Saturday, October 11, 2014

Creature Feature Cards Unearthed!

ON THE FRONT: The amphibious Gill Man from the Amazon, 
"Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954).
Waking up at 3 a.m. I find myself digging through a stained cardboard box of old trading cards, when the time travelling begins... Though not encased in plastic sleeves, and with softened corners and some slightly discolored images, when I purchased these varied sets (most never completed and the result of only a few single packs purchased) issues of preservation or potential value speculation were of little interest. I was ten years old and it was all about the stickers, hard gum and cards.

This morning I dug past those sets (again, in varying rates of completeness) such as Buck Rogers In the 23rd Century (1979), Star Trek the Motion Picture (1979) and Moonraker (1979), for something seasonal. With autumn in the air, and  Halloween just around the corner, I was pleased to find such a large number of Topps' 1980 Creature Feature cards adrift in the box. In addition to the cover card, and two of 22 possible stickers, I cobbled together about 60 different cards with (of course) numerous doubles, While I could give background about the Topps set, I'd rather point you to others (such as Mr. Potter's Fun-time Blog) who have already done so far better than I could have.

The Masked Phantom from
"The Phantom of the Opera" (1925).
Something was clearly in the air back in 1980 as I vividly recall buying these packs up at the Quick-and Easy, our local convenience store which also introduced me to comic books (on the wire spinning rack) and coin operated video games (Space Invaders, naturally). Back then, my brother and I would walk the two blocks to the store, look through the comic books, and check on any new trading cards that may have arrived. Bitten by the collecting bug thanks to Star Wars trading cards years earlier, we were game for nearly anything that came out.

Looking back at these cards now, my response now is likely very similar to the reaction I had many years ago. Hardly as humorous, they are after all from the "You'll Die Laughing" series, as intended, the black and white stills and images of famous (Boris Karloff as the Monster) and not-so-famous (Bela Lugosi as the Monster) actors and the creatures they portrayed are beautiful. The set includes the iconic (such as the aforementioned Frankenstein's monster as well as the prominently featured Creature From the Black Lagoon films) and lesser-known but beloved (by me anyway), Oliver Reed's werewolf in Hammer Films' The Curse of the Werewolf.

On the back of each card, in addition to a lame pun, joke or anecdote, is a very brief caption describing whats "ON THE FRONT." Unfortunately, the actors in each movie still are not credited, but fortunately I watched enough afternoon chillers to figure it out, so I've added (where possible) the names of the actor(s) involved using [brackets].

The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The 22 stickers are of "Monster Hall of Fame" members and original movie posters, or at least those that Topps had the rights to include. I loved the Creature (above) as a child, and feel the 1925 Phantom of the Opera, above, right, is still among the creepiest monster visuals in film.

ON THE FRONT: The air-breathing humanoid known as The Gilman
[Don Megowan] from "The Creature Walks Among Us" (1956).
The card above with a still from the third Creature movie refers to him as "The Gilman," (card #3 above), as opposed to "Gill Man" (card #39, top of post, and #68 below). While very likely a typo, it makes me wonder if the idea was to give him a more human name, though something more traditional might have helped him better acclimate to life on land.

These jokes still kill.
ON THE FRONT: Kharis [Lon Chaney, Jr.] the crumbling one
carries on in his third feature movie, "The Mummy's Ghost" (1944).
ON THE FRONT: A scene from the original "Frankenstein" (1931)
[starring Boris Karloff].
ON THE FRONT: A creature [Eddie Parker] from the past threatens the student
body in "Monster on the Campus" (1958).
ON THE FRONT: A fellow [Bryant Haliday] turned inside-out when an experiment went awry 
in "The Projected Man" (1964).
ON THE FRONT: The Gill Man [Tom Hennesy] was the most famous
movie monster created in the 1950's, from "Revenge of the Creature" (1955).
ON THE FRONT: Two of the screen's mightiest monsters
[played here by Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr.] were 
featured in "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" (1943).
ON THE FRONT: The hairy horror of "The Wolf Man" (1941)
iconically portrayed here by Lon Chaney, Jr..
ON THE FRONT: Only a silver bullet can end 
"The Curse of the Werewolf" (1961)
[here played by Oliver Reed].
ON THE FRONT: Kept alive for 5,700 years, it's Kharis [Tom Tyler]
from "The Mummy's Hand" (1940).
ON THE FRONT: The Cyclopean Xenomorph (got it?) from "It Came from Outer Space" (1953).
I'm definitely using this one at the next happy hour.
ON THE FRONT: Once a household pest, now 100 tons of horror, "Tarantula" (1955).
ON THE FRONT: "Feast your eyes, gut your soul,
behold my horror!" Another scene from the classic "Phantom
of the Opera". (1925) [starring Lon Chaney, Sr.]
ON THE FRONT: "The Mole People" were prehistoric creatures who lived at the
center of the earth in this 1956 chiller.
ON THE FRONT: From "This Island Earth" (1955).
All the creatures depicted in these cards are from films released in the U.S. by Universal. Given Universal Studios' current efforts to reboot their "Classic Monsters" in a shared "universe" (a' la Disney/Marvel's successful films) with the recently released Dracula Untold (2014), one wonders who may show up in future films. While Wolf-man, the Mummy and Frankenstein's monster would appear sure things (if Dracula proves financially successful) how great would it be if we also saw an update of The Mole People or  the long in development Creature from the Black Lagoon update?

Always leave 'em laughing!

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