I ran into a commercial for these this weekend while watching an old episode of Commander USA. Here’s the commercial I saw (and remember).
Vincent Price, naturally enough, also shilled for them.
These books are not technically Halloween-oriented, but they still make good reading for this time of year.
One of my earliest actions figures memories is of playing with a Star Wars Hammerhead figure during a church service. The next earliest is a vague memory of a set of action figures. There were four of these figures, they had something to do with something that was happening on TV, and one was a lion. As it turns out, this is not another of my phantom memories. It is instead a quite accurate recollection of Mattel’s Flash Gordon action figures.
Mattel put out these action figures in 1979 to capitalize on the new Flash Gordon animated movie/series (which you can read more about here). I don’t remember the series, but I seem to remember the movie running in prime time and having a good degree of hype. I also remember watching it while having the action figures in hand, which might mean the figures were released prior to the show. The four figures I had were most the four figures in the line’s first generation: Flash, Ming, Prince Thun (the lion I remembered), and a Lizard Woman. The fact that I had all four seems odd to me, as I rarely had a full set of anything, and I seem to remember (but may be wrong) that Mom bought them as a set as some discount store.
Wherever they came from and however I got them, I enjoyed them quite a bit. Though the figures seem to lack some detail and features, they were still fun to play with, especially while the movie was on, and they made an impression on me. I guess humanoid lions and bipedal lizards have a way of doing that.
In an amazing confluence of retroism yesterday, Vic posted about the classic Universal monster movie Werewolf of London and mentioned the Crestwood House book that references it while I, hours earlier, had checked out that book for no other reason than nostalgia while at the library with my daughter.
Vic was right; though the book is called “The Wolf Man” a la the Lon Chaney film, it has Henry Hull’s picture from “Werewolf of London” on the cover. The book covers both films and several others.
I thought I had already posted about the Crestwood House Monster Series, but apparently I haven’t. I’ve only alluded to it in a couple of posts. So it’s time to make up for that. The Crestwood House Monster Series was a set of juvenile books about the classic old movie monsters, including not only the Universal standards (Dracula, Wolf Man, Mummy) but also King Kong and several other spooks. They were filled with b&w photos and their covers had a black and orange scheme.
King Kong “suggests” you read about his friends. I don’t think it’s really a suggestion.
There were two types of these books. Some, like The Blob merely recapped one movie. Others, like Dracula, The Wolf Man, and King Kong, cover several movies as well as bits of related information. The Dracula book not only recaps the Bela Legosi Dracula film, but talks a little about Bram Stoker, Vlad Tepes, Translyvania, and other films like Dracula’s Daughter, Hammer’s Dracula, and Blackula.
The line about “the clever Japanese” is one that has stuck in my head since I first read this book in the school library. This is one of the lines that I love to find today, because I know I read that exact phrase all those years ago and so know that this must be the exact book I read back then.
Today, these books seem quite light to me, their information nowhere close to being indepth or authoritative. But as I read these books in the pre-VCR days, they were my only link to such films and my chief source of information about these monsters. And for that reason, they still have a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf.
King Kong seems to be the unofficial mascot of the Crestwood House Monster Series. I’m not sure why that is, but I like it.