It’s Monster Monday Again!
“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 Collections’ 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).
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.
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.
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.
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 model 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.
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.
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.