Against the large
window, blinking in a multicolored, golden garland glow was our
family Christmas tree, and just off to one side, MY SIDE I was
sure, was a haunted purple castle. The castle that I wanted for
Christmas! The castle for my action figures! The Mad Monsters
Castle! It had been taken out of the box, opened, and displayed!
(No doubt by Santa himself in a great presentation). It was beautiful!
The Castle had vinyl stone walls, printed a vibrant Basil Gogos
purple, detailed with bricks, vines, roots and cracks, and the
drawbridge worked! On top of the wicked structure, positioned
on each of the four corners, blood red turrets perched majestically,
tailor made for angry monsters to hurl large heavy objects down
on frightened villagers, or to just hurl the frightened villagers
off of! Inside the castle, more gruesome joy! The walls depicted
shelves of books and skulls, potions and torch sconces, all in
garish, wicked color! Finally in the center of the castle interior,
was a large lab table (fit for a giant).
Christmas had come!
The moment was filled with joy and happiness. My parents smiled
and beamed at the sheer unequaled bliss in which my brother and
I flung ourselves toward the incredible amount (it seemed) of
gifts that Santa had somehow gotten into out house without anyone
noticing. My brother was tearing open cool Aurora Dinosaur models
and giant eagle gliders, but I had my Mad Monster Castle! I immediately
had to run back to my room and bring out the two Mad Monsters
that I owned, The Human Wolfman and The Horrible Mummy.
Mad Monster Castle from the 1975 Mego retailers' catalogue.
The Human Wolfman
was quite different from Lon Chaney's Larry Talbot (my favorite
Monster as a child). Just comparing him to the images in my magazines
and to the Aurora Wolfman Model clearly illustrated this. The
Mego version featured a realistic wolf's head, snout, ears, grinning
teeth, and of course, the molded claws and the goop in his eyes
that glowed in the dark. His clothes consisted of a tunic made
of a passable leather material; fur at the neck and at the cuffs
of his purple sleeves. He wore no pants, but rather purple tights
and black boots. He looked mythic and story-bookish, and that's
what he was to me. I had always thought the Mego Human Wolfman
doll was what the Wolfman REALLY looked like. I felt that it was
a realistic depiction of a werewolf and that the movies couldn't
really show us the real Wolfman... we'd drop dead from fright
It was also true of
my only other Mad Monster, The Horrible Mummy. He was horrible
indeed! The face was ultra wrinkled and dry with centuries, and
his facial expression always reminded me of someone who just ate
a very sour pickle. The scowl of a living dead man was a very
frightening thing for me, and Universal's Mummy (Kharis) was the
only monster that actually gave me nightmares as a child. The
Horrible Mummy was a little too generic to make me think of Prince
Kharis, and furthermore, he had both of his eyes! The goop in
his eyes glowed as well as his molded human hands, and his head
was sculpted with his baleful beige bandages framing his hideous
face. His wrappings continued as a printed body suit, but with
loose bandages wrapped around his body. I can't remember how often
I removed his loose bandages and rewrapped him in various ways.
I even transformed the box that he came in, into a passable sarcophagus
(painted gold and with the detail drawn in with a marker).
Both were fully posable
and both were mine! I quickly grabbed them and rushed back to
the living room to let my monsters roam about in their new home.
The Wolfman fit nicely in one of the turrets and the living dead
Egyptian leaned in a dark corner of the castle interior.
More presents were
opened and my living room started to disappear under the mounds
of brightly colored Christmas paper. As my brother James was opening
yet another Aurora Prehistoric scenes model kit (the Cave), I
tore open a large box that contained two smaller boxes. The boxes
were brightly colored and garishly depicted The Monster Frankenstein!
And The Dreadful Dracula!! Oh man oh man! I had them all! My monster
collection was complete and now my Wolfman had a Frankenstein
monster to battle with!
I recall with the
utmost clarity, more than anything else about them, the smell
of a new Mego action figure. The Mad Monsters came in various
packaging, (blister cards, solid boxes, and window boxes) and
the smell when you cracked one of these open is one of the vivid
memories of growing up when I did. Here I had two of the most
famous monsters of all time, the living dead, immortalized in
plastic and rubber. The Monster Frankenstein and the Dreadful
Dracula were also very different from their motion picture counterparts.
I knew nothing about licensing and Universal's copyright on the
Jack Pierce designed monsters yet, so to me once again, these
figures were real and frightening variations on the way these
two famous monsters must really look.
Frankenstein came open first. I pulled him out of the box enclosed
in his plastic bag, ripped the bag apart and held the firm, tight
jointed monster in my hands. His face was the first thing that leapt
out at me; it was a face of madness, a face of nightmares. This
was not the flat topped, familiar sleepy eyed monster of my Aurora
Frankenstein. This Monster's face was ghastly pale, not stark white
but a very pale yellow. His skin was covered in wrinkles and creases,
making him appear quite dead. He had dark eyebrows, green pinpoints
for eyes, and a thin red mouth turned upside down in sorrow. The
bolts were located on either side of his head, which was covered
in molded black hair. Running across his face was a red gash, showing
the results of the crude surgery that gave this abomination life.
He wore a gray turtleneck and a gold shiny belt (!) Under his black
coat with frayed and torn sleeves and his black pants and boots.
He was incredible! I remember the first thing I did with him. The
first thing I did with my "action" figure. I laid him
down on the table inside the castle. I flattened him and turned
his glow in the dark hands palms down on the table. His feet were
together and he gazed straight up. I knew from my magazines and
"Boo Theater" (my local horror hosted program on Saturday
nights) that the monster needed to be brought to life first, and
I was a child of a meticulous nature (at least when it came to my
|The Dreadful Dracula
was next. I remember thinking firstly that his cape was too short,
and that he looked like he was wearing pajamas. But he was just
as important as the others. His face was elongated into an exaggerated
wide mouthed gape, with fangs gleaming. Dracula's face was dead
white, and his hair was black as night. His eyes were mismatched
with one being larger than the other, but I realized that it was
because of the scowl he was making. His eyes and hands glowed in
the dark like the rest, and his cape was black and outlined in red.
His pajamas had a blue tuxedo design with a red sash (Hey this was
the 1970's after all) and his shoes were black and pointy and soft
rubber, not hard plastic like The Human Wolfman and Monster Frankenstein,
almost like slippers.
my Dracula on the other battlement and examined his box. With
a little paint and some scissors, this would make a great coffin!
I knew that Dracula needed a coffin to sleep in and that without
it he was doomed. It was going to be great!
|That Christmas, in
addition to getting my Mego Mad Monster Collection, I also received
some great monster canister puzzles (Frankenstein, Dracula, The
Wolfman) and a couple of monster paint by numbers sets. The action
figures, however, were my pride and joy. I would play indoors and
out all day with my monster figures, and at night they would dimly
glow on my dresser to let me know they were still there. My castle
I displayed open and proud on my desk, (until my father made me
fold it up and put it away when I wasn't playing with it). There
was an unnamable joy that came with being the kid with the plastic
dead men. These creatures, these MONSTERS, comforted me and gave
me hours of joy. My imagination soared as each day they went through
many adventures. Said adventures usually always ended with Frankenstein's
Monster battling the Wolfman and Count Dracula falling in a pit
with wooded spikes or getting impaled on something. I knew that
the Dreadful Dracula was a villain. Just looking at his face confirmed
that fact. He was evil, and I was the only one with the power to
stop himwell, The Human Wolfman and me that is. But sure enough,
some villager (usually one of the Mego superheroes) would pull the
stake out and the Dreadful Dracula would rise again.
For most kids, monsters
were usually reserved for Halloween, but at my house, each Christmas,
under the tree, the living dead often lurked. My parents (my mom especially)
understood my love for the spooky and were never afraid to let my love
and my fascination for the macabre flourish. I had models, puzzles,
t-shirts, stickers, cards, bubble bath containers, games and of course,
action figures. I guess they knew that it was all harmless make-believe,
or perhaps they thought I'd grow out of it eventually (sorry, Mom and
I'm 33 years old, and a professional actor. My favorite gig is my
horror hosting. Each Friday night at 11:00 pm, I host a horror movie
on local television as Professor Griffin. My favorite holiday is
Halloween and one room in the house that I share with my wife and
son is filled with shelves of Monster toys and collectibles. On
those shelves, standing proudly and with all the frightening fierceness
they can still muster, are The Mad Monsters. Their home, my Mad
Monster Castle, is long gone (destroyed by angry villagers no doubt)
and they have no more grand adventures except in my memories. The
Human Wolfman, The Horrible Mummy, The Dreadful Dracula, and The
Monster Frankenstein stand as sentimental reminders of my happy
childhood, my joyous past.
They are still, and
silent. But... every now and then, when I'm alone in my "Monster
room" and my wife and son are not there, I take one of them
in my 33-year-old hand, and hold him close to my face... and take
a deep breath. The smell of a Mego is still there... very faint
but still there.
It almost always brings
a tear to my eye
Professor Griffin's website