Categories
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
Categories
Toys & Collectibles

High Stakes: Van Helsing Joins Diamond Select Monster Series

Diamond Select Toys' Van Helsing action figure prototype as seen at Toy Fair 2014.
Diamond Select Toys’ Van Helsing action figure prototype as seen at Toy Fair 2014.
Van the Man…
Diamond Select Toys is taking the opportunity to expand the monster line with a unique design of their own. DST’s Van Helsing, is an armed-to-the-teeth vision of the vampire hunter with a wizened and battle scarred countenance. With his axe, rifle, pistol and bandolero of wooden spikes he’s clearly a determined and formidable foe for the feral creatures of the night.

With many of us still cringing from the loopy Hugh Jackman misstep of 2004 Van Helsing was a risky choice. Fortunately DST presents him as an effective cross between the grandfatherly character portrayed by Edward Van Sloan in 1931 and Anthony Hopkins’ frenzied doctor of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (1992.)

The Van Helsing “Select” version is the most ornate of the three new Wave 5 boxed packages. The base provides a cemetery scene with dual tombstones and vicious vampire bride Mina Harker pouching from her grave.

More Monsters…
I’ve been stalking Diamond Select Toy’s fifth wave of Universal Monsters figures since they first appeared as early prototypes in DST’s Toy Fair Booth back in 2013.

These two newest 7 inch scale action figures present Boris Karloff as The Monster from Son of Frankenstein, and a new version of The Creature From the Black Lagoon. The Jean St. Jean sculpts are created with “super articulation,” giving the models many more poseable points of movement than their previous incarnations.

DST has announced these items in blister-carded Toys “R” Us Exclusive configurations (already on the shelves) as well as “Select” boxes, available shortly in comic book shops, or for pre-order. The “Select” versions add extraordinarily detailed bases and props.

Inspector Krogh "lends a hand (and arm) to Karloff's "Son of Frankenstein" TRU Exclusive. Image Courtesy of Diamond Select Toys.
Inspector Krogh “lends a hand (and arm) to Karloff’s “Son of Frankenstein” TRU Exclusive. Image Courtesy of Diamond Select Toys.

The Monster is portrayed with a slightly more gaunt look than Karloff lensed in the original 1939 film. He is clothed in his signature “Son of” wooly vest, a look that will forever remind me of Sonny Bono’s preferred garb in the 1960’s. In addition to more articulation The Creature update trumps its Wave 1 predecessor with, to my eye, a sculpt more accurate to its film appearance and a glossier aquatic paint finish.

“Armed” and Dangerous…
The “Select” Son of Frankenstein comes with an awesome Kenneth Strickfaden inspired piece of electrical laboratory gear that will remind old school collector’s like myself of the similar rig that was part of Aurora’s classic Bride of Frankenstein tableau. No Son of Frankenstein collectible would be complete without the wooden arm of Lionel Atwill’s Inspector Krogh for the monster to swing around. For me it’s a must have, and I’m glad to report it comes in both packaging configurations, so you won’t be torn (hee, hee.)

SkeletonPete Says…
While I’m happy to learn that Diamond Select will continue to offer Universal Monster figures in another wave next year, I also applaud the initiative to bring some of their own creative juice to the monster mix.

The Aurora Plastic Model Company did this quite effectively in late 1960’s. Their Forgotten Prisoner of Castle Mare, The Witch, and The Guillotine models were equally cherished by collectors. In fact they are the only intact original Aurora models I still have. The others succumbed to an ill advised tangle with a barrage of firecrackers one fateful Independence day.