leaded gas and sported an AM radio. I had to bring a Walkman and a pair of battery operated speakers with me if I wanted to listen to anything decent. That car ended up dying a horrible death on the highway when the radiator blew like an unholy geyser of water and steam. 
Did I mention I was going 55 and couldn't see a thing? Good times.

One day, I was in the mall record store going through a large metal mesh bin of discount cassettes when I found this puppy staring at me with a  $2 tag. I've always been of the opinion that if it looks cool, I'll give it a shot. And for that price, how could you pass up a spaceship cover and a track list including name like "Gladiator", "Speed of Light" and
"On To The Next Adventure"? See, there was a reason I mentioned having a Walkman!

The 1986 line-up for Sound Barrier
There's not a lot of info out there about Sound Barrier because they never hit the big time. In fact, MCA dropped them after their first album didn't sell well. The original line-up of the band consisted of four African Americans, which got them publicity. Speed of Light came after a line-up change and was released on Metal Blade Records in 1986.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to track down their other albums.

The band's original line-up
 Obviously I liked what I found because I'm blogging about it 25 years later. Damn, I'm old. They've got some skills, especially the bass player. It may not be something that will blow you away or change your life but if you dig Iron Maiden of Judas Priest, check em out.

If you have Spotify, you can listen along below.
Otherwise, check out the samples on Amazon where you can get the mp3 album

Mar 1, 2013

Monthly Movie Recap - February 2013

Wow for the shortest month of the year, it sure felt like the longest. If you feel the need to own any of these (and there's at least one I recommend) click on the linked title.
Enjoy the recap!

The House of Seven Corpses (1974)
No, it's not a prequel to House of 1000 Corpses because that would have been infinitely more awesome. This snooze-fest is about a horror movie being shot in a cursed mansion. They unknowingly summon a bad Halloween costume from the grave and something ensues. I say something because it's sure not hilarity or anything like that.

Cool: The story idea is neat but
Lame: It. Is. So. Boring.
Rating: 3.5/10

Iron Sky (2012)
In 2018, Nazis finally get their revenge by launching a fleet of flying saucers from a secret moon base! It's just as ridiculous as it sounds but in the best way. The team has a great sense of how to do camp right.

Cool: The Sarah Palin-esque POTUS and the whole cast of characters are so over the top; the final battle in space
Lame: What the Nazis end up doing to the black guy goes a little too far into silly for me
Rating: 7/10

The Towering Inferno (1974)
My only frame of reference for disaster movies has been Airplane so I decided to see one of the classics. This movie would never get made today. It focuses a lot more on the people than the effects, which is a good thing. But at close to 3 hours, it could have been shorter. I have to say some of the deaths I didn't see coming and even though it's somewhat obvious who's going to make it out, it's more about getting them to safety.

Cool: Old school practical effects and big sets
Lame: Don't cut costs on wiring, kids
Rating: 6.5/10

Sugar Hill (1974) 
70s blaxploitation? With Zombies? Oh yes! Ok, so they're voodoo zombies and not the Romero-type but it's a heck of a lot of fun watching them take down The Man.

Cool: Mama Jefferson (The Jeffersons) and Mac (Night Court) appear! Baron Samedi!
Lame: The lead guy's girlfriend's lack of acting is hilariously bad
Rating: 6/10

Identity Thief (2013)
Despite blowing most of the best scenes in the trailers, this is still a pretty funny movie. That is as long as you can watch it without trying to apply any kind of sane logic to what happens.

Cool: Cameos by a couple of prime time sitcom stars
Lame: Why would these credit card companies not call about big spending ASAP? Amanda Peet is wasted here, remember when she was awesome?
Rating: 6.5/10

Horror Express aka Panic on the Trans-Siberian Express (1973)
You could put Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in a Bollywood dance extravaganza and I will be there to watch it. But you add being trapped on a train with a monster and Telly freakin' Savalas as a mad Cossack, you, my friend, have got yourself a picture!

Cool: It's not a Hammer Horror film but can definitely pass for one
Lame: Stupid scientists, you don't study the thing that's murdering people
Rating: 7/10, almost like if Carpenter's The Thing took place on a train at the early 1900's

7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)
Hold on a second before you watch that trailer. Have a look at the poster and imagine what it might be like. See, I thought it looked like a horror movie and I watched it solely based on seeing that poster. I got my mind blown!

I only know Randall from The Odd Couple (shocker) and this movie has given me a totally new appreciation for his talent. Any modern comedian that thinks it's a good idea to make a movie where they play multiple roles should be made to watch this first. I have no doubt this will be in my top 10 most entertaining movies I see this year.

Cool: Randall is amazing!; Barbara Eden is dressed as a typical Western teacher through most of this and she still manages to be hot; Stop motion! Puppets!
Lame: The only thing lame in this movie are the jerks that live in this town, but they get theirs
Rating: 8/10, it's a less dark, more whimsical Something Wicked This Way Comes set in the Old West

The Dead Want Women (2012)
Back in the late 80s/early 90s I was a full on Full Moon fanatic. I rented everything they put out, even the kiddie focused stuff. Their product feels like it's been slipping more and more which makes me sad. I still love B-movies so I know I haven't outgrown what they used to do, but I have seen a few SyFy Original Movies that I've enjoyed way more than this.

Cool: The first 25 minutes. Seriously, once the back story is told shut it off and make up your own rest of the story, it's bound to be better.
Lame: The movie asks a lot for me to believe these two blonde bimbos are real estate agents (or even actresses); The second third of the movie is them cleaning the house and talking about what happened and once The Dead show up in the final third, they're not interesting especially the Curly wannabe
Rating: 2.5/10

Bloody Mallory (2002)
Mallory leads a supernatural strike team consisting of a drag queen demolitions expert, a telepathic, mute little girl that can posses living things and a G-man with a gun (wait, how'd he get in there?) on a mission to rescue the kidnapped Pope.

If you took Buffy, Evil Dead, Hellboy and a badly-dubbed kung-fu movie, tossed in a pinch of anime and put it all in a blender at high speed, you'd get this flick.

Cool:  Did you read what I wrote up there?
Lame: The dubbing is horrible but totally adds to the off the wall charm
Rating: 7/10, it's crazy town banana pants!

Month Total

Year to Date
New: 21, Rewatch: 0