Wednesday 30 September 2015

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #09 - Devil Priest Pack Part IX

Welcome once again to the dark and dubious world of Tomb of the Trumps! This week our investigations of the inspirations of the infamous vintage Horror Top Trumps, first dumps us in a very dank dungeon, the domain of Killer Rat! 

Now this was a very tricky fellow to track down! Indeed many of my predecessors who have probed the mysterious and arcane origins of the Horror Top Trumps concluded that this was a rare example of a wholly original piece by our Unknown Artist. And in all fairness, there seemed a reasonable assumption as there was no relevant rat-man in any monster movie that could have served as a model for this beastie. However there was something naggingly familiar about him, something I recognised even when I had these cards as a nipper, but could never quite place... That is until now! 

First up, the whole rodentine thing is something of a red herring, for what we have here is a bit of artistic collage. Yes, this is actually a rather better known monster disguised with a new head. Now the actual rat bonce could have been copied from almost anywhere - not wanted to sound rat-ist here, but they do all look alike! However given our Unknown Artist's usual selection of sources for images to copy from, I'd reckon a still for either killer rat flick Willard (1971) or its sequel Ben (1972) as the model for the rat head itself. But the main figure comes from a rather less obscure source. 

Now the key clues here are the barred window and the ripped white shirt. Ring any bells yet? No? Well, how about this... The bars suggest a scene in a prison cell, while the style of the shirt, one of those floppy affairs favoured by Romantic poets, suggests a ye olden days settings. Furthermore the fact it is torn rather suggests a violent bodily transformation has occurred. And the image of a rodent headed man does in itself conjure the words 'wererat'. So then, given that the rat head is paste-on job, we should be looking to werewolf cinema! 

Now then, can you name a movie in which a man transforms into a werewolf while in jail? Well, if you are in anyway acquainted with cinematic lycanthropy, I'm sure you know the answer - Hammer's 1961 classic Curse of the Werewolf. So then, I began scouring stills from that movie, and just for good measure it's demi-remake from Tyburn Legend of the Werewolf  (1975), which also features a floppy shirted wolf-man. However rather frustratingly I could not find a photo that matched, and it looked like the trail of the Killer Rat had gone cold...

...Until I remembered our Unknown Artist' previous form for cribbing from 1970s monster mags. Then it clicked - and I knew why this image had always been oddly familiar. In 1976, British comics maestro Dez Skinn launched the House of Hammer, a monthly mag devoted to the legendary horror film studio. And as well as articles and features on classic horror flicks, each issue boasted a comics adaptation of a classic Hammer movie by some of the finest creators working in the field at the time. Now Issue #10, published in March 1978, saw a gorgeous comicstrip version of Curse of the Werewolf, with art by the great John Bolton, and flipping through my aged copy, I found at last the template for the elusive Killer Rat! 

Note the pose and the distinctive shirt tatters - large drape on the left, and a pointy shred flapping out to the right!  On a purely personal and utterly self-indulgent note, I must say it's so satisfying to finally find the origin of Killer Rat - this one has been bugging me literally since I first got the Devil Priest pack three decades ago!

Thankfully the next exhibit in our rogue's gallery is far easier to identify!  

Now I'm sure this chap needs no introduction to kaiju fans, for "The Living Gargoyle" is in fact one of Godzilla's famous foes - the intergalactic space bastard Gigan. In the original cycle of Big G movies, the Showa series, this cyborg kaiju was first summoned to earth in Godzilla Vs. Gigan (1972) by aliens from the M Space Hunter Nebula, and called in once again by undersea miscreants from Seatopia the following year in Godzilla Vs. Megalon (1973). He would later appear again in more recent times in the third cycle of Godzilla movies, the Millennium series, in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), actually the final Big G movie from Toho (well, at least for now). In this flick, which features a whole array of famous kaiju, Gigan got to appear in two forms - in his original incarnation, and then later resurrected with new cybernetic enhancements, most notably twin chainsaws replacing his hook hands! Fun fact - Gigan was the first of Godzilla's foes to make the Big G bleed! And he was an utter bastard too - aside from some distinctly dirty fighting techniques, twice the big cyborg abandoned the monster we was allied, fucking off back into space when Godzilla was winning! Yes, there was a large element of chicken in Gigan, and not just in his design! 

However we do have a further possible mystery in this card. As we have discovered previously, our Unknown Artist was prone not just cribbing the monsters but also their victims. And given  the prone chap on this card has a very distinctive hand shape on his out-thrown arm, I rather suspect he has been copied from a movie still. But so far I've been unable to place the poor disemboweled sod... But if you recognise him, do drop me a line! 

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