Wednesday, 20 September 2017


Welcome once again guys and ghouls to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Well then, dear fiends last week we were poking about the spider-infested garages of the 'Orrible Old 'Ouse and uncovering the history of a curious vehicle - the Landmaster! Now this 12 wheeled armoured behemoth was the star of 1977's ill-fated movie adaptation of Roger Zelazny's seminal SF tale Damnation Alley. And as we recounted last time, although 20th Century Fools, I mean Fox, had this production aimed at bustin' the proverbial blocks, the movie instead ran straight into a wall, and Star Wars (rightly) cleaned up at the box office. 

Now this meant that the only real merchandise - as far as I can tell - was a re-release of the original novel with the movie poster on the cover. And despite being a very cool future vehicle, there was never any Landmaster toys made. Which was a  real shame, as it looked like a cross between Captain Scarlet's Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (S.I.G!) and the SHADO 2 Mobile from UFO. I'm sure that a Dinky Landmaster would have sold by the ton, and much like the toy versions of Gerry Anderson vehicles, would have continued to sell for years after the movie had vanished from our screens. Anyhow, remembrances of Dinky toys past is a subject for another day...

Top - Shado 2 Mobile, Bottom - Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (but you knew that already right?) 

However there was actually a Landmaster toy of sorts, and therein lies a strange tale! Now the origins of this now much prized plaything are somewhat obscure, possibly for a variety of legal reasons. For in 1977, Matchbox, the famed maker of metal cars, released a new line of toys entitled Adventure 2000. Branded as SF vehicles, this range consisted of three vehicles that came with little plastic figures shaped like soldiers or lawmen from the future. The catalogue blurbs gives us a tantalizing sketch of a backstory for these exciting vehicles - 
The year is 2000 – The planets prepare for battle. Re-enact the excitement of inter-planetary conflict with the action-packed vehicles from Adventure 2000
Now the trio consisted of the Flight Hunter (K-2002 for collectors) which was a snazzy little space-age sports car that had the added bonus of pop-out wings. Yes, a flying car! Pretty nifty right!  

OK so far, so cool. But the next vehicle was highly intriguing - the Crusader (K-2003). While fast cars might be very swish, and the additional power of flight a suitably SF extra, for the eternal wars waged my small children, you can't beat a good tank! And so, enter the Crusader, which just happened to be an eight wheeled armoured truck... Sounds a bit familiar, no? Well, note that snub nosed front? And the rear-roof mounted rotating gun turret? Yes, now you come to mention it, it does have a certain Landmaster-y quality to it. Funny that... 

However where things get very interesting indeed is with the flagship vehicle in the range, the mighty K-2001 Raider Command. Now this toy was the mutie's meatballs, and I have to say, one of the most exciting die-cast toy vehicles you could own back in the day. This beast of a fighting machine actually split up into two vehicles, with a fast front section for speedy pursuits, while the armoured  rear section was equipped with tank tracks and a  rocket launcher. Plus with the press of a button, the Raider Command didn't just separate, but the front module actually fired off, sending it zipping over carpets and floors at high speed. The rocket launcher actually worked too - not real rockets obviously, it was just the usual spring powered launcher. But it was very pretty deadly, or at least hazardous to younger siblings and pets.  

However, once again, the nose of the front module is somewhat familiar, while the armoured rear's red rocket array and triangular wheel arrangement should be ringing so bells too. Now as I said, this range of toys was launched in 1977 the same year as the movie of Damnation Alley was released, and as we remarked last week, the pre-publicity for the movie did put the Landmaster front and centre. But interestingly, the copyright date for the Adventure 2000 range is listed as 1976 which rather suggests that visual echoes of Damnation Alley in the designs might be just a coincidence. 

Furthermore while no one really predicted before the fact that Star Wars was going to be a mega-block buster and start a whole boom for science fiction and fantasy flicks, there was a general feeling in the air that SF was going to be the Next Big Thing. For example, consider Britain's top SF comic 2000 AD which was also launched in 1977. Now, as we all have 1977 imprinted into our brains as the year that Star Wars was born, we assume that the Mighty Tharg's thrill-powered comic was created to cash in on the Star Wars boom. But the fact is George Lucas's opus didn't hit British cinemas until the end of the December (the 15th to be precise fact fans), and that was just the London opening, with most folks in the UK actually seeing it in early 1978. Now 2000 AD was launched on the 26th February 1977, a good eleven months before anyone in the UK knew what a wookie was, and even three months before the movie's US premiere on the 25th of May!  

So then clearly as early as 1976, there was a general sense that SF was going to be the proverbial next big thing. Obviously both Matchbox and IPC Comics were angling to get in on the ground floor, and somehow both settled on using the then reeking of the future date 2000 in the titles of their products.

But all that said, in 1978 something happened that would link the novel Damnation Alley, the Landmaster from the movie, Adventure 2000, and 2000 AD too, in one exciting package! And Provided the Slay Riders don't get you,next week meet me back here in the radlands of pop culture to discover what happened next! (But here's a drokking large clue...) 


Anonymous said...

It may not be 100% movie accurate, but the toy I was thinking of was the Palitoy Z Force Armoured Personnel Carrier from the old Action Force line. Pretty certain it had 8 wheels and definitely has a similar angular cab.
Mine was used as the Empire's back up command vehicle after the legs, chin guns, access hatch and cockpit fell off my AT-AT. I always had to Chicken Walker drivers steering it though. The original was lost in combat sometime in the early 90s. I procured another near Christmas last year on ebay, crewed it with the best (and cheapest) vintage stormtroopers I could find and presented it to a cheesed off nephew who was fed up being away from his new Avengers and Ninjago sets on Boxing Day.
It now takes pride of place rammed into the bottom of several different drawers of his toy cupboard.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I suppose their is a certain similarity in the front ends of those vehicles.
If you can tell me which AF vehicle was apparently influenced by the above Shado 2 Mobile and the vehicle depicted in the Judge Dredd art, I'll tip my hat at a true AF afficionado. No Googling.

Anonymous said...

Sorry chum, mines were hand me downs, Action Force had amalgamated with the GI Joe toy line by the time I was into them and they had fancier articulated joints than their static limbed Palitoy cousins.
As I'm a gentleman (or at least have some pretensions of being one) I didn't google it and masquerade as a Z Force veteran.
Put me out of my misery

Anonymous said...

Hyena. Driver : Red Jackal.