The Creature from the Black Lagoon Tin Wind-Up
Review by Sanjeev
It's always dames, isn't it?
There you are: a perfectly peaceful monster, hanging out doing monster stuff. Then some pretty girl strolls by...and you're pretty much all done at that point. Just give it up. You're gonna die...probably horribly.
Okay, sure, the basic plot of 1954's The Creature from the Black Lagoon is all that terribly original (*ahem*...1933's King Kong), but I've always been fond of underwater-themed robots and monsters. For example, the only mecha I like from Gundam are the wacky aquatic Zeon robots from the original series and some of my favorite Toho kaiju are the mutated creatures from Yog: The Space Amoeba. And my all-time favorite Universal Studios monster? You guessed it!
But my fondness for watery beasties notwithstanding and despite the lack of innovation in terms of plot, I think the true appeal of the Gill-Man comes from the execution if not the concept. The Creature is an evolutionary throw-back, a sort of missing link in humanity's evolution. Only this is no bigfoot! The Gill-Man is obviously an amphibious version of ourselves--only savage and monsterously strong. Certainly part of what made the film so popular was the how good the monster actually looked. Anyone can tell that King Kong was stop-motion animation; the Gill-Man, however, was visually actualized by actors in perfect costumes.
Ricou Browning played the creature in all of the flawlessly-rendered underwater scenes. Not only did he look totally natural swimming in the costume--effectively using the webbed hands--but there were no air-bubbles coming from the suit to betray the air-breathing actor. Next, Ben Chapman played the creature in all of the scenes on land. Here, again, the costume performed admirably. Covered from head to toe in the seamless suit, even false eyes were used to complete the eerie ensemble. Even the Gill-Man's gills puffed in and out in a subtle motion that added to the creepy realism. All in all, a very convincing monster...and the subject of this toy review!
The tin wind-up toy reviewed here was produced in 1991 by a company called "Robot House", a US-based Univeral Monsters licensee. I've been told by Jay at Robot Island, a dealer of fine tin wind-up toys, that Robot House was granted the license to the characters and then contracted Billiken Shokai of Japan to manufacture the toys. Billiken--perhaps more famous for their high-quality, realistic vinyl tokusatsu kits and figures--are NO slackers when it comes to tin. And that quality clearly shows in these toys.
Along with the Creature, Robot House produced Frankenstein's monster, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy. In 1992, the company was renamed to "Mike Company", when they produced a similar Dracula wind-up with a slighty different style of packaging.
Now, I have to make the disclaimer that I don't normally "collect" tin walkers. As I'm fond of saying, I "buy what I like"...and that tends to be a little bit of everything. I only have about 10 tins and I bought them simply because I thought they were beautiful toys--they're not vintage or anything...and I really don't know much about the tin "MARKET".
I'm not too sure what constitutes an "outstanding" tin because I simply haven't seen enough to be able to judge what "outstanding" even is! The first four monsters will run you around $40-50 on the aftermarket. While the Mummy is becoming more and more scarce, the Gill-Man appears to be the most plentiful. Dracula, unfortunately, will run you around $125 easily. I don't know if that's a "lot" for a non-vintage (well...16 years old) tin walker, but I will say that based on the sheer quality of these pieces, it's worth it.
I think the whole look of this piece is fantastic. This was actually the first of these Universal tins that I ran across while browsing eBay for Creature merchandise. Not even being all that passionate about tins, once I got a good look at the quality of the lithography on the tin and the sculpt and paint of the vinyl parts, I was sold.
And speaking of the tin, the colors and style are perfect as far as I'm concerned. As with the other Universal tins, the art style is far from photo-realistic, but not too exaggerated or cartoony. It produces almost an impressionistic look for the toy that makes it unmistakably recognizable as the Gill-Man. The use of darker green striations across the lighter green base create a nice scaley effect. Also, the addition of gold scales and frills also works well with the gold used on the vinyl parts and serve to mimick the glinty wet look the creature had after coming out of the water onto land in the movie.
Besides the tin bits, the vinyl parts--the head and hands--are just as well-rendered. These parts are hollow and very lightweight, but they are also very stiff unlike your typical sofubi ("soft vinyl").
Unlike Robot House's Wolf Man and Mummy, I find the face of the Creature flawless. The surface detail is gorgeous. There doesn't appear to be any dry-brushing, but the green vinyl is over-sprayed with gold along the flared ridges of the gills. Also, red paint was air-brushed onto raised bumps and ridges on his skin; these details complement the red of his lips and tongue well. Also, the silver used in the eyes matches the sort of dead "fish-eye" look of the Creature from the movie.
Next up is my favorite part of the toy: the hands. Again, unlike the others in the series, there's no dry-brushing used here--it's all air-brushing. The green vinyl matches the color used on the tin brilliantly, but a light spray of gold paint was used on the palms and backs of the hands. Also, the claws were painted in a dark bone color and raised details on the palms of the hands were painted red. That the manufacturers even bothered to paint details on the palms of the hands is just astounding! If that isn't "quality", I don't know what is.
Again, this toy looks great overall. The colors flow nicely between the vinyl parts and the tin body, and the style of the artwork on the tin ties the simple shapes of the body to the realistic sculpt of the head and hands.
Anyway, not a whole lot more to say about this piece. I think a video review wouldn't help too much seeing as how it's a tin walker. You wind it up...and he walks as the arms swing back and forth. The winding action is nice and smooth and the movement is brisk--if a tad noisy.
|Posted 30 October, 2007 - 10:22 by Sanjeev|