Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Universal, and not so Universal Halloween Die Cuts!

Please enjoy another guest post by my pal Matt, who will take us to school on vintage Halloween decorations- BrAin.

Greetings boils and ghouls! 

Today's post features some of the rarest, best, and most sought after and valuable Halloween die-cuts ever made based on the universal monsters. 

Some of them are solid cutouts, and others are jointed figures. All of them are from that wonderful period of the late 1970s and early 1980s when, in my humble opinion, the golden age of Halloween die-cuts was occurring.

This is not the full extent of my Halloween die-cut collection. But I decided to limit today to just the die cuts that have a universal monster connection. Enjoy!

1) Eureka die cuts Eureka was a company famous for its holiday decorations, they would make cardboard die cuts as well as tissue paper accordion decorations for Valentines, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, Christmas, and of course, Halloween. 

These cutouts of the universal monsters were made in 1981 I believe, and the Frankenstein is probably the most sought after universal monster die cut. 

 *This Frankenstein is my favorite of the lot. It is clearly based on Glenn Strange, and has gorgeous artwork. It is super large, 55 inches, and really makes a statement when you hang it up on the wall. 

The artwork is based on the cover art for the "famous monsters speaks LP" sold in the back pages of famous masters of filmland magazine by the captain company. 

 Although this is clearly a Universal Frankenstein, there is no sign of Universal licensing anywhere on the header card. If you can find this Frankenstein in the package, expect to pay several hundred dollars 

 *Dracula-- Dracula is the easiest of the Eureka diecuts to find. At first it appears to be just a wonderful generic Count Dracula. The closer inspection reveals that elements of the likeness are based on Robert Quarry in the Count Yorga films. Dracula was sold well into the late 80s. This has always led me to believe that perhaps Frankenstein was too obviously a universal rip off, and the Universal lawyers put the kibosh on it. But Dracula was suitably generic. 

 *Now for the rarest of the lot- "The Beware Wolf.". For years I searched for this werewolf. Until I saw it, I had hopeful dreams that it would be large like Frankenstein and Dracula, and jointed. I always knew in my mind's that it also would be based on the artwork from the cover of the Famous Monster Speaks album. And in that regard, I wasn't disappointed. 

This artwork comes straight from that, albeit with a change in the clothing. But instead of being jointed, he has a solid cut out. And he is less than half the size of his brothers. But oh what a beauty. This is the only package example I have ever seen, and he's probably worth twice as much as the Frankenstein. Eureka clearly understood that they were in cease and desist territory, because they didn't dare actually name him the Wolfman. But the "Beware Wolf?" Now that's just genius, lol. 

 * Eureka also released die-cut head portraits of some of their larger figures and varying sizes. Here are a pair of Dracula and Frankenstein.  

2) Dennison-- Dennison was based out of Massachusetts, and also produced several styles of holiday collectibles and decorations. This Frankenstein, while clearly being based on Karloff, he's not licensed at all. He's a bit smaller than the Eureka version, but I doubt we will ever see a more accurate vintage holiday representation of Boris Karloff. This Frankenstein also tends to fetch a pretty penny when he comes up for auction. I find it interesting that the body of this Frankenstein is based upon Karloff's appearance in the first movie, while his facial likeness is based upon his appearance in "Bride of Frankenstein". I love little idiosyncrasies like that. Modern style guides from Universal prevent that sort of wonderfulness from happening.

 3) Large head die cuts: Here we have an assortment of monster heads which I have grouped together for a very important reason – important to me anyways. These Halloween decorations were owned by my fourth grade English and reading teacher. She would put them up in her classroom every October. She lived in the same hometown as me, and was friends with my mother. Over 12 years ago she called my mom, letting her know that she was cleaning out the basement of her house, and came across some school materials that belong to me, and wondered if my mom wanted them. It included drawings I had done for school projects, as well as some compositions. 

So my mom went over to her house to collect these. And while she was there, in the same box, my teacher found her old classroom Halloween decorations and remembered what a fervent monster kid I was, and asked my mom if she thought I would like these. My mom snapped them up for me, and have been in my collection ever since. It is one of my best ever collecting stories. Mrs. Feiffer has since passed away. But every time I look at these, I think of her. Thank you Mrs. Feiffer, wherever you are. I believe the Frankenstein on the far left was also made by Dennison. The Lugosi Dracula I don't know who the manufacturer is, nor the wonderful werewolf companion he has. The Dracula on the far right is double-sided, with fuzzy flocked hair on one side, and smooth on the other. He is clearly based on Sir Christopher Lee. 

 4) Speaking of Christopher Lee, check out these wonderful diecut window cling decals. These are large, about 12 inches in height. The Dracula on the right is clearly based on Hammer's "Horror of Dracula," which was released by Universal International in the United States. The Frankenstein on the left is obviously inspired by the Don Post Frankenstein mask sculpted by Pat Newman. Okay... Now we get into some really wonderful knock off goodness 

 5) Aurora Monster Bogus Bama die cuts These two diecuts were released in the early 1980s as part of a larger set which included some more generic Halloween diecuts. They are not licensed, which seems to be the theme with all of these But what puts these two over the top is that they are clearly based on James Bama's legendary artwork for the Aurora model kits of the 1960s Let's start first with Frankenstein: * A quick glance might just make you think "oh, this is exactly like the aurora Frankenstein long box". But you'd be wrong – look more closely. 

He doesn't have universal Frankenstein bolts on his forehead. He has spikes driven into his head! And where did that cobra snake come from? Well that's clearly from the mummy! And those aren't electrodes in his neck-those are just nails! So you see? This isn't a universal Frankenstein at all Mr. Lawyer. Please move along, lol The old hag in the wheelchair is clearly based on the aurora vampire girl kit. Personally, I don't think these two diecuts could be more awesome if they tried. That's all for today. I hope you enjoy those vintage Halloween decorations as much as I do!

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I, Warren said...

these are fangtastic! Thanks for sharing!

Tom said...

Great stuff. In all my years of garage and estate saling, I've never come across these die cuts which is interesting since I've come across a lot of other Halloween die cuts. Regarding Frankenstein and licensing, I recently came across some discussion that to avoid copyright infringement, a lot of companies would use visuals of Frankenstein with bolts in his temples instead of his neck.

Caffeinated Joe said...

These are awesome - Would love to have them all hanging up, but would be afraid of damaging them. LOL

At the Rock and Shock Con in Worcester this weekend, I saw one vendor had die cuts like these, but for like Halloween and Halloween 3 and Friday the 13th. Sort of a retro mash up. Wish I had taken down the vendor's name. They were cool!

NLogan said...

Great collection and post near and dear to my heart. The companies that made these are Dennison for the Karloff Frankenstein. Eureka of Dunmore, Pennsylvania for the Glenn Strange Frankenstein, Lon Chaney Jr Wolf Man, generic Dracula, Dracula's bride, and witch as well as head cut outs of Frankenstein and Dracula. C.A. Reed Company for the Lugosi Dracula head cut out, the Karloff Frankenstein head cut out, and a generic Wolf Man. Peck Inc. from Bloomington, Indiana made the flocked Count Yorga head cut out, the Lon Chaney Sr. Phantom of the Opera head cut out, the Oliver Reed Werewolf from Curse of the Werewolf head cut out, and the generic Frankenstein based on a mask head cut out. I wrote an article about it at Retro-Daze.org NLogan http://www.retro-daze.org/site/article/id/9101

David Morefield said...

I'm a big fan of "Horror of Dracula," but I've gotta say # 4 puts me more in the mind of Frank Langella.

Gamera977 said...

Being about the same age I remember teachers and librarians putting those up too, funny our family never had any. They as best I remember were always the more comic ones though. NLogan posted some on his page. Had no idea that any of them were worth anything though!

NLogan: Thanks for the link, loved your article esp the part of dressing like dummies and scaring people! Wish I'd thought of that way back when!

Nico Toscani said...

Die cuts like these dominated the Halloween decorations of my childhood.


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