May 28, 2020

Monster Trading Cards: Special Accidental Monsters of the ‘50s Edition, Part One

I was going through one of my social media feeds the other day and saw some pics of movie monster trading cards from the ‘60s that triggered a bout of nostalgia. I was pretty sure I had owned a couple of the cards, but there wasn’t a lot of information, so naturally I googled ‘em.

Packaging for Leaf's Spook Theatre trading cards, circa 1962
I found a very helpful webpage on vintage monster trading cards from 1959 through the end of the ‘60s (“The 1st Ten Years of Monster Cards”), that helped me identify even more card sets that had gone through my grubby little kid fingers. One that I immediately remembered with great fondness was Leaf’s Spook Theatre, which was issued in two sets between 1962 and ‘65. The Leaf cards featured black & white pictures of (mostly) the classic Universal monsters complete with cheesy gag captions. On the flip side were jokes that were uniformly lame, even for an 8 year old.

Others I remember: Topps’ Outer Limits series, which featured colorized stills of the series’ monsters on the face and mini-stories on the flip side that had nothing to do with the actual episode; and the Mars Attacks cards (also from Topps), which included luridly violent color illustrations and stories to match.

Another card set I distinctly remember that topped (pun intended) Topps’ Mars Attacks series for graphic violence was their Civil War News set, which depicted gross-out scenes of bloody war carnage. The Spook Theatre and Outer Limits cards were innocuous enough, but I don’t think my parents would have approved of the other two sets, so my memory conveniently tells me that I owned a bunch of the former two and I had to rely on the wilder kids in the neighborhood to look at the latter two.

Sample cards, front and back, from Leaf's Spook Theatre set

To make a long story short, this jaunt down memory lane inspired me to design my own line of pretend monster trading cards (i.e., not printed, not for sale or other commercial purposes, available freely online to lucky readers of this blog, etc., etc.). For this first set, I decided to feature accidental monsters of ‘50s sci-fi and horror; characters who, by virtue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, become ravening monsters through no fault of their own.

And, in honor of those endearing monster cards of yesteryear, I’ve included dumb captions, monster backstories, and, exclusively for this set, I’ve rated each accidental monster for pathos on a 1 to 5 scale (1 being the least pathetic, 5 the most).

Yeah, I’ve got a lot of time on my hands. Anyway, here are the first two in the set of six. Check back here for new cards. Collect ‘em all! (Bubblegum not included.)

Accidental Monsters of the '50s trading card #1: The Amazing Colossal Man
The Amazing Colossal Man (1957). Lt. Col. Glenn Manning (Glenn Langan) is inadvertently caught out in the open during a test of a new plutonium bomb in the Nevada desert. Horribly burned over most of his body, Manning nonetheless survives, and to the amazement of the doctors and his fiancee Carol (Cathy Downs), his wounds heal up overnight! Adding to the medical mystery, he starts growing ten feet a day. Getting enough to eat is the least of the colossal man’s worries, as the doctors discover that his heart is not growing enough to keep an adequate blood supply flowing to the brain. The prognosis: insanity, then death.
With his mind going, Manning escapes from the base and takes a walk over to Las Vegas, where he tears up part of the strip. Military helicopters herd the giant towards Hoover dam for his date with destiny.

Fun fact: American International Pictures adapted The Amazing Colossal Man from an old science fiction novel, The Nth Man (Homer Eon Flint, 1928) in order to cash in, in a reverse sort of way, on the earlier success of Universal’s The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957).

Pathos rating: 4 out of 5 points
4 out of 5 Pathos Points for Manning having to walk down the Las Vegas strip wearing only a giant adult diaper


Accidental Monsters of the '50s trading card #2: Blood of Dracula
Blood of Dracula (1957). Only a couple of months after the death of her mother, troubled teen Nancy Perkins (Sandra Harrison) is sent away to boarding school by her unfeeling father who is only interested in his new wife. Nancy is harassed by the other girls, to the point of being injured in chemistry class when two of her conniving classmates switch chemicals on her.

The chemistry teacher, Miss Branding (Louise Lewis) seizes on the opportunity to gain Nancy’s trust and use her in an experiment to prove Branding’s theory that there is a terrible, destructive power in every person -- and therefore humanity can’t be trusted with nuclear weapons (!!) Branding hypnotizes Nancy with the aid of an amulet from the Carpathian mountains (Dracula’s old stomping grounds), and proceeds to unleash the unwitting Nancy’s inner vampire, with fearful consequences.

Fun fact: Blood of Dracula shares striking similarities with another American International Pictures release, I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), in that an unwitting teenager is hypnotized and turned into a monster by an adult obsessed with drawing out humanity’s primitive instincts.

Pathos rating: 3 out of 5 points
3 out of 5 Pathos Points for Nancy not being able to cash in on her rad new look and lifestyle in a pre-Instagram era.

2 comments:

  1. What a great idea for a card series! I'll be looking forward to each new edition. Hope you and your family and friends are all keeping healthy. NYC starts coming out of lockdown on June 8th. Very good news! I may be able to get a haircut sometime in July.

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    1. Hi Bill! Thanks for the kind words! We're staying safe and healthy, and trust you're doing the same. I've lost track of the last time I got a haircut, but at least at my age I still have hair to cut! :) I've got two more sets of the accidental monsters to post, and then at some point I plan to do another series. It's been a nice change of pace from my usual sort of post.

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