Wednesday 30 March 2016

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #23 - Dracula Pack VIII

Ah the dear old Incredible Melting Man! Back when these cards first hit the stores, this chap needed no introduction as he was something of a playground legend. Thanks to ill-timed TV spots, inappropriately scheduled trailers, and of course assorted reports from older siblings 1977's The Incredible Melting Man was one of those titles that a lot of kids desperately wanted to see,  but thanks to the UK's film classification rules were highly unlikely to. Daft really, as the tale of an astronaut who turns into a huge puddle of goo had kid's entertainment written all over it! After all, this was the era when cans of Slime were all the rage! 

Alright, there was all that business with eating folks to slow down his melting but we could have handled that! We didn't buy that "first new horror creature" lark - we'd all figured out that this was just a splattery version of The Incredible Shrinking Man! And provided there wasn't a freaking terrifying giant spider in it, most of us reckoned we could handle seeing ol' Melty gnawing on a limb or too... Of course that was never going to happen, as it was this movie wouldn't be still in theatres when we'd all grown up enough to be let in, and obviously, this was a movie that would never get shown on the telly... 

But.... a few year later, the dawn of the home video era, or perhaps more accurately, the dawn of the little shops whose owners would happily hire out all manner of dubious material to little kids era, meant that we finally got our wish!  And you know what - the movie's rubbish! Brilliant effects from a young Rick Baker mind you, but other than that utter tosh! Ah well... Some things are best left in the imagination, and old Pizza-face is one of 'em! 

So then, moving on to our next card, it looks like we are in one of the better neighbourhoods in Monster Movie Land! Or at least, so it first appears... 

Ah King Kong! A true classic! Up there with Dracula and Frankenstein in the ranks of the monsters everybody on the damn planet knows! However - and prepare for a shock here - this ISN'T King Kong. Nope, it's not the Beast from Skull Island in any of his assorted screen incarnations! And yes, that does included the somewhat mangy looking suitamation versions from the likes of Toho. However this is a close relative of Kong, albeit linked to the cinema's most famous movie primate via a little bit of legal DNA.

Basically the story goes like this... Back in the 1950s, exploitation kings AIP had had great success in taking old movie monsters and giving them a modern spin - hence Universal's Wolf Man spawned I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), Victor Frankenstein gained a modern day descendant in I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (also 1957), and the Count inspired the teens menaced by vampires flick Blood of Dracula (yes, 1957 again). 

Now then the genius behind  I Was a Teenage Werewolf was a chap maned Nat Cohen, who thought the time was right for a giant gorilla thriller along the lines of King Kong but now in glorious colour! And given the success of AIP's teen monster trilogy, he was soon given a big bag of cash to go and make that happen. And hence he threw a large wedge at RKO - $25, 000 in fact - for the rights to the Kong name, and work began on a movie with the working title "I Was a Teenage Gorilla". I kid you not! However rather than the teen Americana that informed the previous monster movies, this project soon took a different direction. It skipped over the pond to merry England and Konga (1961) was born!    

Now in this movie, instead of the usual go off to some remote jungle place and capture one helluva monkey plot which served various versions and sequels for King Kong and Mighty Joe Young so well, Konga has well meaning but mad boffin Dr. Charles Dexter (played by genre legend Michael Gough) experimenting with a growth formula. He makes all kinds of giant plant and animals before testing it on a young chimp... Now swiftly stepping passed awkward questions such as how does a growth formula manage to turn one species of ape (i.e. a chimpanzee) into another different one (i.e. a gorilla), Konga surprisingly doesn't have the monster-sized monkey escape and run amok as usual. Instead our prodigious primate is hypnotized by the wicked Dr. Dexter to go and wreak revenge on his rivals and enemies!

Is it a good film? Well, not really... But a prime slice of monkey business? Certainly is! While the movie isn't as fun as the Godzilla-knock-off Gorgo who menaced 1960s Blighty, Konga is certainly more entertaining than The Giant Behemoth, a radioactive saurian that stomped London in the same era. But like Gorgo, Konga got his own comic series from Charlton, which you can read for free here!

Next week - the return of a familiar face and some unpleasantness involving a goat and Ernest Borgnine!


Unknown said...

Maybe it's just me but the incredible melting man doesn't seem like all that much of a threat when all you have to do is wait a little bit while he dissolves into a puddle of goo with no need for any tiresome counter measures on your part.

Jim Moon said...

Actually that's pretty much what happens in the movie if I recall correctly... I seem to remember he ends up being mopped up by a cleaner!

Anonymous said...

I've read that the cards were released in either 1977 or 78, which is hot on the heels of The Incredible Melting Man(1977). Personally, I had never seen either pack until around '82, even in the hands of the most obsessive, older Trumpists.
Does anyone remember these from the '70s or did they appear later?

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I cant help you there. I'm a second generation fan, born after their release; the cards were gifted to me by a bad uncle. I think I had both sets, but they may have been incomplete- I certainly never had them all in the same time at the same place.
They certainly made quite the impression on me, and I think I can hold them responsible for my genre interests. I even painted a gorilla mask to better resemble Zetan Warlord, but it melted into a horrific mess. I would place that in about 1991 so they were still being played with about 10 years after their release.

Anonymous said...

I had them in the seventies along with the Marvel Heroes and Dr. Who sets.