“Big Jim” was yet another toy franchise that was handed down to me from my older brother in the 1970’s to me a little kid in the early 1980’s. Mattel carried the toy line from 1972 all the way through 1986 — but I didn’t know a single other kid who played with these in the latter decade. We were all firmly entrenched in Kenner’s “Star Wars” and Hasbro’s “G.I. Joe,” with their wider ranges of small-scale, mostly all-plastic action figures. “Big Jim’s” more doll-like 10-inch figures and complex accessories made them seem more like the “Barbie Dolls” that my older sisters used to play with. (And they were roughly the same scale.)
This camper, in fact, was actually just one of Mattel’s “Barbie” vehicles that was cast in different plastic and lined with different vinyl siding. (As a child of the 80’s, I’m still befuddled at why so many 70’s playsets were made of vinyl. Did some law mandate that every product made in the 70’s include vinyl?)
What’s interesting about “Big Jim” toys from a cultural context is that they were … like a slightly pacifist “G.I. Joe.” (As I’ve mentioned here at the blog before, 1970’s G.I. Joe’s were a foot tall and far more doll-like than 80’s action figures.) Big Jim and his cohorts (like “Big Josh,” “Big Jeff,” “Big Jack,” you get the idea) were a lot like G.I. Joes. They were exclusively depicted in all sorts of manly adventures — camping, rafting, dirt-biking or weightlifting. But they had a decidedly non-military character.
Wagon lamps were a thing in the 1970’s. It was inexplicable, it was in kinda bad taste and it was visibly a fire hazard. But, then again, disco was also all of those three things, and that was a big part of the 1970’s too.
I can’t remember where I happened across this photo on the Internet, but I think this was the lamp that my family had in Queens, NY, when I was a tot. It survived our move to Long Island … I remember it because I was a little enchanted with it when I was a kid. It might have wound up in my room at some point.
I was only a baby when ABC debuted the original “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” in 1973, but I caught it when it was rebroadcast around the end of the decade, when I was … six or seven years old? And dear GOD did it scare the crap out of me.
Since then, it’s become a minor legend in the horror fan community as one of the rare made-for-television movies that is easily as scary as something you’d see in a theater. This was the film that was remade in 2010, produced by Guillermo del Toro and with Katie Holmes in the lead role. (And I thought that the remake was a fun horror fantasy, even if it wasn’t terribly scary.)
I actually caught the film again about ten years ago, courtesy of Netflix’ DVD-by-mail service. And it was still creepy enough.
This movie scared the PANTS off me when I was a little kid. It was released to theaters in 1979; I would have seen it a few years later when it played on broadcast television.
It made such a terrifying impression on me that I’m a little surprised I never developed even the mildest phobic response to mannequins. (I’ve met other adults for whom they are just too creepy.) They don’t bother me in the slightest. I feel the same way about clowns.
This video happened across my Facebook newsfeed last night, and I just had to share it. (I am linking here to the AlltimeBestRockMusic Facebook page.) This is Hope Sandoval singing Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” live in California in 1994. I can’t think of a song that better reminds me of being 21 again.
This is the 90’s-est song that ever 90’s-ed. Sure, a song by Ace of Base, Oasis or Right Said Fred will take you right back as well, but none of them had the staying power of Bush’s “Machinehead.”
The song is from the band’s “Sixteen Stone” album in December 1994, about seven months after I graduated from Mary Washington College. It it was all over the airwaves. I played the radio a lot, because buying a lot of CD’s was a pricey proposition for somebody just out of school. And, man, did I blast this.
I only saw one third of Roy Ward Baker’s “The Monster Club” (1981), when I was maybe in the third or fourth grade. It was a typical 80’s horror anthology movie, and I walked in when my older brother was watching the third and final segment on television. I’ll be damned if that segment alone didn’t creep me out, though. (And the reviews of the film that I’ve read indeed name “The Ghouls” as the scariest entry in the trio.)
It’s pretty tame by today’s standards, or at least to my adult sensibilities. It was definitely a lower-budget scary story, and probably pretty safe for television even back then. But I watched it again the other night, and it still retains its creepiness after … about 35 years, I guess. The titular monsters are indeed “ghouls” in the classical sense — they are human-looking fiends that are very much alive, but that feed on carrion (which actually makes them the reverse of zombies, I suppose.)
I can’t vouch for the rest of the movie, as I’ve only seen snippets, which seem pretty cheesy. The wraparound segments star none other than Vincent Price and John Carradine, which will of course appeal to fans of classic horror. (Carradine actually portrays a fictionalized version of R. Chetwynd – Hayes, the prominent British author who penned the stories on which the movie is based.)
If you saw this back in the day and “The Ghouls” got under your skin, then let me know. I’d get a kick out of knowing that I wasn’t the only one.