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Film & Television Series Photography Toys & Collectibles

Better Run Through the Jungle: Noble Collection Meets Universal Monsters

It’s Monster Monday Again!

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
The Noble Collection’s Creature From the Black Lagoon Bendy Fig captured in
a paper craft jungle.

“A sleepy lagoon, a tropical moon, and two on an island” is how the lyrics of the 1940 Number 1 hit song imagines a jungle paradise. That’s certainly not what Julie Adams and Richard Carlson encountered when their archeological team traveled down the Amazon in the now classic 1954 monster movie The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It was way more of a creepy lagoon and prehistoric goon experience.  

The Creature from the Black Lagoon ranks as my favorite of the big five Universal Studios monsters, and we’ve featured many different collectible renditions on this site in the last decade. So I’ve been looking forward to setting up a photography session with the Bendy Figs toy version of “the creech” for quite some time. The 6 inch action figure is part of The Noble Collection’s first Universal Monsters Series. Wave 1 also includes Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride. 

Noble Toys has an expansive group of licensed Bendy Figs ranging from the DC Universe and Star Trek, to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings ( I think I’ve gotta getta Gollum).

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography

Bend Me, Shape Me…

Based on the product name you might expect Bendy Figs to have a Stretch Armstrong feel, with extremities you could coax to unnatural length. But bendy simply refers to their flexible but unjointed build. Though their articulation is fluid they don’t have a boneless floppiness. In fact the figures have a nicely balanced weight to them. They’re fun to handle and pose.

I found The Creature model to be beautifully sculpted with lots of detail both front and back. Though box art represents the monster’s standard film look, the actual figure is features unique variations. It’s head sculpt introduces a fearsome, fang-filled, characterization that I like very much.

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography

Even when subjected to close-up lens scrutiny I found the paint work on the production piece I photographed to be applied with care. In particular, The Creature’s froggy black and yellow eyes are precisely rendered. 

For display purposes the figure stands solidly on its inscribed base, which has pegs that insert into the bottom of the doll’s feet. Though actual movement is limited, arm positioning provided a useful range of expression for my photos. Overall my impression is that it’s an excellent collector’s piece with imaginative play possibilities for youngsters.

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography

If You Build It…

Based on a last minute decision the project became as much a things to make and do task as it was a photo session. 

I chose to create all the set pieces as physical props and light them in the spirit of a studio film. I remembered promotional photos, like those for The Wolfman, (1940) where a few tree branches on an atmospherically lit (but otherwise empty) soundstage could suggest an entire forest.

So the production ethic became no digital imaging embellishments, no photos of my backyard weeds posing as Amazonian undergrowth, and positively no plastic ferns. I wanted this project to be made from scratch as much as possible, so I undertook the task of building a miniature set with paper-craft techniques.

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
Behind the scenes of my tabletop jungle built from
construction paper and cardboard scraps.
(photo © Peter Parrella 2021)

Craft Services…

During the build I got a chance to try out some recently purchased ceramic blades produced by the company called Slice. I found they worked great for precisely cutting out the construction paper leaves, and lightly scoring fold junctures. I stuck with my trusty Xacto #11 blades when cutting through  the heavier corrugated cardboard of the tree trunks.

Lighting was handled in part with a Lume Cube 2.0 kit. These lights and their accessories afforded an easily positionable solution for miniature photography. Adjustable luminance levels and miniature grids and snoots allowed me to go from subtle shading to expressionist level contrast. 

All of the Lume Cube accessories have magnetic attachments, so nothing falls off in the middle of a shoot. This makes them particularly well suited to table top set work. They are also controllable from a iOS app, which I did not try but can see the value of in the future.

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
Some Mario Bava inspired color effects were achieved with
Lume Cube 2.0 lights and gels.

What Would Bava Do..?

I recently watched the 1961 sword and sandal epic Hercules in the Haunted World, on the KinoCult Network. It was a super clean print that accentuated the artistry of set designer/director Mario Bava. Bava is well known for the way he used an explosive color palette to elevate often minimal sets. With Lume Cube’s supplied color gels I was able to experiment with similar super saturated color juxtapositions in the style of the maestro.

SkeletonPete Says…

This was a fun pre-Halloween project. It offered me the opportunity to work with some “new-ish” equipment, polish up my rusty paper arts skills, and try some visual techniques I’ve been eager to explore. I’m planning on a similar shoot with the Bendy Figs Frankenstein Monster in the near future.

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
The Noble Collection’s Bendy Figs Universal Monsters, Series 1 Box Art.
noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
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Toys & Collectibles

Super Funky: 70’s Style ReAction Figures @ NY Toy Fair 2014

The Crow, The Creature, Rocketeer and Snake Pliskin are 4 of my favorite ReAction Figures.
The Crow, The Creature, Rocketeer and Snake Pliskin are 4 of my favorite ReAction Figures.

Go Figure…
When Super7 and Funko announced their partnership in producing a 3.75 inch Alien figure set last August, they promised the collaboration would yield a lot more surprises. That was probably one of the biggest understatements of all time. At Funko’s 2014 Toy Fair booth the companies revealed an over 60 figure roll out for the ReAction line. The retro feel of the characters harks back to Kenner’s Star Wars figures of the 1970’s.

Super 7 & Funko's ReAction Alien set will be followed by over 60 3.75" figures.
Super 7 & Funko’s ReAction Alien set will be followed by over 60 3.75″ figures.

Many under served franchises like Goonies, Pulp Fiction, Escape From New York, Firefly, and the original Buffy, the Vampire Slayer film are fully represented, although sadly the Rocketeer is missing a companion Betty.

Modern monster fans will get a chance to add to their Nightmare on Elmstreet, Halloween, Friday the Thirteenth collections and also enjoy miniature spins on Sam from Trick ‘r Treat, Hellraiser‘s Pinhead Cenobite and my favorite, a pretty awesome rendition of The Crow. The Terminator and Predator franchises are represented too, with a cool, clear, “active camo” version of a Yautja hunter.

A bit less off the beaten path, classic Universal Horror fans will have there choice of 8 figures, including a rather dapper Invisible Man in smoking jacket, though the Frankenstein Monster is looking a little strange in a grey suit. There’s also a selection of Nightmare Before Christmas characters.

The individually blister-carded miniature series will roll out through the end of 2014 and retail for $9.99 each.

SkeletonPete Says…
This is a pretty amazing assortment of licensed items released in a short period of time. While I don’t see most collectors buying ’em all, there’s enough diversity to make lots of people covet at least 50% of the offerings. If there’s a Wave 2 down the road, I’d love to see Dusk ‘Til Dawn, Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill, and Sucker Punch represented.

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Toys & Collectibles

New World Ardor… Living Dead Dolls Celebrate A Record Breaking Sweet Sixteen

Mezco Toyz, Living Dead Dolls Series 27. (L to R) Mephistopheles, The Banshee, Milu, Spring-Heeled Jack and The Hopping Vampire
Mezco Toyz, Living Dead Dolls Series 27. (L to R) Mephistopheles, The Banshee, Milu, Spring-Heeled Jack and The Hopping Vampire

Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed, Any Wonder?…
2014 marks the sixteenth anniversary of Mezco Toyz’ Living Dead Dolls line. This milestone makes these creepy creations the longest continually produced series of horror themed dolls on the planet. Mezco’s Mike Drake informed me that the company will be honored for this world record at the Toy Industry Association’s 111th Annual American International Toy Fair which begins in New York City in just a couple of days.

The outre, coffin encased, dollies are the brainchild of Ed Long, Damien Glonek, and “Mez” Markowitz, whose artistic imagination must be commended on this long run of sardonic but fun characters. Damien notes, “I couldn’t be happier with the support and dedication our fans have given us throughout the years. The dolls have taken on a life of their own…” As for their inception, “There was never a thought out plan when we first started. Living Dead Dolls was built upon a do what we like attitude and it grew into something beyond our wildest expectations.”

Living Dead Dolls Series 27…
A world record calls for a world vision and so for Series 27 the creators have set their nets wide and come up with a cosmopolitan collection of characters of myth and legend. 

Spring Heeled Jack – The Victorian urban legend of penny dreadful fame that terrorized London. A creeper and a leaper.

The Banshee – The Irish fairy who heralds death with her mournful wail. If she sits with you for a pint of Guinness be sure your life insurance policy is paid up.

Milu – The Polynesian goddess and guardian of the land of the dead. Mess with this Tiki temptress and you won’t be drinking piña coladas at Trader Vic’s for long. She’ll fill you full of flys and feed you to her pet lizards.

The Hopping Vampire – The life force absorbing Jiangshi of pan-asian folklore and popular film series.

Mephistopheles – The devilish trickster and adversary of Goethe’s Faust. Sign on the dotted line at your own risk.

In addition, Colonial America will get it’s due with a Headless Horseman LDD, complete with malevolent looking pumpkin noggin, and Series 1 character Posey, comes back from the undead in a ghostly white special edition.

Mezco's LDD Creature is still in the working stages, but promises to be a real collector's treat.
Mezco’s LDD Creature is still in the working stages, but promises to be a real collector’s treat.

SkeletonPete Says…
Also announced, though not on display at Mezco’s early reveal, is an LDD version of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It will join the already available Frankenstein, Bride of, and Dracula dolls. It’s going to be a must own for creach fans like myself. The still to be approved prototype is pictured in Mezco’s 2014 Toy Fair catalog and it is already too cool to pass up.

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Film & Television Series SkeletonPete Says Toys & Collectibles

Diamond Select Toys’ Next Wave of Universal Monsters Collectibles

Diamond Select Mini-Mates, "Kings of Fools" Quasimodo and Esmeralda

Toy Fair 2012 revelations continue with a look at Diamond Select Toys. In this centennial year of Universal Pictures, Diamond Select is poised to continue their roll-out of licensed Universal Monsters figures with an interesting assortment of creature creations. Product waves 1 & 2 gave us exceptional interpretations of the “top tier” in Universal’s horror hierarchy, featuring Frankenstein, Count Dracula, The Mummy, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Select packaging added great extras like the Mummy’s massive sarcophagus and a jaw-dropping Julie Adams figurine for the Gillman to menace.

Phantoms and Mutants and Moles, oh my…
Waves 3 & 4 – due in September 2012 and 2013 respectively – will offer an intriguing variety as we dive deeper into the monster pantheon. Some of my favorite characters will be represented including silent horror icon Lon Chaney Sr. in the role of The Phantom of the Opera and the mother of all bug-eyed monsters The Metaluna Mutant from 1955’s “This Island Earth”. Select packaging will again include impressive extras (pipe organ, Metalunan Interocitor) and collectors should be aware of some Toys R Us variants. The Invisible Man is listed for a Toys R Us September 2012 release also but wasn’t on display – or was he?

The pictured Wave 4 prototypes (some still awaiting licensor approval) give us a sneak peek at the next range of silent through 50’s options. This time Chaney Sr. portrays Notre Dame’s hunchback, Quasimodo. Boris Karloff’s Dr. Jeckyll is complimented by his monstrous Mr. Hyde in select “roof top” edition. Karloff’s J&H terrorized comedians Abbott & Costello and is a fun, unexpected, choice. I’m extremely jazzed to add The Mole Man (“The Mole People”, 1956) to the collection. I always loved those creepy claws.

More Monstrous Fun…
Other goodies expand the “Retro Cloth” line with Series 3’s “Bride of Frankenstein” and “Creature From the Black Lagoon” and Munsters fans will love the details on the “racer” garbed Herman, Grandpa, and Lily characters due for September 2012 release. The Munster kids – werewolf Eddie and and misfit Marilyn – will arrive in a two pack this summer and sometime in the future we may even be treated to a Munster’s mansion grand stairway, with house pet “Spot”.

For those strapped for shelf space (like myself) the very popular Mini-Mates figures can quench your collector itch without making you a candidate for an episode of Hoarders. A nice option for memorabilia minded Dads and Uncles, the design ingenuity of these blocky little babies always makes me chuckle. Mummy and silent Hunchback sets are in the pipeline for later this year.

Diamond’s newest Universal related product is a line of vinyl “Bust Banks”. Starting with the Frankenstein monster (prototype pictured) and the Black Lagoon Creature. Imagine the coolness factor of carting these puppies to the local TD Bank change counting machine. Both are slated for September 2012.

SkeletonPete Says…
Diamond continues to produce quality sculpted figures in packages priced to give buyers the opportunity to own display pieces as well as keep pristine packages for their collections. Considering that Frankenstein’s bride was on the short list for the Universal Monsters line, my personal wish-list would include Ernest Thesiger’s Dr. Pretorius (complete with bottled homunculi), Dwight Frye as Fritz, and of course Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein.

Keep an eye on SkeletonPete for information on Diamond’s first wave of “Mad Monster Party” figures, and hit Ken Pierce’s PiercingMetal Musings for Toy Fair coverage, soon to include Marvel Select, DC Direct and superhero mini-mates.

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