Sunday, May 24, 2015

At Flashbak: Cardboard Universe -- The Amsco Adventure Playsets of the 1970s

Another Flashbak I posted this week looks at some of my favorite toys of the disco decade -- the Amsco cardboard playsets.

"In the early-to-mid 1970s -- before Star Wars (1977) premiered -- Amsco (A Milton Bradley company) produced four colossal cardboard playsets that are highly-prized and extremely expensive collectibles today, all from popular franchises of that era.

These giant Amsco playsets came in large, colorful rectangular boxes, were constructed from "durable" cardboard and were "fun to assemble." 

Actually, if I recall right, they were all actually time-consuming and somewhat difficult to assemble, but that hardship was part of the fun too.

My favorite set of the bunch is the one I still own, and which has a place of honor in my home office.

It comes from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's outer space epic, Space: 1999 (1975 – 1977) and is a diorama of Moonbase Alpha. The playset consists of a landing pad, two Eagle transporters, two atomic charges (for detonating asteroids that are on a collision course...), and a cross-section of Moonbase Alpha's computerized interior, including Main Mission tower. It even features an elevator that spans all three levels.

The set also includes several cardboard “heroes” to take on adventures, made in the likenesses of Martin Landau's Commander John Koenig, Barbara Bain's Dr. Helena Russell and Barry Morse's Professor Victor Bergman. Alas, the set was produced pre-Maya, so there's no Catherine Schell figure.

What's great about the set, however, is that there is at least a nod to accuracy. For instance, three cardboard figures here are "aliens" featured in specific Year One episodes: Peter Cushing's Raan, from "Missing Link,” The cyclops monster from "Dragon's Domain" (arguably the most popular episode of the series), and even what could be the scorched Anton Zoref (Ian McShane) from “Force of Life.”

The second Amsco Cardboard Playset recreates the universe of the original Planet of the Apes films and TV series (from 1974).  Here you get a "Cave of the Doomsday Bomb," which is straight out of Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1971). The Alpha-Omega bomb is perched right on its altar, if you build the set correctly.

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