Tag Archives: steve wang

Monster Merch!

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nThough the theatrical release of The Monster Squad was an unfortunate failure (grossing around $3.8M against a estimated $12M budget in its two week big screen run), looking back I’m surprised that there wasn’t even a miniscule attempt to merchandise the film.  Most of those decisions and all of that work typically comes in the year leading up to a movie’s release, and seeing how this was made at the apex of 80s era merch and branding when even films specifically aimed at adult (Robocop, Rambo II, and The Toxic Avenger) were getting toy lines, branded school supplies and lunchboxes.  In my eyes The Monster Squad is a licensing goldmine.  I mean there are great creatures to make action figures out of, there are a ton of catch phrases worthy of t-shirts, and they had a deal in place with both Burger King and Adidas, I mean come on, where are my BK Collector Glasses featuring the monsters or my navy blue satin Adidas jackets emblazoned with the Monster Squad logo?!?  Speaking of Adidas, I love this Monster Squad tie-in poster that was used in shoe stores back in 1987.  I wish I could get a better scan of it, but alas, this is not in my personal collection (I saw in on ebay years ago and stupidly passed on bidding…)  I would kill to have this on my wall now…

Monster Squad Adidas Ad

Anyway, getting back to the point, in the years since the movie came out and the cult and fandom have been increasingly growing, we would eventually see a handful of products produced.  The two main ones that spring to mind are both related to Stan Winston, Steve Wang and Matt Rose’s interpretation of the Creature, and both of which were high-end and limited releases that a lot of folks may have missed.  The first one I want to highlight is an official model kit of the Gillman designed by Steve Wang and sold by Kaiyodo in Japan around the mid 90s…

Kaiyodo 8

Kaiyodo 2

Kaiyodo Turnaround

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Amazingly badass, this kit would look great on my shelf if I had the budget for buying such things.  the original model was not painted and is made of solid resin.  The example above was assembled and painted by Tom Gilliland (Sideshow Collectible’s creative director) and Don Rutherford and can be yours if you have $500 burning a hole in your pocket

The next item is another resin model, this time a full, to scale bead bust of the Gillman sculpted by Jeremy Bohr for Black Heart a few years ago…

gillman Black HeartSpeaking of the Gillman, back in 1988-89 we almost got an unofficial Monster Squad Gillman toy as a part of the doomed Mattel MaxFx line of Barbie doll-sized action figures.  You may have seen the MaxFx Freddy Kruger figure that was eventually released, but basically the concept of the line was to have a standard human doll on whcih you could preform your own special effects horror makeover.  The line was planned to be much larger than the figure or two that were eventually released before it disappeared from toy shelves, and part of that proposed line was a Creature From the Black Lagoon style figure that used the Monster Squad Gillman as it’s inspiration…

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The figure’s sculptor Mel Birnkrant details the whole sordid story over at his website and you can see some of his other figures in this youtube video he uploaded…

Now let’s take a look at today’s Trading card…

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #24, Behind the scenes with Stan Winston and team!

24 Behind the Scenes F-B

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Design Squad: The Stan Winston Creature Concepts for The Monster Squad

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nWhen it came to breathing life into the monsters, Fred Dekker and the production sought out one of the masters in the field of special effects makeup and design, the legendary Stan Winston.  Having just come of work on films like The Thing, Terminator and Aliens, Winston and his stable of artists were taking Hollywood by storm.  With The Monster Squad, Winston left most of the heavy lifting up to his studio, in particular artists such as Steve Wang and Matt Rose who handled the Gillman, Tom Woodruff Jr. who took on Frankenstein’s Monster, Alec Gillis who took the reigns on Dracula’s bat transformations, contacts and fangs, Shane Mahan who worked on the Mummy, and John Rosengrant and Shannon Shea who handled the Wolfman…

effects artists

Matt and Steve

But Stan was far from hands off on the project.  Like the director on a movie set he was providing direction, guidance and conceptual design.  Here’s a look at some of his sketches for the monsters, starting with his ideas for the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster…

Wolfman and Frank

Part of what Winston was trying to achieve was to modernize the look of the creatures, but he also wanted to distance these designs from those of the classic Universal monsters since those likenesses were copyrighted.  So with Frankenstein’s monster the flat top head and features that resemble Boris Karloff and Jack Pierce’s design had to be avoided.  So he rounded the head and made the sutures on the forehead more prominent.  Later, when Woodruff started sculpting and augmenting Winston’s concept he’d make the monster look more natural and would shift the neck bolts to the temples.

With the Wolfman Winston wanted to avoid making the character into an outright werewolf, still retaining the feel of a man, yet bringing more of the wolf into the design of the face, straying from the Pierce Lon Chaney Jr. look.  He did this by adding a small snout and making the eyes more wide set.  He also shifted the ears to the top of the head.  In the end the design sit on the line in between Universal’s incarnation and the designs in the Joe Dante Howling film.

For his Mummy design, Winston made the creature more decrepit than Karloff and Pierce’s incarnation by accentuating the sunken features to an extent where the face is almost a living skull.  He also upped the gore/decay factor a bit by having the lips shrunken and drawn back from the teeth on his left side giving the impression of a seriously old, dried up monster.  Mahan would again take this design even further and make the mummy a true ancient walking corpse…

Stan Winston Mummy Concept Drawing

Probably the most drastically altered character in the group would be the Gillman.  Winston’s initial pass at the creature was very alien and way more toned down then the character’s design would become…

Stan Winston Creature Concept Drawing

On his second pass he accentuated the amphibian features, added prominent top and side head fins, and he gave the creature fangs.

Gillman

As a small bit of trivia, it’s said that John Rosengrant sculpted the Wolfman’s face to resemble that of Winston.  I don’t know, what do you guys think?

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Now for today’s card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #17, Wolfman’s got Nards

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countdown button 200 2014 Rozum

Trivia Squad: 10 Fun Facts About The Monster Squad

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nThere are a lot of top 10 Monster Squad trivia lists online so when I was prepping for the countdown this month I initially scratched that idea from the list of topics to cover.  But the more I dug into the film and the more research I did I found some things that don’t seem to be making any of the lists.  So today I’m gonna run down 10 fun bits of trivia for the flick.

1). The Gillman and (potentially) the Frankenstein’s Monster creature suits appear as part of Mel’s (Jon Lovtiz) nerdy pop culture collection in the 2006 film The Benchwarmers.

The Benchwarmers 1

I love that the character has the Gillman propped up next to his entertainment center.  I have no clue who made the decision to include this piece, but for those who are unfamiliar with the movie, the plot centers around a bunch of adults who were heavily bullied as kids finally getting some self respect by playing little league baseball against kids.  Lovitz plays what equates to an adult version of Horace, so the idea of putting the creature in his collection is kind of genius.  Similarly, Lovitz has no friends for the most part, so when I spied this Frankenstein’s Monster for a split second I have to assume it’s again a nod to Monster Squad and the fact that the monster is fully willing to look past all outer aspects to be friends with the Squad and that seems like something Mel would embrace.

The Benchwarmers 2

Also, as an aside, Lovitz’s Mel also dresses up like Michael Knight and owns K.I.T.T. in the film.  I only bring this up because the movie is pretty terrible and the scenes with K.I.T.T. are the best in the film and now that I’ve mentioned it I never have to talk about it on Branded ever again.  Here’s the scene on youtube, do yourself a favor and watch it and skip the rest of the movie.  You’re welcome.

The Benchwarmers 3

2). When the Vampire Brides are stalking Sean, Eugene and Horace in the old creepy house their reflection can be seen in a mirror in the hallway. 

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Chalk this up as a goof, but considering the fact that the movie deals with monsters, and more specifically the rules surrounding their existence (like whether or not vampires can be seen in mirrors), it’s kind of a neat goof.

3). According to the script and a snippet in a Night of the Creeps article in Fangoria (issue 61) the movie takes place in the bayous of Baton Rouge, LA.

Monster Squad TidbitSo for everyone wondering why there was a decrepit antebellum mansion out in the swamp right next to suburbia (and the Warner Bros. back lot town square), there you go.

4). The film makes a fun reference to Todd Browning the director of the 1931 Dracula film.

Todd Browning Reference

It’s either that or a nod to Rico Browning the stuntman/actor inside the original Creature From the Black Lagoon suit during all the underwater segments in the ’54 film.  Or both.  Yeah, let’s go with both!  Actually, in a deleted scene that’s available on the 20th anniversary DVD & Blu-Ray featuring Emily Crenshaw sitting in bed watching the news there are a lot more Universal Monster references.  The three girls that are kidnapped and eventually turned into the Vampire brides attended St. Whale Academy (a reference to Frankenstein and Bride of director James Whale).  It also mentioned that they were taken in the bayou country south of “Dwight Frye” (a reference to the actor who portrayed Fritz the hunchback in Frankenstein.)

5). Monster Squad was heralded in a scene in writer/director Fred Dekker’s previous film Night of the Creeps.

Night of the creeps MS reference

In a segment in one of the college bathrooms about halfway through the film the phrase “Go Monster Squad” is scrawled on a wall.  Dekker already had the go-ahead to make the film while shooting Creeps and added it as a fun way to point to his next project.

Similarly, there’s a reference in Monster Squad to the film that Dekker wanted to make next, though it unfortunately didn’t come to pass.  In Eugene’s bedroom Dekker has the production design team source and hang a poster for Jonny Quest, a dream project that he wanted to tackle.

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But don’t just take my word for it…

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6). There are two homages to E.T. and at least overt reference to the 1931 Frankenstein in the film.

ET Homage

ET

In the segment when the kids are making friends with the Monster there’s a bit where they’re walking in almost silhouette away from the camera with the orange sun setting.  This is paying homage to a similar shot in the Trick or Treating scene in E.T.

ET Homage 2

ET 2

In both films the young girls dress up the fantastical friends in lady’s clothes.

Frankenstein Homage

Frankenstein Homage 2

The Frankenstein reference is more overt as Phoebe is a modern interpretation of Maria from the 1931 James Whale film, though Phoebe spins the original on it’s head in terms of friend-making outcomes…

7). The Gillman has an image of the original ’54 Creature from the Black Lagoon sculpted into the suit by artist Steve Wang.

creature has the original created sculpted mini size on his neck

Though it’s not clearly visible in the film, the homage/artistic flourish that Wang etched into the Gillman’s suit is located on one of the scales on the creature’s neck.  Wang is on record saying that the original Creature is his favorite piece of monster special effects art, so it’s not surprising that he would give a tip of the hat to that incarnation in his own work.  I pinpointed my guess as to which exact scale in the image above, the one in blue.

8). Dracula’s Hearse has teeth molded onto the grill!

Teeth in the Grill

This was a little but  fun flourish that I didn’t take notice of until this past year, but I freaking love that detail…

9). In the script and in deleted scenes in the movie it’s evident that Emily Crenshaw is going to leave her husband Del. 

Mom leaving the Dad

Though they are fighting throughout the film and are evidently seeing a marriage counselor, it’s not really addressed just to what extent the mother is unhappy.  This script was much more clear though, and in  a number of deleted segments you can see the evidence, as well as in the scene where Del is running through the house at the end looking for Sean and Phoebe.  You can clearly see Emily has packed her bags and planing the split.

Deleted segment where Emily wishes there was more sex in the house…

Mom leaving the Dad 1

Mom leaving the Dad 2

10). In the script there is a small joke where the creature darts his tongue out and eats a fly. A special animatronic head was built by Stan Winston Studio to accommodate this shot.

The creature was going to eat a lot more... 2

The creature was going to eat a lot more...

So, how about a couple more bonus bits of trivia?  The first is one that I think most folks already know?

11). When Rudy flashes the picture of Patrick’s Sister as blackmail, the photo he holds up is actually of  actress Lisa Fuller, fully dressed and standing by a pool.

The Real Picture

I fixed that for everyone…

The Real Picture Fixed

You’re welcome.

And finally, with the addition of the original deleted opening sequence Dracula is staked or impaled three times during the film!  Once by Van Helsing, once while landing on an iron fence spike after being bitch-slapped by Frankenstein’s Monster, and once by Sean.  That might be a record number of times that a vampire was staked in a single film :p

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Now it’s trading card time!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Since there was never any MS merchandise produced, specifically a Topps trading card set, I thought it would be fun to make a mini set of 80s-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time. So come back each evening for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #25, Sculpting the Gillman!

25 Sculpting the Creature F-B

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