Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lights, Camera, Traction!!!


By - Steve Mezo 

When I was a kid I either wanted to be a F/X Artist or a Stuntman in horror movies. That's right a Stuntman in a horror movie.

Think about it, if you're not the one making monsters you can be the guy turning it up to eleven by jumping off a building,smashing through a glass window, falling down stairs, getting hit by and crashing cars or getting set on fire! And that started my stuntman obsession when I was a kid. 

And I couldn't have timed it any better it was like everybody thought the same thing in the 70's and there was Stuntman everything!!! And a man named "Hal Needham" was the go to guy (But I'll get back to him a little later). 
 


I think the first time stunt work was used in my Mental Horror Movie Studio in my backyard back lot was when I was given the "SSP Smash Up Derby" for Christmas.
  
 They were cool on their own, but I had an idea where the Green Army Men were far from their mountain base and had to take cover in a junk yard.

 
I've always had an obsession with junkyards and with a lot of kids in the neighborhood trashing and throwing out some great trashed Buddy L, Nylint, Tonka and Marx pressed steel trucks I was set.
      
The more smashed and rusted they were the better!


Once the Green Army Men had the area secured they would work on getting the SSP Cars up and running enough to ram their way through whatever was attacking them.
Sometimes it was giant rats or giant spiders, other times it would be dinosaurs or robots. And either they would make it or they wouldn't. Sometimes both cars would get through others it would be only one and the (imaginary passengers) would die in the wreck and get eaten. 

Then there was a man by the name of "Evel Knievel"

  And he was a Stunt Jumper with a killer Harley Davidson 

"So what does he have to do with your stuntman monster adventures?" you ask. I'm going to answer with "Check this out!"

Not only did he have this kick ass toy in the 70's
 

He had a cool playset to go with it called 
"Escape from Skull Canyon"  
 And it even had it's own monster!

And at about the same time I had these guys

They would have it out for Evel for one reason or another and try to capture him at Skull Canyon. And there were times where Evel would make his escape and others where he would wind up as dinner for Dracula and the Wolfman and spare parts for Frankenstein.

Then the year before I got my first Star Wars figures
 I got this for Christmas
  "The Hal Needham Stuntman Playset"

This toy was insane!!! It came with a Hal Needham figure and had break away furniture, a stair case for him to fall down, a break away window, a stair railing for him to fall through. Then there was a small moveable lift that you would set up to have him fall and you could go as high as the top of the set to the top of the stairs and have him crash down on the break away furniture. 
The chair and window frame are missing from this set but it still has the camera that's the air actuator for the platform. And it has the clapboard and script. There's also a rubber band driven air ram that you would send the figure flying through the window or hook up a string to it to pull him back through the window like he was shot. 

This sent my Mental Horror Movie Studio to a whole new level. It went from being a back lot production to having a sound stage with a huge prop department and lots of extras!

And once again these guys had starring roles with Hal
  
And this idea came from two movies that
 were actually a double bill at one time. 
 
(1966)

and
 
(1966)

She even built a monster too!!!
 
And to make the production even bigger I had an accidentally bought Planet of The Apes Village playset

The only reason I said accidentally was my Aunt thought it came with the figures because they were all pictured on the box. This would have sent other kids into a fit, but for me it was perfect scale and gave the monsters a base of operations and armed Hal to the teeth. 

Then another relative thought I had the "Lone Ranger"
 so I wound up with this.  
 

Which was still cool because it gave Hal some really cool 
"Ghost Town" accessories. 

Then there were plenty of these to throw around
And the set was complete.

Then there were toys left over from my G.I. Joe's that had a new life as the focal points of new adventures.

 
This was the Mummy's Bride


This was the golden statue that held Dracula's Blood Stones and only Frankenstein, The Wolfman and The Mummy could handle and open for him to get his riches back.

I think this one was influenced by another favorite movie of mine
(1974) 

And this was Dr. Frankenstein's treasure that Dracula wanted to finance whatever evil plan he had. 

And only one man stood in their way...
The only thing that sucked about the playset was allot of it was made out of cardboard and the break way furniture would finally break altogether.  

But I managed to keep Hal in one piece to this day
And he's enjoying his retirement on my shelf with his trusty
 six gun still in his holster.