Pantheon of Plastic: #6 (tie)

This is the last PoP feature I’m going to run. As popular as this feature has been (??!), it’s time to wind it up and move on to other distractions. In fact, I was going to stop at the top 5 but I know that all those PoP-lovers out there (??!) have been waiting for one face to turn up. Or should that be, one “Face” to turn up! (Ga-zing!) That’s right, the tied-for-6th-position inductees into the Pantheon of Plastic are Dirk “Faceman” Benedict and his A-team-mate, Mr T!

Dirk Benedict

Starbuck, Battlestar Galactica
(TV, 1978; figure released 1978 by Mattel)

Dirk Benedict shot to fame as wisecrackin’ cigar-chompin’ X-Wing pilot James T. Starbuck, fighting the evil Stormtroopers while seeking a final refuge for the Rebel Alliance. For one glorious season he smirked his way through the galaxy, trading gags with the tin dog, and then returning for some TV movies. Benedict hasn’t been pleased by the revival of his classic show, but maybe that’s just sour grapes because a google image search on Starbuck doesn’t feature him nearly as much as it once did, and also includes a giant left-liberal coffee chain. At least he doesn’t have as much to complain about as his old co-star Richard Hatch, whose dogged determination over decades to revive the show was completely thwarted by some other people who came in and re-imagined it. More important source of Hatch disgruntlement: in the 1978 action figure series, they never made one of Captain Apollo. You could buy his best friend, his dad, his enemies and that random insect that was a baddie in one episode, but him, the co-lead? No! Poor Richard Hatch.

Templeton Peck, The A-Team
(TV, 1984; figure released 1984 by Galoob)

Benedict made a similarly lasting impression as the ultimate smooth operator, “Face”/”Faceman” in soldiers-for-hire the A-Team. The team specialised in rescuing kidnapped children, and escaping from fully-supplied mechanical workshops, but Face was basically there to woo the ladies (on-screen ladies, and those watching at home). As a kid I always wondered why he was called Face, because his Face didn’t seem to come off or morph into anything, and as superpowers went “having a face” wouldn’t even get you an interview for the Great Lakes Avengers. Now I understand: it’s because you want to slap his smug face every time he opens his mouth, right? Right?

Mr T.

Clubber Lang, Rocky III
(Movie, 1982; figure released 1982 by Phoenix Toys)

Mr T needs no introduction, for he is loved by all. “Pity the fool” comes from the Rocky III script.
Here is a post from 2007 with some great Mr T amazement.

B.A. Baracus, The A-Team
(TV, 1984; figure released 1984 by Galoob)

Mr T actually makes more sense as an action figure who is made into a person, than as a person who is made into an action figure. Which seems as good a place as any to stop this madness.

So that’s enough of that.

BONUS MEMORY: I will always remember Mr T. from Alex Winter’s bizarro comedy Freaked. As the bearded lady:

Pantheon of Plastic: #5

He is the most unlikely member of the entire Pantheon of Plastic, and he rounds out the first 5. His entry to the Pantheon is a triumph for every hulking Brummy writer determined to honour their roots. Boys and girls, I give you the fifth inductee into the Pantheon of Plastic, in 1984, it is Pat Roach!

German Mechanic, Raiders of the Lost Ark
(Movie, 1981; figure released 1983 by Kenner)

Birmingham native Patrick Roach made a name for himself throwing down with Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy and other legendary figures of the UK wrestling scene. It was Stanley Kubrick who first put him on-screen, in Clockwork Orange and then again in Barry Lyndon, and this track record got him on-set for Spielberg’s 1981 pulp homage. Roach features in the only set-piece fight scene in the film, which stands out for its great storytelling and Harrison Ford’s wincing, grimacing performance. His hulking, terrifying presence is all the more impressive for coming pretty much out of nowhere. He’s not the henchman of the main villain, he’s not a vicious recurring enemy, he’s just a dude who was at his job when some foreigner starts causing trouble on his patch. And, one senses, this German mechanic quite enjoys stopping trouble. The battle is hair-raising and builds up to one of the most memorable demises in 1980s cinema. Roach uses scant minutes of screen-time to make an indelible impression.

Giant Thugee, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(Movie, 1984; figure released 1984 by LJN)

Spielberg brought Roach back for the Indy sequel (and again for the third film, but there’s no action figure of that role). This time they darkened his skin and had him playing the fierce guard keeping the boy slaves in check. His role isn’t nearly so memorable this time, not to mention the fact that blacking up seems entirely inappropriate these days, but it gave Roach more time to glower and look menacing.

My favourite thing about this figure is that it’s listed in several places as the “giant huggee“. Which, let’s face it, is what everyone wanted to do to gentle giant Roach, particularly for his best-remembered performance of all, as Bomber in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

Sadly, Roach didn’t survive to appear in the final Auf Wiedersehen special, dying of throat cancer in 2004, aged 67 (Independent obituary).

Pantheon of Plastic: #4

He was the son of TV actors, and a TV actor he became, but he achieved much more than his parents. He missed out on the role of Luke Skywalker, but he became a hero who is much better-loved than that whiny teenager – and the smiling face behind the most sing-alonga theme tune of all time. Ladeez and gennulmens, I give you the fourth inductee to the Pantheon of Plastic, also inducted in 1982, it is William Katt!

Sundance Kid, Butch and Sundance: The Early Days
(Movie, 1979; figure released 1979 by Kenner)

William Katt is Robert Redford is the Sundance Kid, back when he was kid. These figures were made by Kenner in support of the film, hoping to repeat the success of the Star Wars phenomenon. They tried some technical innovations: these were Kenner’s first figures with knee joints, because this was the Old West and the characters needed to be able to line dance ride horses.

And heck, that ol’ “Western Cafe” playset that was good enough for Butch and Sundance would do just fine when it was reissued as Mos Eisley Cantina for Star Wars.

Also, here’s the trailer for the film. And here’s a review from 1979 that gives the film credit for the word “prequel”. There’s another Star Wars connection – the first Star Wars film was only called Episode IV in 1981, after Empire Strikes Back had been released as Episode V. So the idea of a prequel may have only hatched in Lucas’ brain after he sat through Willaim Katt as the Sundance Kid. Thus, we have the true legacy of Katt in this role: Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Ralph, The Greatest American Hero

(TV show, 1982; figure released 1982 by Mego)

The first episode of G.A.H. is quite surprising. It’s almost gritty – there are villains murdering people, and William Katt’s lead character Ralph is going all Dangerous Minds inspirational on a classroom of troubled yoof. There is no hint that he’s going to end up being one of the great clown characters of American TV, complete with a hilariously cowardly FBI sidekick.

The figure was released with sidekick as part of a playset with a convertible “Bug”. The box art features a great caricature by legendary MAD-magazine artist Jack Davis.

Ralph Hinkley had a name-change soon after the Greatest American Hero debuted, on account of some other Hinkley trying to assassinate the U.S. President. The crew went through and overdubbed mentions of the name with “Mr H” or disguised it with sound effects, including on one occasion the sound of jet engines. They changed his name in unfilmed scripts to the less-offensive Hanley, and made a new nameplate for the character’s office door so when the camera lingered, everyone could see that his name was not at all like that of the would-be Reagan-killer. A great disaster was avoided and Americans could watch the bumbling curly-blond hero without being reminded of the assassin!

Until season 2, when they changed his name back to Hinkley.

Pantheon of Plastic: #3

He was a carpenter with a bad attitude, and then he became a movie star, and then he became two separate plastic figures – a pretty good approximation of the American Dream. The 1982 inductee to the PoP is Harrison Ford.

Han Solo, Star Wars
(movie, 1977; figure released 1977 by Kenner

Orphan. Smuggler. Wookiee stroker. Han Solo was the hard man of Star Wars — rough and uncompromising, but willing to subvert his principles if the price was right. His crucial intervention at the battle of Yavin (without him Yavin would be an asteroid field and Luke would be a stain on the equatorial trench) seemed proof of a mellowing of character. Was Han a nice guy after all? And while he could justify Yavin as an act of rugged mannish loyalty, the ass-freezing months on Hoth couldn’t be explained so easily. Even Chewie knew the truth – he was a bad man hung up on an unattainable woman.

And then something went horribly wrong. Maybe all that time in carbonite gave him some time to think, because he came out a changed man. He softened up. Mr. Rough-and-Uncompromising turned into Mr. Upset-When-Leia-Paid-Luke-Some-Attention. He let himself be captured by Imperial officers and he didn’t kill a single Ewok. He went on to marry Leia and popped a pair of L’il Jedi. He even tells that old Greedo story differently now. Sorry, Han – we liked you more when you were dangerous.

(Ever notice how the planetary environments in the Star Wars movies reflect the Han-Leia love story? The regimented Death Star when neither Han nor Leia would let down their guard, Hoth when Han and Leia were on frosty terms, Bespin when they were floating and flirting, Tatooine when they were just plain hot for each other, and finally a happy cavort among the priapic trees and diminutive satyrs of Endor.)

Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark
(movie, 1981; figure released 1982 by Kenner)

If you’re anything like us, you probably already know that Indiana Jones’ first name is, in fact, Henry, and that he received his pathological fear of snakes from a mishap that occurred when he was a wholesome boy scout in 1912, before his well-documented demise into drink and drugs, resulting in his death from drug-induced heart failure outside a fashionable LA night spot in 1993.

You’ll also know that his father, the noted archaeologist Henry Jones, Sr, spent many years as an agent for Britain’s Secret Service, thwarting the plans of SPECTRE and SMERSH, before being captured by the CIA and held prisoner in Alcatraz, before breaking out, and, yes, breaking back in, in order to save the free world.

But here’s some real knowledge: when a female student writes a message on her eyelids so she can flirt with you in class? Going on indefinite leave to Nepal is, in fact, the proper response. Girls like that are NOT TO BE TRUSTED.

[I think we both had a hand in this one. This is the last piece of PoP from a decade ago, but I’m not gonna stop here – I’ll see out the first five inductees at least…]

Pantheon of Plastic: #2

In 1978, Lorne Green became the inaugural member of the Pantheon of Plastic.
One year later in 1979, he was joined by the second inductee into this prestigious panoply of plastinated personalities. Ladeez and gennelmen, I give you the 1979 Inductee… Boris Karloff!

Boris Karloff (inducted 1979)
(Boris Karloff’s IMDB entry)

Karloff is unusual for the Pantheon of Plastic for two reasons – he had passed away long before his induction, and his two iconic plastic-commemorated roles were nearly fifty years old when the action figures were released. But action figures they were, and so Karloff can add PoP membership to his voluminous CV!

Frankenstein’s Monster, Frankenstein
(Movie, Universal, 1931; figure released 1979 by Remco)
Karloff as the Monster

Jack P Pierce was responsible for the distinctive look of the Monster, but Karloff was enthusiastic about the makeup, offering to remove his bridgework to give the monster freaky cheeks. It was a combination of Pierce’s wizardry and Karloff’s unnerving performance that made this such an iconic role, worthy of being turned into a plastic figure to stomp around the sandpit with a generation of little kids.
Karloff once played baseball wearing full Monster make-up. Buster Keaton was the catcher. Read about it, and see the photo, here.

The Mummy, The Mummy
(Movie, Universal,1932; figure released 1979 by Remco)

Another Pierce/Karloff joint. Imhotep! But does anyone really care about Imhotep? Really? This would’ve been a way cooler movie if they’d gone by the original idea of making it about Cagliostro. That dude was crazy.

The Pantheon of Plastic

SUCCESS IN FILM AND TELEVISION can bring seats at the priciest restaurants and entry to the fussiest clubs, but there is one coterie so exclusive that even the most well-known and successful are unable to gain entry, try as they might. Yes, we here at AdditiveRich hold that the true measure of a star’s greatness is their membership in this particularly elite group – THE PANTHEON OF PLASTIC.

The criteria for membership is quite quite simple: the performer must have played at least two different roles for which his or her likeness has been immortalized, in molded plastic, as an action figure.

(An action figure. NOT a doll.)

Note that it has to be an action figure of the actor as the character. Those James Bond figures that used the same mold regardless of movie don’t win a prize for Roger Moore or Sean Connery. Or George Lazenby even. Animated characters also don’t count, even if the animation is based on the performer. These are our rules! They are carefully-considered and cannot be violated!

This is a 2001 draft of the Pantheon of Plastic intro. It shows its age – in fact the whole concept of the PoP shows its age. As plastic molding tech has improved and action figure markets have matured, the PoP has lost its exclusivity. There are now action figures of all sorts of folk. The barricades have been thrown down! The Pantheon has been debased!

Here’s a screenshot showing the first inductee into the PoP… from 1978, it’s… Lorne Green!