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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
Categories
Books & Graphic Novels Film & Television Series

Shopping Black Sunday: Video WatchDog Mag Goes Digital

Grab the Current Digital Issue for Free!
Grab the Current Digital Issue for Free!

Update: As of December 23, 2013 Tim and Donna moved their crowd-funding efforts for this endeavor to Indiegogo. Please follow this link for information. Fundraising will continue until February 2, 2014, and there is a chance to get some really nice investor perks for as little as $10.00.

If you ventured out on Black Friday for a deal, shopped on “mom and pop” centric Small Business Saturday, or just can’t wait until Cyber-Monday, here’s my spin – with tongue planted firmly in cheek – for a perfect Black Sunday shopping experience.

Release the Hounds…
Tim and Donna Lucas, the dynamic duo of publishing in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres, have begun offering the content of their exceptional digest sized print magazine Video Watchdog in digital download format as well. While an issue is “current” (usually for 2 months) the price is FREE!. Afterward a digital back issue will be priced @ $3.99 for a download. Yes, a “crazy business model” as Donna has noted, but one that potentially gets VW into the hands of many more interested parties.

Currently available for reading on Apple mobile products, like iPad, Donna assures Android compatibility is coming shortly. You can also access it on your computer as I did, and reap the full rewards of the new format. Grab issue 175 NOW while it’s $0 dinero. It’s yours forever and will work on multiple platforms as they are introduced at no added cost. The digital issues are loaded with media extras like trailers for the films discussed, audio notes from the editor, and even “live” adverts that can be as much fun as the editorial content.

Reanimator….
Buried in my basment, neatly boxed and numbered, is every issue of Video Watchdog. It’s an amazing wealth of information published over the last 25 years, but essentially dead, or at least dormant, without an indexing system. Trust me.

The good news is that in addition to forthcoming issues, Tim and Donna have launched a Video Watchdog Kickstarter Project in order to fund the digitizing of their entire back catalog. Yes, every issue of VW created in the last 25 years, even those long out of print, will again be available. Most importantly they will be searchable, yielding an incredible amount of film scholarship at your fingertips. There are a number of different packages available based on your contribution and you should hop over there to get a look.

Tim's Titanic Tome on Mario Bava Goes Mobile
Tim’s Titanic Tome on Mario Bava Goes Mobile

Sysiphus Relieved…
If that wasn’t enough, Tim’s titanic tome All the Colors of the Dark, a biography of Mario Bava, the director of the classic Black Sunday, is now also available in digital form. The original printed book sells for as much as $250.00 and requires a wheel barrow to move from room to room. It’s a labor of love and filled with the kind of obsessive detail genre fanatics like myself crave. Now Tim and Donna are offering an unexpurgated, in fact expanded with media, digital version for a meager $29.99. A digital “stocking stuffer” for the horror fan in your house if I ever saw one.

SkeletonPete Says…
If you truly miss the heft of the original Bava Book, which is beautiful in it’s own right and still eminently collectible, I suggest a few fishing weights attached to your iPad could help simulate the experience. Otherwise the digital version is the preferred medium for subway, bus and plane trips.

All current Video Watchdog digital content, including a sample of the Bava book, can be found here. The download requires a one time Video Watchdog account creation, then you are ready to rock. Enjoy!