About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

C is for Charge of the God-Knows Brigade!

Published the battle shots immediately below this post already, so quick blurb production on this post needed.

The Americans in the 1950's and 60's had - generally - much bigger houses than your average European, and consequently they developed a different approach to toys, specifically 'boys toys' with the play-set (or playset, but spellcheck's never liked that!). A whole box full of stuff, everything you needed; figures and any relevant vehicles or animals for two sides, accessories and scenics all together.

Marx and MPC were the masters of the art, the sets being typically 54-to-60mm in scale/size and for the most part; unpainted. However, Marx decided that they could produce pocket-battles in a smaller scale and also, that paint would be useful, so the Marx Miniature Masterpiece range of 'HO' sets was born.

Only - they can be a disappointment, especially in the jaded eyes of a modern adult! Firstly they are not HO, HO is a model railway gauge equating to somewhere between 1:86 and 1:76th scales or 18-23mm for compatible figures, whereas the MMM's (as I shall refer to them from now on because I can't be arsed to keep typing the full rigmarole) are between 25mm and 30+...but I'm getting ahead of myself, the figures are further down the page...

So...the accessories (we're looking at the Charge of the Light Brigade set by the way...I've started this all wrong while in a bad mood so bear with me!); rocks - OK, but common to a lot of these sets, dead trees - hardly the pinnacle of the sculptors-art are they?

Flags; the British tended to use square flags in battle at the time so the oblong is a bit out and the lines...am I really going to pick a toy flag to pieces? Lets look at the other one...anybody care to guess? I think it might be the flag of a hotel on the French Riviera? It's close to flags of Barbados and Ukraine!

Cannon-ball piles and Ceveaux-de-frise, are standard for these sets but the flag-poles are more uncommon with the Western sets getting a scale-down of the tree-trunk in  a pile of rocks. However their uncommonness is tarnished by their complete inability to stand-up on a carpet!

I love the cannons, even if they too are a bit dodgy, the larger one is OK really, with its solid carriage and parrot-type barrel, but no one has ever offered an explanation for the smaller design with its duck-scoop breech and its cast-iron looking, curved carriage sliding up and down its axles, very odd!

The horses are fine for 30mil giants, but don't look anything like mid-Victorian cavalry mounts with colourful Indian blankets under a vague, small, hunting or racing-saddle. I've opened two of these sets over the years and sorted a third and the horses are the only non-consistent element of the contents. The count is always the same, to match the riders, but the number in each pose and/or colour scheme/plastic colour varies from set to set.

Each MMM play-set tends to have a stand-alone Pièce De Résistance - usually a fort, or ark, or something, in this set it's a big rock, a really big rock and two not so big rocks!

There are hardly any polyethylene components in these sets but there are always a few bits, here the two not so big, big-rocks are blow-moulded, one - having been held in the cavity longer than the other - has a much more rock-like disposition, the other being a bit melty-rounded-off.

Trees and coconut palms, because I'm sure we all know what a problem coconuts were for the Allied Expeditionary Force in the Crimea! The two trees are nice knock-offs of the Britains design, similar to the beech/birch trees from that company. This is the rest of the ethylene in this set and the palms (from all MMM sets) are tending to brittleness now.

The 'meat and two veg' in this set...at the same time brilliant and a bit silly! Brilliant because they are pretty unique figures, silly because they're, well....silly.

The 'Lancers' are in late-Victorian infantry uniforms (sort of) with helmets they've clearly borrowed from one of the nations bordering the Trigan Empire, or some of Flash Gordon's enemies? While the Russians are not as bad (there were Cossack troops at the end of the valley), but with five guns in the play-set...no gunners!

The ACW get enough gunners to squabble over who rides the limber (but not really enough to man all the guns!), but here we have no gunners, and the uniform of the Russians at the guns was grey greatcoat and cap...and FOUR buglers? The British don't get any? So, you see; a bit silly!

Of interest for completists; the four lances carried by the foot Russians are sculpted in relief with folds, while the single lance carried by the mounted figure on the Russian side has a flat flag (as are the different shaped British lances), so must have been on a separate mould-tool (?) and needs to be present in a 'mint' set.

I originally posted elements of this set on my old Imageshack account to illustrate a point on the HäT forum and here are a couple of those images re-used as an afterthought with a comparison shot to show how Marx recycled poses - I think all the British foot figures are based on other figures from the MMM range...off the top of my head: the kneeling Jap, advancing Marine and ACW or US cavalry officer (?) making up the set of four? Something to come back to one day!

Box and play mat; a paper sheet. I thought it was the same sheet as the Battleground set we looked at ages ago, but it isn't, that was one of the forts I found while taking this set of shots, I didn't shoot the fort sets, but I did shoot a few of the forts, so they will appear here in the next few days/weeks.

Why are the 'British' holding the guns against a Cossack charge on the box lid?

Charge of the Light Brigade by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr.

So, short-fuse leads to bitty, bitey post, but at least I avoided that jumped-up despotic corporals thingy the other day! Huh? We won, that's all you need to know, close-run thingy but we won and Blownapart apparently shat his pants!

See post below to see how much I really love this set...


Anonymous said...

The guys in the czapka wearing the red coats would be moderately okay (from a distance!) with a paintjob and a few other modifications as Jalisco Lancers in a Texican-Mexican War scenario. No need to be so damning in your post, methinks. Have you not heard of historical research, paints or figure conversion? I challenge you: paint these up as Santa Anna's cavalry c. 1836 and see how far you get.


Hugh Walter said...

Hi Becky

From a distance they're OK for Light Brigade lancers - after a repaint!! But you can't be going around painting old collectables! Although I know a man who would...Eh...Uncle Brian?