Here comes an article that we planned on writing around Halloween time, but sort of works with Christmas because it revolves around toys. Well, toys that represent death.
Before Uncle T is scrutinized for pairing Christmas with an ancient figure of death, hear me out. I realize this isn’t the cheeriest choice of subject matter but you’re just going to need to trust Uncle T. After all, this feature is about toys.
I’ve always had a fascination with Grim Reapers. That ominous cloaked figure floating around the countryside, carrying a big scythe and collecting victims is just pure radness. For me it probably started with Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. The British comedy group’s knack for dark humored sketches was the perfect way to deliver such a memorable performance as seen from Mr. Death in the 1983 film. From there, these cloaked skeletons would surface in everything from heavy metal album covers, to Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, to characters developed into toys…lots of toys!
In celebration of Christmas week, we’re highlighting the best Grim Reaper-y looking toys that Jolly Old Saint Nick has ever nestled safely under our tree in a feature we’re calling DON’T FEAR THE REAPER TOYS!
Before turning into the blue-skinned beefcake that walked around intimidating people, Mumm-Ra was a decrepit old geezer who had an air of mystique about him. While the muscled Mumm-Ra was sold in stores like all the other figures, this old man mummy version was unique in that if you wanted it, kids had to save up 6 proof-of-purchase seals and send them in to receive him in the mail!
The good news is that this 3-decade-old action figure is still fairly easy to find and won’t cost you much. The next time you’re about to whine about how you can’t find a decently priced Skeletor to replace the one your big brother fed to his tarantula, consider picking up this red cloaked reaper instead!
Bill & Teds Excellent Adventure, 1991
“Life is great for Bill and Ted… until they’re killed by evil robots from the future! To cheat death, save the world from evil, rescue the princess babes, and be back in time to win the Battle of the Bands, they’ll need a little help from the Grim Reaper himself.”
“Death” from the sequel, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, got his very own action figure in 1991 when Kenner released the Bill & Ted’s action figure toy line. This ghoulish reaper could easily transform into a guitar-wielding Wyld Stallyns band member simply by removing his cloak to expose his blue mohawk. Neon scythe and neon guitar included. Speaker and tape set sold separately.
CHARON aka Devil’s Boatman!
Clash of the Titans, 1981
Not only am I a sucker for Grim Reaper-y looking dudes, but I love it when toy companies like Mattel release action figures for every single obscure character who shows up on screen, as brief as that appearance might be. Charon appears in 1981’s Clash of the Titans movie when he takes Perseus and his gang across the River Styx. Whether or not you’re a sci-fi or Greek Mythology fan, the brief appearance of this cloaked creeper is a must-see. If I were Perseus I would’ve taken a couple laps around the river with this fine ghoul.
Matchbox: Monster Wars, 1993
One of TNUC’s most sought after holy grails, the Matchbox ‘Monster Wars’ collection was released in the early ’90s and paired the most popular monster trucks with frightening little figures carrying deadly neon trinkets. There isn’t much documented historical information on these guys, which adds to the allure. I love Monster Trucks (especially Grave Digger), but I think the monster truck “world” missed out capturing a large demographic by not making them more cartoonish and fictional, like Matchbox attempted with these toys. If monster truck “culture” had gone a more over the top route, like WWE and their wrestlers, the mainstream audience would’ve really been more into monster trucks. Imagine Grave Digger, Prowler and Bigfoot being driven by devilish monsters in makeup and rubber masks. Instead the drivers are usually just hillbilly dudes with handlebar mustaches.
(photo courtesy of Dinosaur Dracula)
Super Monstruos Serie Especial, 1992
Who doesn’t love an obscure collection of tiny monstrosities? Thanks to Dinosaur Dracula who put these on our radar, the Super Monstrous Special Series hailing from Spain were a set of 24 different horror-themed ghouls and ghoulettes including a devil, yeti, executioner, bootleg “Freddy”, vampiress, pirate and La Muerte aka “The Death”. Is Uncle T planning on completing the entire collection and bringing them to a local cemetery for a candid photo session? You better believe it.
THE GRIM REAPER!
Mad Monster Series, 2005
The original Mad Monsters were released in 1973 by Mego, the company behind legendary figures from DC, Marvel and KISS. A few years ago Mego experienced a resurgence and brought back the Mad Monsters which included our deadly friend The Grim Reaper. At 8 inches tall this reaper is the biggest of the bunch. If you prefer a classic, no frills, balls-to-the-wall figure of death, this is your guy.
Tales from the Cryptkeeper, 1994
Cryptkeeper in a brown cloak and Jesus sandals is the best Cryptkeeper figure of them all. Laugh at his overall appearance but the sculpture and detail of his face is ripped so accurately from Tales from the Crypt, it’s scary good. This version of the Cryptkeeper comes from the kid-friendly, Saturday morning cartoon, Tales from the Cryptkeeper. Is it completely bizarre that his legs and feet are a completely different color than his head and hands? Yes, but he works GREAT in Christmas nativity scenes if your cat stole one of the Three Wise Men and you need a replacement.
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Thanks for reading about TNUC’s fascination with Grim Reapers. Now go listen to some Grim Reaper!
Ian the Shark: You know, l can understand ”Mom” or ”l Heart Wanda”, but why the Reaper?
Chazz: Well, it’s like death is stalking me and it’s telling me I better get off my ass and get this band rolling. This is for real. I gotta cut a record. I figure l’m screwed up enough that l could write a song that’ll live on for ever and then after that it don’t matter. You know?
If back when TNUC got started someone told me that one day I’d be discussing John Tesh in one of these weekly installments, I’d probably tell that person to go strap on some roller blades, a fedora hat, then proceed to launch off the nearest plateau. All do respect to the multi-talented John Tesh, but his music and the TNUC bible are two separate worlds….except when it comes to the mighty saxophone. When blistering slices of breathtaking saxophone reverberate through the air, humanity becomes one.
Take for example The John Tesh Project’s 1994 album “Saxophone by the Fire”, which I recently scored on cassette at Amoeba Records in LA for a buck. Here we have 12 saxophone covers of popular songs done by John and various saxophonists. The album is part 1 of a triple-sax assault which also features the albums “Sax on the Beach” (1995) and “Sax All Night” (1997).
Question. When was the last time you heard Don Henley’s ‘End of the Innocence’? Was it during one of your old man’s long car rides into the country? Waiting in line at the pharmacy? Or maybe when flying a kite and playing frisbee with your family at the park after your ninth release from rehab? Regardless of how familiar you are with the song, imagine someone with a set of balls big enough to fit in a dump-truck replacing Don Henley’s vocals with the elephant-roaring sounds of the saxophone. That’s right, this cover of ‘End of the Innocence’ doesn’t just “feature” the saxophone as a background instrument. It completely replaces the vocals WITH SAXOPHONE. Ease back in your hammock and take a listen…
Other irresistible slices of unprotected sax…
Have a seat, Michael McDonald.
Step aside, Bruce Hornsby.
This last video is MANDATORY VIEWING. Here we have Tesh playing his signature piano at Red Rocks amphitheater alongside saxophonist Everette Harp, a guy who lifts this instrument up to new, face-ripping levels. Harp is wearing a sparkly vest and dangly earring. Tesh looks like a cross between the McDonald’s character Grimace and Max Headroom. Whatever the case, it works. The only thing that could possibly top this would be a surprise appearance by Tim Cappello, smothered in oil and chains, doing a sax-off with Harp.
If you’re really into this John Tesh saxophone experience and happen to be with a woman, TNUC strongly recommends playing these albums in front of a roaring fire, shirt off, full chest of hair. No wimps. No softies.
Happy Holidays folks and welcome to another John Candy season. That’s right, this time of year Candy is supreme ruler of the holidays around here as movies like Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Home Alone and Uncle Buck are in constant rotation. Candy brought the nonstop laughs, but beneath it a sincerity and seemingly effortless realness which is something I think few actors can pull off. Characters like Del Griffith, Gus Polinski and Buck Russell (among others) resonate so much with us I think because there’s a certain resemblance to dads, friend’s dads, uncles, neighbors, coaches and distant family members we’ve known in life.
His death at the young age of 44 was devastating. Though he left us with a hearty collection of timeless films, it’s still painful to know he’s really gone.
So TNUC wanted to do something special this season. Since John is buried at a cemetery in Los Angeles, we figured what better time to visit his final resting place and pay respects to THE MAN.
So light up a fat cigar. Pour a cold beer in one of those old glasses they serve at bowling alley bars and old Pizza Huts. Now join us in remembering the man of the season!
His remains are interred in a crypt, high up on a wall, inside a mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery. The marble gravestone is bathed with bright rays of sun coming through the stained glass windows. In the background from a nearby church a choir were singing religious hymns. The atmosphere in the mausoleum was peaceful and heavy, even though I wanted so badly for a polka tune to break out, or a John Hughes hand-picked ballad from the finale of one of his movies.
We couldn’t walk away without leaving something genuine.
† Thanks for all the laughs, pal! Rest In Power †
In the wake of the Halloween season, those first few days are normally spent wandering around aimlessly, putting all the rubber bats in storage and eating the remains of the fun-sized Twizzlers. Even the burliest boogeyman in the world can find it a little rough trying to grasp with the transition of going from 31 days+ of celebrating a single holiday to everything coming to a screeching halt. When you’re an avid Halloween disciple, those nonstop spooky times ending so abruptly can be a harrowing slap to the soul. But as the weeks progress, pumpkin-everything turns into cranberry-everything and a realization pummels me in the face that we need to be thanking and praising SO many things in the Land of TNUC.
Tender hearts, tender meat and tender thighs! In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are (6) slightly overlooked or not appreciated enough slices of life that we’re thankful for and that should never be taken for granted.
WET T-SHIRT CONTESTS!
Ah, the almighty wet t-shirt contest. Whoever invented this pure artform deserves a medal of honor. Jiggling boobs in drenched t-shirts get rated and judged based on distinctive qualities such as bounce, sway, nipple sensitivity and sheer explosiveness. While a panel of nail-biting, lip-quivering judges do their best to rate these female superstars, a packed audience drink sudsy beer and stare in awe. Here at the Land of TNUC, we’ve spent oodles of time talking about similar exhibition competitions like female mud wrestling and spring break madness, but never wet t-shirt contests. So what gives? All I can say is…that is about to change. Check out the above clip from 1984′ s Hot Dog: The Movie which features the aftermath of a wet t-shirt contest at a local bar filled with ski bunnies and mustached locals. (Don’t forget to turn up the volume. The house band ROCKS.)
We don’t talk about Michael Dudikoff enough. The entire goddamned world doesn’t talk about Michael Dudikoff enough. The star of countless Cannon Films movies was poised to be the next Chuck Norris or Van Damme. Of course that didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean his action movies don’t completely annihilate. Do yourself a favor and seek out American Ninja, American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, Avenging Force, Platoon Leader or River of Death to find out what we’re talking about. Dudikoff has a particular style unmatched by others. I’ll never forget finding out that the curly-haired blonde guy partying with hookers, cocaine, a donkey and Tom Hanks in Bachelor Party was this mega b-movie action hero. Thank you Michael.
Allow me to clear the air before proceeding. Calling these “Deadbeat Beers” is in NO WAY a slam to these fine beer companies. Actually quite the opposite. In a world of craft brew, double-IPA, imperial stout, oak aged, snobby-bearded bullshit, the vast array of deadbeat beers you can pick up for $11/30-pack are a breath of fresh air. Sure, some of them may taste like snake piss or as if they were brewed in a prison tube sock, but bring these to a parking lot with some friends before a concert and get ready for a good time. There’s a reason why the majority of them are so ancient and have stood the test of time. It’s quantity not quality with these heavy hitters. Don’t be ashamed about walking out of the mini-mart with a case of Stroh’s under your arm. Your grumpy, Korean War vet, late grandfather is looking down on you with a smile. Thank you deadbeat beers.
The hair. The legs. The cars. There can only be one…Tawny Sex Panther Kitaen. Our beloved babe was already on the right track way early in life as she dated Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby during and after high school! From that day forward her career soared with legendary appearances in (4) Whitesnake videos which are timeless classics of the MTV era. (My personal favorite: “Is This Love”). Tantalizing Tawny also co-starred in Bachelor Party and was the star of the horror classic, Witchboard. She cruised through the decade engaging in famous relationships with David Coverdale, Tommy Lee and O.J. Simpson just to name a few, although not one of those studs could match the late-great Robbin Crosby. Thank you Tawny.
We spend a great deal of time referencing the extinct drug known as the Quaalude (Methaqualone). Now it’s time to come clean. Uncle T has never in his life taken the elusive Lude but from the war stories I’ve been told, they are surely missed. Nicknamed “disco biscuits”, this premiere party drug peaked in the 1970s as a hypnotic, treatment for insomnia, muscle relaxant and sedative. Popular figures like Tommy Chong, members of Mötley Crüe and Jimmy Page were massive supporters of the Lude. The drug was discontinued in 1985 for recreational use and addictiveness. Thank you Quaaludes.
“The Maestro”, “Bach of Rock”, “Guitar God”, “Master of the Stratocaster”. The only thing Yngwie Malmsteen has more of besides self-proclaimed titles is his fleet of Ferraris (he currently owns five). There’s no doubting the Swedish guitar player is one of the best of all time. His neoclassical metal shredding style has put him in the upper echelon of guitarists, and BOY does he know it. His ego has got him in some serious trouble over the years, which everyone should do a little research about. Doesn’t matter to Uncle T. We love the guy. If you’re going to start with any Yngwie album, TNUC strongly recommends Trilogy from 1986. Pure technical power that will bring to mind dragons, fire, medieval long-butts and salon-quality hair. Thank you Mr. Malmsteen.
Here’s a photo of Yngwie pulling into a Boston Market in his Ferrari, shirtless with a backwards ballcap and dangly cross earring.
« What random slices of life are you thankful for? Share your feelings! »
For every Freddy Krueger disciple on the planet, 2017 was a banner year as the beloved classic A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors celebrated its 30th Anniversary. The movie was released three decades ago this past February and horror freaks have been seen celebrating in all ways possible. However, has anyone done their part to raise and praise the most crucial element of the Dream Warriors universe?
HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY,
DOKKEN’S “DREAM WARRIORS”! (play video)
Housed up in that cobwebbed attic of Castle TNUC, Uncle T spent the ladder part of this month channeling young Kristen Parker. On a steady binge of instant coffee crystals and Diet Coke, he worked feverishly with paper mâché and Popsicle sticks to create what he considers the perfect beast.
His serpentine eyes pierced the mist, stopping Roxie right in her tracks. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t look away, she was completely transfixed by the fiery, penetrating gaze. The music began to churn slower and slower as if the syncopated Italo basslines were mirroring the slow, swirling movements of the fog itself. She stared directly into those jade green irises as they began to hypnotically spin ever so slowly. Eventually, the mist, the music, and the night itself began to swirl together, spiraling down into Amazonian depths.
Meanwhile, Ricky and Linda were rustling around, desperately searching for their missipng partner.
“Hey, take a look at this,” Ricky called Linda over while dusting off an ancient looking lever.
“Wait! Don’t touch it,” Linda cried, but it was too late. The floor came out from under them, and they fell directly into a…bedroom? Ricky looked at masks lined wall to wall, along with heavy metal and movie posters, an eyeball stress ball, gore props, and severed zombie heads. The Manimal had taken the two teens directly into his bedroom circa Summer School.
Linda found herself in the bed, face to face with an axed brain, when an alarm clock started going off beside her. Just as she went for it the ceiling came crashing down from above. Through the ceiling came a monstrous version of the legendary hand alarm clock, scanning for victims as if it were a crane trying to grab onto stuffed animals. Someone must be controlling it, Ricky thought as he took cover in a pile of body props, watching the giant hand jolt back and forth. Finally the hand lowered directly onto Linda’s head! She screamed as it pulled her head clean off, then neatly placed it down next to the other zombie heads.
Ricky covered his eyes in horror, then a familiar voice started calling to him.
“Psssttt. Hey, over here.”
Ricky uncovered his eyes just barely, half afraid to look.
“Right behind you puss-lips.” It was Snake, or rather Snake’s severed head.
“Remember the mammories…Ricky, find those gigantic badonkas. You must…,” and with that his head rolled back into the wall, clicked into place, and opened a new doorway. He could hear a woman’s voice chanting an ethereal hymn from realms beyond his darkest desires.
As he passed under the stone archway, he came to a long hallway where his footsteps echoing off the marble floors were accompanied by the beautiful song of the sirens with their golden harps. The mists in front of him started to take on the shape of a woman – Elvira. She floated along the marble floors, coaxing Ricky forward with promises of eternal cleavage. Then she took Ricky gently by the hand, and lowered him onto a velvet-upholstered chair, before finally taking her place amongst a row of figures and busts cast in white stone.
Could this be the moment he’s been waiting seemingly his whole life for? He recalled the countless hours he and Snake had lost to Elvira reruns, just waiting for those luscious bazookas to burst free from their gothic cage. She looked directly into his eyes, bending down a little further, unbuttoning her top button.
“This is really it. Oh man, if only Snake could see this,” he said as he tightened his grip on the arms of the chair. But something isn’t right. Her hair began moving on it’s own, twisting and coiling together. Her eyes began to glow purple. She unbuttoned another. Now her hair began to slither and squirm. Ricky was covered in sweat now, only one button away from the promised land. He heard the hissing of snakes, and could almost feel their writhing, but he dared not look away from Elvira’s bosom as she undid the last button, ripping open her shirt, and casting Ricky in eternal stone, to be immortalized forever amongst the sculptures in Castle TNUC.
And now our tale of the fates of those who dared enter Castle TNUC comes to a close with Roxie. Poor Roxie, lost amidst the swirling, serpentine stare of the Manimal. The ‘ludes, the murky way-slo, the spiraling eyes, all come to a sudden climax of hissing air vents and smoke. The Manimal’s eyes now glowed red like embers from behind the walls of smoke, and his jaws unhinged, revealing the forked tongue of the serpent. And from the darkness beyond came the throttle of an engine revving to life. The smoke cleared. There he sat. Golden locks, dangling cross in one ear, leather jacket, engine roaring throughout Castle TNUC. He rode down the forked tongue, grabbed Roxie, and tossed her over his shoulder.
“Rocking the Night Away” by Witch Cross started blasting and the Manimal, now with prey, rode back up the tongue and into the darkness beyond. Its jaws closed, swallowing all into the night.
Will Castle TNUC’s funhouse visit your town next? Will you be seduced by his powers of the night?