Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Collectible of the Week: Flash Gordon Playset (Mego; 1977)




This is another Mego playset from the 1970s for which I harbor deep and abiding love.  In 1977, Mego manufactured a line of toys from Flash Gordon (1936), including four 10-inch action figures (Flash Gordon, Ming the Merciless, Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov), and this terrific playset/carrying case.

"The world of Mongo comes alive in this double sided playset" the box informed kids.  "One side is Ming's Throne Room complete with Ming's throne."  

"The other side is Dr. Zarkov's secret laboratory with a simulated computer and (3) computer cards."

The set also "fits all Flash Gordon figures (not included.)"

Like the Star Trek, Planet of the Apes and Wizard of Oz playsets, this Flash Gordon playset is  constructed of hard cardboard, surrounded by laminated vinyl, I believe.  The illustrations on this set are really quite beautiful as I hope you can see, and strongly evocative of Alex Raymond's art work.  

The three computer cards included here are double-sided, and feature images of all the characters, plus a city of Mongo, plus a rocket on approach.  They slip down through the top of the computer, into the viewscreen. panel. 

You might think that the timing (the mid-1970s) was weird for a Flash Gordon boomlet but I remember in the mid-1970s -- around the time of Star Wars -- finally getting to see the original serial at my local library.  On Friday afternoons, I think, I went to see it, one chapter at a time over a span of weeks.  Also, if I'm not mistaken, some TV stations had begun to play the original Buster Crabbe serials as well.  It was kind of a mini -Flash Gordon fad.  My grandmother from Texas (now deceased), was thrilled to see the serials again because she had loved them as a kid.  It was pretty awesome, actually, that my grandmother, mother and I could all sit down and discuss together Buster Crabbe and Flash Gordon.

Today, I don't own any of the Flash Gordon action figures, alas, which came equipped with plastic swords and cool helmets.  But I do own this wonderful Mego playset and its box, which remain in excellent shape.









4 comments:

  1. What a great toy!

    I also remember a resurgence of interest in Flash around the time of the Star Wars-inspired space opera boom, although I don't recall ever seeing any toys. One of my local TV stations produced an old-fashioned afternoon children's show, complete with a studio audience and a host dressed like an old-tyme sea captain (Captain Cutlass of Lighthouse 20, because he was on Channel 20, you see), and this show incorporated a daily chapter of the old Crabbe serials for a long time. I also remember seeing Avon reprints of novels based on Raymond's strips. I never read them, but the cover art lingers in my memory. And I know this was all a couple years before the Dino De Laurentiis movie and the Filmation cartoon series.

    As I said, I have no memory of Mego's Flash Gordon line, but I'm sure you know this playset is very similar to the Star Trek Enterprise playset also produced by Mego...

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    1. Hi Jason,

      I'm glad you also recall that mini-boomlet of Flash Gordon excitement in the early 1970s. I swear it did happen, but it's not often commented on today. The Mego playset is really terrific, and beautifully illustrated. I wish I could afford the action figures. They look gorgeous, but boy are they expensive...

      Great comment!

      best,
      John

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    2. Anonymous1:45 AM

      I, too, used to watch KSTU TV-20' "Lighthouse 20" with the host, Captain Cutlass, showing segments of Flash. KSTU started broadcasting in late 78, and it took them a few months to get Capt Cutlass up and running, but I also recall seeing FLASH episodes regularly in the early 70s in Tucson, then Las Vegas markets, either on early weekend mornings (before Laurel and Hardy) or late at night (monster movies).

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  2. Anonymous3:16 PM

    While the local Firday midnight horror show showed the serials in the 70's, they'd been doing it for a long time.

    But sometime in the 70's there was also a theatrical release of the serials cut into a feature.

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