Category Archives: DVDs & Podcasts

Bob Brechin, Chief Designer for Palitoy, Goes “On the Record” to Discuss the Creation and Evolution of Palitoy’s “Action Man” in the UK

Happy Birthday, Son! DVD creator, Tony Roberts, added numerous moments of supplemental material by utilizing adult (and child) models, then dressing them in period clothing with retro hairstyles and having them reenact moments all too familiar to fans of GIjOE and Action Man. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

Happy Birthday, Son! For his superb DVD, “The Story of Action Man,” director Tony Roberts filmed numerous retro-recreations, including this realistic sequence of a young boy opening a brand-new Deep Sea Diving equipment set on his birthday. To recreate such nostalgic scenes, Roberts utilized adult and child actors and dressed them in period clothing. Then, during editing, he faded the color and added numerous “old film” special effects to complete the illusion. The final moments were indeed, VERY familiar to fans and collectors of both GIjOE and Action Man. Out-STANDING work, Tony! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

The Story of Action Man has been faithfully recounted on a superb 2013 DVD by Australia's Tony Roberts. (Photo: ebay)

The Story of Action Man was faithfully recounted in a superb 2013 DVD by Australian Tony Roberts. (Photo: ebay)

Exclusive Insights From One of the “Founding Fathers” of Palitoy’s Iconic (UK) Action Man

When Bob Brechin (the former Chief Designer for Palitoy) wrote to us recently to discuss his memories of the history and development of Action Man and his involvement with “The Story of Action Man” DVD (a wonderfully informative film produced by Tony Roberts), we grabbed our reporter’s pads and pencils and stood up at attention. We knew whatever Brechin had to say, it would be coming “straight from the top.”

If you aren’t already aware, Brechin is the UK’s equivalent of America’s iconic toy creator and former top Hasbro executive, Don Levine (now deceased) and is without a doubt, one of the 1:6 scale hobby’s most beloved “Founding Fathers.” To millions of collectors around the world, Bob is especially admired for all the work he did EXPANDING the Action Man line. So many new uniforms, equipment sets and vehicles were introduced during his tenure that it literally boggles the mind. When his email “blinged” into our inbox, we couldn’t wait to read what UK’s toy legend had to say!

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Bob Brechin, former Chief Designer of Palitoy, took time out to write to The Joe Report recently with more of his personal memories and insights into the creation of the iconic Action Man toy line in the UK. (Photo: Tony Roberts)

Bob Brechin, former Chief Designer of Palitoy, took time out to write to The Joe Report recently to avail its readers of his personal memories of the evolution of the Action Man toy line. (Photo: Tony Roberts)

Here’s what Brechin wrote to The Joe Report:

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“Having just read your feature by Mike talking about  the VAME show on 6th of June and noticing the post he included about the showing of the ‘The Story of Action Man’ (see HERE, ed.) I thought I would follow that up and tell you more about it…

About this time of the year (50 years ago), the management at Palitoy were negotiating with the Hassenfeld Brothers for the license to market in the UK what was controversially called ‘a rugged doll for boys’ by its inventor, Stan Weston. Having seen the success of G.I. Joe in the States, the company saw the potential in the toy and (like the Hassenfeld Brothers), ignored comments such as, ‘boys will not play with a doll.’

Action Man was

Palitoy’s Action Man built on the excellence of early GIjOE products, revising them with a decidedly British twist. Many of the UK-themed figures, sets and vehicles were never offered in the U.S. and are passionately sought after by fans on “both sides of the pond.” (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

“So confident was the company (Palitoy), that marketing plans were decided and Toy Fair catalogues were printed before the licence was agreed and signed very late in 1965. The ink had barely dried when the toy was launched at the British Toy Fair the following January. As you are aware, it went on to be an enormous success; collecting The Toy of the Year award in its first year and later being voted The Toy of the Decade in 1980.

Although Action Man was still selling well, in 1984 General Mills decided to cease production because plans were afoot to get out of the toy business. The design and development department was closed down and the following year Palitoy became Kenner Parker and the intentions of the new company was to distribute American developed products only, throughout Europe. The intellectual rights to Action Man were passed over to Hasbro and as we know they resurrected the 12” toy in the late 90’s.”

In this scene from Robert's DVD, Bob Belchin reminisces about the early days of Action Man production at Palitoy. (Photo: Tony Roberts)

Remembering When— In this scene from Tony Robert’s DVD, Bob Brechin reminisces about early product concepts and the development of Action Man at Palitoy. (Photo: Tony Roberts)

“I joined Palitoy in 1967, a year after the launch, right through until its demise in 1984. Throughout that time, I was the lead designer for Action Man, helping to transform what was essentially G.I. Joe in Palitoy packaging into a British phenomenon. I also led a team that developed the range ‘Action Force’ before we were aware of Hasbro’s intentions to develop the same range of 3 3/4 “ action figures that was to be  a “resurrected” G.I. Joe.

It was later that we introduced some Hasbro product into the Action Force range that saved us from some big tooling investment. Action Force was very popular (after the conceptual repositioning in year 2) and money for new tooling was forthcoming. One of my proudest designs was the ‘Roboskull,’ which  seems to be very popular with the fans in the States.”

Collectors

Collect Them All! AM collectors such as Daren Millar (shown here in a screen capture from Tony Robert’s DVD), fill their shelves at home with Action Man. (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

“After leaving Palitoy, I remained in toy design and development and it was during this period I became aware of the collecting mania that had grown. My first real awareness was when I took my (old) boss Bill Pugh, who conceived the ideas to give Action Man ‘realistic hair’ and ‘gripping hands’ (kung-fu grip to G.I. Joe fans ), to an Action Man collector’s show at the Tank Museum in the south of England.

He was totally amazed with the whole collecting scene as we walked amongst the tanks (many from WWI) and the Action Man displays. Sadly, shortly after our visit he passed away. But I was pleased to be able to show him a glimpse of the love that collectors have for a toy that we were able to play a part in bringing to the nation.”

Details REALLY Do Make the Difference! This super closeup of the Action Man astronaut window box set will make any fan drool with envy and LUST. WOW! (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

Details REALLY Do Make the Difference. This closeup of a NMOC vintage Action Man astronaut suit equipment set would make any fan drool with envy. WOWZA! (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

“Since that immersion into the Action Man collecting community, I have been approached by individuals and groups for my thoughts and to attend meetings as a guest. I was involved in the production of the book ‘Action Man: The Official Dossier’ by Ian Harrison, writing the foreword as a dedication to Bill Pugh.

It was with some interest later, in July 2011, when I received an email from a curator at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnall Green, London, that a collector wanted to talk to me about a film he was making about the history of Action Man. After some thought, I told the curator that this person should contact me. Apparently, he took three days composing his email to get it right because he didn’t want to lose me. (He didn’t.)”

Tony Roberts, director of

Tony Roberts, director of “The Story of Action Man,” poses with some of his personal Action Man collection at home in Perth, Australia. (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

“Tony Roberts lives in Perth, Australia. He emigrated there from England when he was a young boy. Whilst in England, he was given an Action Man as a present and fell in love with it straight away. Every birthday and Christmas, he had to have something Action Man as a present and little did he know—he was building up his collection!

When his family moved to Australia, Tony’s love for the toy did not wane and his collection grew. When he grew up, he wanted to emulate his hero, so joined the Australian Army. After serving his time, during which he was seriously collecting, he move back to England and joined the British Army.”

With a Face Like THIS— It's easy to understand how millions of young children would be inspired to emulate their real-life heroes. Go, Action Man! (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

With a Face Like THIS— It’s easy to understand how millions of young children would be inspired to emulate real-life heroes with really cool action figures. Go, Action Man! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

“The London Iranian Embassy Siege, that began on 30th April 1980 and was so dramatically ended by the SAS on 5th May, resulted in Palitoy fast-tracking an Action Man version. It must have also inspired young Tony because later when he was serving with the British Army, he applied for the famous SAS. He was rejected; but Action Man doesn’t give in; so he reapplied and was successful.

After serving with the regiment in the Middle East, Tony took on the role as a security consultant, managing a team that was protecting politicians, industrialists and aid-workers who were part of the operation trying to rebuild Iraq after the conflict. Still collecting Action Man and sending them back home, during this time in Iraq he developed his other love of film-making.”

Now THAT'S a box! The dramatic, bullet-ridden Action Man logo was sure to stir the passions of young Brits, eager for some serious play ACTION! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

Now THIS is a box! And that dramatic, bullet-ridden Action Man logo surely stirred the passions and imaginations of many young fans; eager for some serious backyard ACTION! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

“Many of his films that were shot from the dashboard of his Humvee received high praise from his colleagues and they would invariably ask for a copy to take with them when their tour of duty ended. When Tony’s own time came, he was unsure of what to do next. Many of his chums were taking up roles on merchant ships protecting them from pirates around the horn of Africa. Tony wanted out; but still unsure of where his life should go.

One day he had a thought. ‘People keep telling me my films are good, they always ask for a copy. That would be an interesting and different career move.’ But he needed a subject. ‘Well, I have this wonderful and almost complete collection of Action Man. The history of the development of the toy would make a great film.’ Bingo!”

Gotten himmel! The photography in Tony Robert's DVD is truly outstanding. By combining closeups with lavious backgrounds, the final effect was quite cinematic. (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

Gotten himmel! The photography in Tony Robert’s DVD is truly outstanding. By combining closeups with lavish backgrounds, the final effect is quite cinematic. (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

“On his return to his home in Perth, he eagerly set to work building dioramas and began shooting. He needed to flesh out the film with face-to-face interviews with some of the people involved in Action Man’s ‘story,’ so yet another return trip was made to England so as to track them (including myself) down.

Tony’s email convinced me with its sincerity and enthusiasm that I should help him with this film. After all, there were plenty of books out there on the subject already, but no definitive story for the screen. So, we spoke on the phone and agreed that he should travel up from his family’s base in the south to Coalville, the old home of Palitoy.”

Don't Forget GIjOE! The original 12-inch action hero also features prominently in the Robert's film. After all, with Hasbro's creation, Action Man may never have existed! (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

Don’t Forget GIjOE! America’s original 12-inch “Movable Fighting Man” also features prominently in Tony Robert’s DVD, “The Story of Action Man.” OOHrah! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

“In the meantime, I contacted some old ex-colleagues. A room at a local hotel was booked for a couple of days so that Tony could conduct his interviews before he went off to a show to conduct similar interviews with collectors. A few months later, he returned with the first draft of his film.

I arranged with Snibston Discovery Museum (only a stone’s throw from the old Palitoy factory) to show the film there to all those involved, including their friends and family. The attendees were very impressed and thoroughly entertained. From their comments, he returned to Australia and re-edited the film before finally offering it for sale as a DVD from his website.”

Snibston

Set to Close Soon? The Snibston Discovery Museum faces an uncertain future. (Photo: SDM)

“The Snibston Discovery Museum is due for closure at the end of July due to the county council having to make cuts in its budget as a result of the national government’s austerity programme. It is a tragedy that such important places that are guardians of local and national heritage are being closed. 

Coalville, as its name suggests, was a coal mining town that grew from humble beginnings and now has a population well over 30,000. The Snibston museum celebrates this industrial heritage, but also is home for other interesting collections; one of which is the TOYS that were once made at Palitoy!”

bobbrechin

Bob Brechin remains hopeful that things will work out for the Snibston Discovery Museum, but made alternative arrangements at a local theatre for showing Tony Robert’s film. (Photo: Tony Roberts)

“My plan WAS to celebrate Action Man’s 50th anniversary at Snibston, so as to promote the toy AND the museum together. But with its closure imminent, an alternative venue was needed. Since the Century Theatre is also part of the Snibston establishment, I have arranged for the Story of Action Man to be screened there, instead. 

The showing will help kick off Action Man’s 50th Anniversary, and enable the people of Coalville to see it—especially those that worked at Palitoy and their family and friends. Collectors and fans are particularly welcome. This is a one-off, non-profit event with a £3 ticket price to cover the use of the theatre.”

Century-Theatre-Front

Action Man on the BIG Screen— What better way to see a film about the creation and evolution of your favorite action figure than on a giant movie screen? Go, Action Man! (Photo: Century Theatre)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and best wishes go out to Bob Brechin for his generous contributions to this article, and to Tony Roberts and all of the other Action Man fans living in the UK, Australia, and elsewhere around the world, as they prepare to celebrate their 1:6 scale hero’s fantastic 50th Anniversary. If you can make the trip to Snibston on July 4th, be sure to attend the film’s showing at the Century Theatre. For complete showtime information, go HERE.

FLASH! THIS JUST IN (6-12-15):

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“Hi Mark, I just read the feature you included on The Joe Report. The only thing I must take issue with is putting me up on the same pedestal as Don Levine. I don’t think I deserve that. If Don was in the gold medal position he was up there with Bill Pugh. I would have been lower down (silver medal?).

If you want to make your feelings known about the closure of Snibston, the HOME of Palitoy and Action Man toys, please write to Nicholas Rushton, Leader of the Council, Leicestershire County Council, County Hall, Leicester, LE3 8RA.

Keep issuing great stories about G.I. Joe (and Action Man). I will keep you posted on any 50th news!”Regards, Bob Brechin

FLASH! THIS JUST IN (6-13-15):

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“Hello again Mark, I have reread the article in The Joe Report and you say that the Century Theatre was the alternative for celebrating the 50th anniversary of Action Man. I also reread my email to you and could see how you misunderstood me. Century Theatre is not an alternative for the celebrations.

It was always the intention to show the film in the theatre but follow that up with a 50th anniversary show in the museum next year. The theatre had a reprieve but the closure of the museum is still imminent so hence a need for an alternative for next year.” —Bob Brechin

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Bugger! 1:6 Scale WWII War Comedy, “Jackboots on Whitehall,” Bombs at the Box Office———Costing $6,000,000 & Netting Only———(Wait for It)———£20,776*

* (Sources quoted for these figures: Wikipedia and boxofficemojo.com)

Designers of the lobby poster for the 2010 UK film, “Jackboots on Whitehall,” made the regrettable decision to prominently feature the film’s poorly sculpted action “puppet” of Winston Churchill (heavily retouched) as its main focus. As fond as we are of “Ol’ Winnie,” this choice was a clear marketing blunder—one of a MANY misguided creative decisions by the filmmakers. (Graphic: Matador Pictures)

The goblinesque, open-mouthed and oddly colored headsculpt of the film’s 1:6 scale Joseph Goebbels “puppet” was not particularly well-done OR funny-looking. And during most of its scenes, it simply stared blankly ahead, rarely moving and never closing(?) its mouth. It’s inconceivable that the filmmakers couldn’t mine comedic GOLD out of a character who was Germany’s Minister of Propaganda. The jokes practically write themselves! (Photo: Matador Pictures)

The Story of the Most Expensive 1:6 Scale Film Ever Made—and Why it Failed So Miserably.

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“You can have a million dollar, 20 million dollar, or 60 million dollar budget, and if you don’t have a good script, it doesn’t mean a thing.” —Tippi Hedren

Imagine if you will, the following 1:6 scale dream scenario: You’re a pair of young brothers living in the UK who are both GIjOE/Action Man fans, as well as aspiring (though largely inexperienced) filmmakers. Your joint dream is to blow away all the do-it-yourself, stop-action GIjOE videos found on YouTube and produce a big-budget, shown-in-the-theater feature film using your favorite 12-inch heroes in lieu of real actors; sort of a 1:6 scale WWII fantasy brought to life up on the big screen. A lofty and admirable goal? YES!

The only problem(s)? Well, as we said, you’re both still young. That’s not necessarily an insurmountable botheration, but with it comes a certain lack of experience, an immaturity of talent and untested creative judgement. And, like most young people, you likely have little (or no) money and very little history of business (or filmmaking) success. To top it all off, this will be the FIRST real film you’ve ever made. The search for funding is bound to be an uphill struggle, and with so many self-created obstacles, it seems you and your brother would be lucky to find someone who’d offer to give you cab fare, much less fund your idea for a 1:6 scale “puppet” movie. But never fear, my friends…

Regardless of those “roadblocks of reality,” someone with really deep pockets finally comes along and decides—for whatever reason—to give you $6 MILLION DOLLARS to make your dream movie. Here’s the money, fellas. Go ahead. Wow! The sun is certainly shining on you, now. Sounds like a dream come true for any pair of ambitious young Brits, right? Well, maybe not. Be careful what you wish for. After a year or so of hard work, you might just find your investor’s wallet $6,000,000 lighter and your IMDb filmography listing one of the biggest (and dullest) box-office BOMBS of all time.

Achtung! Despite this clever opening title gag (promising "Glorious Panzervision"), the 1:6 scale action-comedy, "Jackboots on Whitehall" falls flat from the very first scene. (Screenshot: Flatiron Film Co.)

Achtung! Despite this clever opening title gag (promising “Glorious Panzervision”), the 1:6 scale action-comedy, “Jackboots on Whitehall” falls flat from its very first scene. We would have loved to have seen this concept explored further. Imagine what “Panzervision” might’ve been! (Screenshot: Flatiron Film Co.)

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“Well, there’s no question that a good script is absolutely essential, maybe THE essential thing for a movie.”
Sydney Pollack

The faces behind the puppets—

The faces behind “Jackboots”— The McHenry Brothers of the UK (above) showed Action Man fans in the UK how to spend $6,000,000 to make a bad movie featuring 1:6 scale action figures. (Photo: ReviewFix)

If you’re not already aware, the fantasy scenario we’ve laid out above is all too real. Jackboots was indeed the co-creation of two (real) young British filmmakers, better known today by their collective appellation—the McHenry Brothers. We won’t recount their full backstory here, that’s already been done numerous times around the internet (see HERE and HERE, for just two examples), but it’s clear that the two never fully grasped how poorly they had written their screenplay. In one telling interview exchange with ReviewFix, Rory McHenry’s answer (sadly) reveals their cineaste naiveté:

malecomment“Review Fix: If you could change ONE thing about the film, what would it be
—and why?

Rory McHenry: More explosions. There were a lot more sets and London monuments we could
have blown up!”

<shaking our heads now> Anyone who’s seen Jackboots knows that “more explosions” would have done NOTHING to improve the film. The reasons for its failure are mainly script-oriented—not in its pyrotechnics. It also suffers from poorly sculpted heads—but we’ll get into that a bit later.

It's common practice for filmmakers and distributors of a failed project to try and recoup their investment  by renaming a film, revising its promotional graphics or remarketing it to unsuspecting audiences overseas. Unfortunately, it's doubtful such efforts will ever help put  Jackboots on Whitehall "back in the black." (Photo: Amazon)

It’s common practice for filmmakers and distributors of a failed project to try to recoup their investment by renaming a film, revising its promotional graphics and/or remarketing it to unsuspecting audiences overseas. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful such efforts will help put Jackboots on Whitehall “back in the black.” (Photo: Amazon)

As Fans of all things 1:6 scale, our hopes and expectations for 2010’s Jackboots on Whitehall (JOW) were actually quite high. After all, with so much money being thrown at it, it would HAVE to be great. Right? Wrong. As it unspooled on the screen before us, our high hopes were quickly dashed and we found ourselves sinking lower and lower into our seats. What a disappointment!

Unlike standard moviegoers, we were willing to look beyond JOW’s obviously boring script and lackluster characters, preferring to focus instead on its specific use (and choice) of 1:6 scale vehicles, props and action figures. Even with our lowered expectations, we have to admit this film is B—A—D. The only enjoyment we got out of it was playing “Name That 1:6 Scale Prop.” Whenever something new came on the screen, we’d blurt out things like, “That’s a Dragon ammo box!” or “I’ve got one of those (fill in the blank)!”

It quickly became apparent that any GIjOE, Action Man or Dragon action figure fan with a practiced eye would actually enjoy viewing this film more—with the sound turned OFF. That may seem like an odd thing to say, but believe us when tell you, you won’t be missing anything important. JOW’s story, dialogue and voice-work are all complete throwaways (but hey, the music’s pretty good).

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A Bad Day for Richard Dawson? No, it’s just another subpar headsculpt that’s actually more distracting than it is funny. Mon dieu! (Photo; Flatiron Film Co.)

What WILL appeal to 1:6 fans, is studying what’s been put up on there on the screen. After all, that’s where all the money went, and for 91 minutes, you’ll enjoy seeing how much 1:6 scale wackiness someone can set up and film for $6.000,000. If you can overlook the poorly sculpted characters, we suggest you focus more on the superbly crafted backgrounds, RC tanks, trucks and other vehicles, and just enjoy watching a 1:6 scale world being brought to life. Yes, most of the scenes fall completely flat, but then one suddenly comes along that really grabs your attention. For example, the number of Dragon SS German action figures used in the final Scotland battle sequence alone, is staggering. The studio’s prop department P.O. must’ve kept the folks at Dragon Models busy (and financially in the black) for a VERY long time. Gott im Himmel!

The difference is striking

In the film’s opening scene, an alternative Battle of Britain finale is underway, focusing on England’s two remaining fighter pilots as they attempt to fend off another bombing blitz by Goering’s Luftwaffe. Played seriously, the sequence feels as if it was made for another movie entirely. Much of the rest of the film is played for slapstick and silly laughs, making this scene seem completely out-of-place. Ultimately, the film’s failure boils down to its poorly written script. Its characters NEVER connect with the audience in any appreciable way, thereby dooming Jackboots on Whitehall to failure. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

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“It’s possible for me to make a bad movie out of a good script, but I can’t make a good movie from a bad script.”
George Clooney

A review in the Guardian UK, summed up the problems with this 2010 film, declaring it as:

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“Amiably intentioned but desperately weak in terms of script. Writer-directors Edward and Rory McHenry have poured an enormous amount of effort into the animatronic creations and models, but long, long minutes go by without anything resembling a good joke or a funny idea, and things frankly get very dull. It’s a shame, because this labour of love shows obvious creative potential, but the screenplay needed serious work.”

At times, the film does LOOK very impressive, especially when you consider that, for the most part, what you’re viewing has all been handcrafted at tiny 1:6 scale. So, rather than dwell anymore on what’s WRONG with Jackboots, let’s discuss some things its two creators got RIGHT…

Turn Her Into the Wind! The bridge set of the Hindenburg’s Command Gondola was one of the film’s best 1:6 scale creations. The figures chosen to crew the zeppelin were also well-detailed and featured above-average headsculpts. Unfortunately, this sort of excellence was diminished almost as soon as it was established, by other, more poorly crafted characters. D’oh! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

Tell us when to laugh— Clearly patterned after goggle-eyed character actor, Marty Feldman, "Igor" is played 100% for laughs and receives absolutely NONE. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

Tell us when to laugh— Clearly patterned after goggle-eyed character actor, Marty Feldman, “Igor” is played 100% for laughs and receives absolutely NONE. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

The Hindenburg Command Gondola

Whenever JOW’s prop or set departments did something particularly well, it was immediately noticeable to the viewer (especially to us “1:6 scalers”). After all, in this sort of production, the camera is only a few feet or inches away from its subject, and at that close range, there’s no way to hide poor design or workmanship. One of the film’s standout sets is its Command Gondola for the Hindenburg. Replete with girders, rivets, finely detailed control panels and stylish slanted observation windows, this stellar creation is clearly the film’s best and most memorable.

In addition, the movie’s costumers took the time and effort to detail some of the film’s better looking figures—the zeppelin’s crewmen—by using excellent 1:6 scale (Dragon) figures and uniforms (see photo above). It’s a shame they receive such a short amount of screen time and the unfunny “Igor” (right) is featured instead.

The attention to detail of the Hindenburg's Command Gondola extended to the outside as well. OUTstanding! (Photo: Click to enlarge.

The careful attention to detail of the Hindenburg’s Command Gondola set extends to its exterior as well, as this screenshot reveals. Superb craftsmanship! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

1:6 Scale Fans would have to give this scene, where the Hindenburg's tail gunner sprays hot lead down on the crowd below with his twin machine-guns, an A+. Even his expression is perfect, sort of a business-like, squint. (Photo: Flatiron) Click to enlarge.

Die, Britisher Pigs! 1:6 Scalers would have to give this scene—where the Hindenburg’s gondola gunner sprays hot lead down onto the crowd below (with twin machine-guns, nonetheless)—an undeniable A++. The sound effects, spitting flames, everything is perfect. Even his grim, determined expression is spot-on. This murderous, squinting Nazi is all-business and well portrayed. (Photo: Flatiron) Click to enlarge.

A smaller scale model of the Hindenburg was created and used for the faraway flying shots seen in the film. This excellent model is only about 5′ long. Wunderbar! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

The Hindenburg was easily handled and retouched due to its small scale. Here, propmasters repair a small nick in the underside of the Command Gondola. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Propmasters hang the Hindenburg from its wires in preparation for filming its scenes. Note how the delicate tail fin  and nose sections are protected with styrofoam blocks during this delicate procedure to prevent any damage in case it is dropped. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Careful, Boys! Propmasters gingerly hang the Hindenburg from wires in preparation for filming. Note also how they’ve chosen to protect its delicate tail fins and nose section with styrofoam blocks so as to prevent any further damage to the delicate model. Jah! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

The Battle of Britain Opening Scene

Almost a separate movie, Jackboots’ opening Battle of Britain sequence, featuring two stalwart RAF pilots attempting to fight off the Luftwaffe, was very well filmed and executed. The filmmaker’s wise use of superbly sculpted Dragon action figures, outfitted in excellently detailed pilot uniforms, combined with in-flight shots of scale models of Spitfires and Heinkel bombers, helped to make the scenes largely believable and entertaining. Here are some “behind-the-scenes” pics of the action:

Similar to the Hindenburg, slightly smaller scale Spitfires were used for the flying scenes shown at the opening of the film. Closeups of the cockpit were done in a separate, full 1:6 scale model. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

Similar to the Hindenburg, slightly smaller-scale Spitfires were used for the flying scenes while closeups were taken of a separate 1:6 scale model of the cockpit. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Getting up close to the Spitfire pilots required very tight shots on a 1:6 scale mock-up of the plane's cockpit. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Filming closeups of the 1:6 scale Spitfire pilots required very close lens work  (and sharp focus) on a partial 1:6 scale mock-up of the plane’s cockpit. This also enabled puppeteers to move the figure’s hands and head from below, while staying carefully “out of shot.” (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

The Invasion of LondonWith 1:6 Scale RC

In another excellent sequence that will undoubtedly get “2 thumbs up” from all 1:6 scalers, the City of London is invaded from below by tanks and trucks full of German soldiers. After burrowing their way up through the street using a creatively conceived “drilling” tank, the Nazis begin to mercilessly mow down any and all Brits they can find, giving the McHenry boys plenty of opportunities to blow things up and fling bloody body parts all about the set. What fun!(?) Anyway, here some more pics:

Heavy Armor!

Holy, Heavy Armor! The construction and use of fully RC 1:6 scale tanks is a well-established hobby enjoyed by thousands of fans. We weren’t surprised then, that Jackboots contained numerous excellent RC tank scenes. We would’ve loved to have seen even MORE! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

In a method similar to that used for the Spitfires, puppeteers utilized a separate tank turret to maneuver the tank commander puppets from below. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

In a method similar to that used for the Spitfires, puppeteers utilized a separate tank turret to maneuver the tank commander puppets from below. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

We absolutely LOVE this 1:6 RC truck. Just look at the size of this beauty. Sadly, it drives from right to left and...that's about it. What a waste of a fine machine! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

We absolutely LOVED this superb RC troop truck. Just look at the SIZE of that beauty! Sadly, it drives from right to left and…well, that’s about it. What a wasted opportunity. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

This photo gives you an idea of just how large the London Invasion set really was. AMAZING! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

This photo gives you an idea just how BIG this particular Jackboots set really was. The building facades in the background were not in full 1:6 scale, but that didn’t really matter to the viewer’s eye. What an AMAZING creation. Imagine “playing” with this! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Duck and Cover! As we now know, the filmmakers wouldn't build a set if they weren't going to blow it up, and blow it up they did—REAL good! BA-ROOOOMMM!!! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Duck and Cover! As we now know, the McHenry’s wouldn’t build a set if they weren’t going to blow it up, and they blew ’em up—REAL good! BA-ROOM!!! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Blimey—The Palace and Number 10 Never Looked Better, Guv’nah!

As we stated earlier, Jackboots’ propmasters and set builders truly shined during the film’s production, especially in their creation of outstanding room interiors and realistic building exteriors. Probably the best examples are the street exteriors at Winston Churchill’s residence, Number 10 Downing Street, and then later, an interior room at Kensington Palace. The scenes required both sets to be built at full 1:6 scale, and as such, they were MASSIVE as well as exquisitely detailed. Of course, much of it was destined to be blown up, but while they stood, the sets were two of the nicest 1:6 scale architectural dioramas ever created. Here are some pics taken during shooting:

Absolutely Breathtaking! The 1:6 scale build-up of #10 Downing Street was an absolute masterpiece. It's a shame the film's script wasn't half as good as its sets. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Absolutely Breathtaking! The 1:6 scale build-up of #10 Downing Street was an absolute masterpiece. It’s a shame the film’s script wasn’t half as good as its sets. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Inside Buckingham Palace, the Third Reich's goon squad celebrate their victory by playing with the "spoils of war" found inside yet another marvelous interior set created by the film's set builders.Out-STANDING! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Inside Buckingham Palace, the Third Reich’s goon squad celebrates their victory by playing around with the “spoils of war” they find inside. Be sure to enlarge this picture to get a better idea of just how MASSIVE this interior set was. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

This closeup reveals how expertly the set builders matched textures and recreated other room details at perfect 1:6 scale. WOW! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

This closeup reveals how expertly the set builders matched textures and recreated other room details at spot-on, near perfect 1:6 scale. Simply superb! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

The propmasters and set builders probably BOTH had a fun time constructed Winston Churchill's hidden weapons storage, cleverly hidden behind a giant wall map in his study. Dedicated 1:6 scalers could probably recreate this scene, item for item. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

The propmasters and set builders probably BOTH enjoyed constructing and then detailing Winston Churchill’s hidden weapons armory, cleverly hidden behind a sliding wall map in his office. Dedicated 1:6 scalers could probably recreate this scene, item for item! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Another attempt at humor using an effeminate Hitler in an Elizabethan dress falls flat with nary a giggle. Monty Python-esque comedy this is NOT. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

Another attempt at humor using an effeminate Hitler in an Elizabethan dress falls flat with nary a giggle. Monty Python-esque comedy this is NOT. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

“Tricking the Eye” With Scale

Occasionally, the filmmakers had to fudge a shot through tricks of perspective or the use of even smaller scale models. For example, the Hindenburg miniature (as shown above) was clearly NOT a 1:6 scale model. But at only about 5′ long, its shorter length must’ve made it much easier to film. Although the McHenry Brothers could’ve probably built a bigger one, that would’ve been quite a costly undertaking. And in the end, only its command gondola was really needed for scenes and closeups utilizing the 12″ action figures.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There’s certainly a lot to like about Jackboots, but (sadly) there’s also a lot to dislike. After seeing all of the excellent 1:6 scale aircraft, tanks, trucks, building exteriors, room interiors and intricately detailed miniatures created for the film, the expertise and professionalism of the studio’s art department is undeniable. But whoever signed off on the awful headsculpts used to depict its main characters truly did the film a disservice. Indeed, the filmmakers would have been well-advised to have sought out superior sculptors in what has become a VERY specialized art form. As any toy manufacturer will tell you, the facial sculpt of an action figure is THE crucial factor determining its success or failure. Kids and adults alike can look at the face of a toy and tell you in a second if they don’t like it. And if they don’t like it, they’re not going to buy it. That spells disaster for a toy company. The same truism can be applied to the “puppets” used in this film—and to the project that suffers because of them.

Rory McHenry places the unsightly and decidedly unfunny “Igor” figure into position in the superb Hindenburg Command Gondola set in preparation for filming a scene. Not surprisingly, the differences and inconsistent quality of artistry between such key sets and figures proved to be a major distraction (and disappointment) for the audience. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

We're not sure exactly what we're supposed to make of the unusual headsculpt used for the town vicar. And the painting is decidedly crudely done as well. Was it supposed to be Jack Nicholson as the Joker? Or was he caught in a wind-tunnel? Is it an alien? Whatever the inspiration, his startled "eyebrows up, mouth full of teeth" expression never changes throughout the film and it's hard to comprehend WHY. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

We’re not sure what we’re supposed to make of the unusual headsculpt created for the town vicar. Was it supposed to be Jack Nicholson as the Joker? Or was he caught in a wind-tunnel? Whatever the inspiration, his startled “eyebrows up, mouth full of teeth” expression never changes throughout the film. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

In the Eye of the Beholder?

It’s hard to say why the filmmakers used so many bad headsculpts. Such decisions are clearly, very subjective creatively; one person’s impression of what “looks good” or “bad” can differ greatly from that of another. Perhaps the difference rests with experience. As life-long 1:6 scalers, it may be that our eyes for 1:6 sculpts are better trained or “sensitive” to quality, because we’re more used to working at that size.

Whatever the reason, in the end, the filmmaker’s inability to utilize top-notch figures throughout the film clearly hurt it visually, making it look—at times—quite amateurish; hardly what you’d expect from such a big-budget feature. Whenever one of the poorly crafted figures is up there (see at right), you almost want to WINCE. And again, without a good script to engage (or distract) us from such a “mixed bag” visually, the audience of Jackboots is left with very little to root for (or care about).

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“Give me a good script, and I’ll be a hundred times better as a director.”George Cukor

On the set of Jackboots on Whitehall, the two young writer-directors take a break while considering the next shot. Looking at this picture of the young, handsome brothers, it's interesting to consider—what were they thinking about at that moment? Were they overwhelmed by the enormity of responsibility involved with shooting such a big-budget film? (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

Under Pressure to Deliver— On the set of their first film production, 2010’s Jackboots on Whitehall, the writing-directing team of Ed (l) and Rory (r) McHenry take a break to consider their next move. Looking back at this photo of the handsome brothers (now), we have to wonder—How did they handle the pressure during the shoot? Were they overwhelmed by the responsibility of co-helming a big-budget feature? What toll did its failure take on them personally—and financially? (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

Roll 'em Out! Ed and Rory practice "marching" a rack full of SS stormtroopers, their feet nailed to a platform with oblong wheels to simulate the slight up-down motion made while walking (or marching). (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Roll ’em Out! Ed and Rory practice “marching” a rack full of SS stormtroopers, their jackboots secured to a platform with oblong wheels to simulate the up-down motion made while walking (or marching). By the way, we counted 84 Germans on this rack ALONE! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

In a nod to ancient Roman formations, multiple racks of German SS troops are set up to begin the assault on Hadrian's wall. The studio built the massive set all indoors. AMAZING! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

 Looking like Roman Legions, multiple “racks” full of German troops stand ready to assault Hadrian’s wall during the film’s climatic battle sequence. This isn’t CGI, folks. Those were all Dragon action figures set up on an indoor soundstage. AMAZING! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Despite the availability of Pak 40s and other 1:6 scale artillery pieces made by 21st Century Toys and Dragon Models, (for some reason) the filmmakers decided to produce a series of under-scaled artillery pieces, instead. Don't look too closely, they're not very accurate. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Despite the availability of Pak 40s and other 1:6 scale artillery pieces made by 21st Century Toys and Dragon Models, (for some reason) Jackboots’ filmmakers decided to utilize these under-sized pieces, instead. Perhaps to squeeze more into the frame? (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

"Marching" racks full of SS troopers was also used for scene where they parade through London. You have to admire the effort (and $) that went into producing this shot in 1:6 scale. What a colossal undertaking! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

“Marching” racks full of SS troopers were also used in a scene where they parade triumphantly through London. It’s a SHAME that the filmmakers didn’t figure out a way to have them all GOOSE-STEPPING during this sequence (another missed opportunity). That would have been AMAZING! Still, you have to admire all the effort (and $) that went into producing this shot at 1:6 scale. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

Unfortunately,"Daisy," a character the filmmakers had hoped would connect with the audience failed to do so in any appreciable way. We admire the craftsmanship on this figure, although it's largely a fashion Barbie with slight alterations. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

I’m not Barbie! Oh wait… “Daisy,” was a character the filmmakers stated they had hoped would connect with the audience, and yet she fails to do so in any appreciable way. Could it be because they used a common, high fashion Barbie doll with little to no alterations? This smooth, featureless face looks more like a mannequin than any “living” character. This is a face we’ve seen MILLIONS of times. YAWN. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

Surprisingly, in a 2010 interview with Suchandrika Chakrabarti, the brothers took much the same position as their critics, stating their belief that the film’s story and characters were paramount, while all the rest (explosions, etc.) was “just background.” Nonetheless, once filming began, their combined inexperience (at that time) was clearly unable to produce the results of their original stated intentions. Here’s what they had said:

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“What we started to learn, as we got through principal photography, and a lot of the prep, up until 6 months ago, the nebulous concept of the film was going to be the characters and the love interest between Chris and Daisy, and everything around that, tanks, guns, explosions, is just background and to make it an exciting movie, but the main thing in this is that the puppets are becoming real people.”

Is THIS the face of a Hero?

Is THIS the face of a Hero? It is if you’re the star of Jackboots on Whitehall. The headsculpt for “Chris,” while not the worst of the bunch, was still only AVERAGE. We wonder how many the filmmakers went through before they selected this one? (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

Unfortunately, the McHenry’s stated goal of their characters “becoming real people” was never achieved. Far from it, in fact. Their character’s trite, unoriginal dialogue and the awful screenplay they portrayed was, well, as DULL as dishwater. Seeking out the assistance of a professional screenwriter (with a proven track record) would have been money well spent in those early stages. Instead, the brothers turned only to each other creatively and so the results must be laid squarely at their doorstep. In a separate interview (HERE), Ed McHenry confirmed their writing process when he revealed:

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“The fantastic thing about making a film like this is that you can play around with the script – there’s no need to lip-synch, so Rory and I just sat in our living room with the lines on a laptop and rebuilt the dialogue. Everyone who joined the cast brought something new, so we were literally rewriting the script up until the last day of editing.”

Ouch. While such improvisation and endless rewriting is not unheard-of or uncommon, even the most ultra-talented film auteurs would consider making a big-budget movie that way akin to walking on hot coals or performing a dangerous high-wire act. One misstep—and it’s OVER.

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“I only sound intelligent when there’s a good script writer around.” —Christian Bale

You can see what the filmmakers were going for in a scene like this, where the three main "baddies" gather 'round a war-planning table to plot strategy. Unfortunately, their unfunny dialogue coupled with an erratic mixture of visual miscues (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

You can see what the filmmakers were going for in a scene like this, where the three main bad guys (Goering, Himmler and Goebbels) gather ’round a war-gaming table to discuss strategy. It’s a shame they had nothing original to say or do (where are the 3 Stooges when you need them?). The dialogue they did “speak” wasn’t witty OR funny, and their stiff, barely movable bodies end up producing something akin to a bad puppet show. And remember—we’re FANS! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Barbie looks very S&M in her skin-tight Nazi uniform and high-heel Jackboots as she sprays the defenders perched on Hadrian's Wall with her submachine gun. And yet...these scenes could have been SO much better. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.) Click to enlarge.

Barbie looks very S&M in her all-black leather-n-mesh Nazi ensemble (with high-heel jackboots) as she casually massacres defenders atop Hadrian’s Wall. Actually, two Barbies were strapped onto an RC Kettenkrad and then driven around the set for about 30 seconds of mayhem. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

goering

Bite Me! As this closeup of Goering’s rather roughly hewn (and poorly painted) headsculpt reveals, the directors chose to also (inexplicably) give him the metal teeth from 007’s arch-nemesis, “Jaws,” resulting in yet another uninspired sight-gag that fails to produce even a chuckle. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

From the store to the big screen— 1:6 scalers will recognize this RC Mercedes that appeared in stores a few years back. It works well in the movie and actually has many other effects not shown in the film (see THIS VIDEO for more details). (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

From the toy store to the big screen— 1:6 scalers will undoubtedly recognize Goering’s RC Mercedes that was sold worldwide back in 2009. It looked great in the movie and actually has many other interesting “effects” not revealed in the film (watch THIS VIDEO for complete details). (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

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The film’s opening credit sequence features some (passable) artwork that reminded us (a little bit) of the old “Andy and George” GIJOE comic book ads of the 1960s. Unfortunately, this artwork was not nearly as well drawn, and so the camera (wisely) pans quickly over each frame. Again, a few bucks spent on a professional (i.e. more talented) comic book artist would’ve been $ well spent. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

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In a glimpse of what could have been, the figure created for “Major Rupee” sported a carefully tailored uniform, properly fitting pistol belt, shoulder strap, rifle sling and turban, which all combined to create a sharp-looking figure that immediately grabs your attention. Unfortunately, his eyes were poorly painted. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

Considering Future Possibilities

As we wind up our coverage of this, the most expensive 1:6 scale movie ever made, we wanted to confirm that YES, we understand hindsight is 20-20, and NO, we’re not purporting to be experts on filmmaking. But since it’s been 5 years since Jackboots debuted (and disappeared) with barely a ticket sold at the box office, 2015 seems as good a time as any to discuss the reasons behind both its critical and financial failure.

It’s also important to remember how—and by whom—this film was made. The McHenry’s were self-admitted rookie filmmakers, yet they showed MASSIVE cojones in pitching (what was barely) an idea, securing (so much!) funding, and writing and directing their first-ever film project. Despite the fact that Jackboots went down in cinema history as a total box-office bomb, you have to credit the two young men for all their hard work, and for even attempting such a project.

Having Said All That…

We can’t help but consider what COULD have been created if perhaps a more experienced filmmaking team had been “green-lighted” with such a rare and momentous opportunity. Think about it. What would YOU do with a $6,000,000 budget? Let’s play a quick game of “Consider the Possibilities.” It may help us all to better grasp the enormity of this particular film’s oh-so-regrettable failure.

The FUTURE of Adventure Team animation? Animator Dana Rausch's "sample reel" has shown just how GREAT an Adventure Team serial could be. If only...(Photo: Dana Rausch)

Is this the face of the FUTURE of Adventure Team animation? Animator Dana Rausch’s sample AT video shows just how GREAT an Adventure Team series could be! (Photo: Dana Rausch)

How About an CGI-Animated “Adventure Team” TV Series?

If the stiff, “puppet-like” movements of the characters in Jackboots showed us anything, it’s that (perhaps) making a film with action figures isn’t the best idea, after all. Instead, maybe creating an animated series based on (but NOT utilizing) action figures is, in fact, a better way to go. And if that is indeed the case, then it’s easier to envision an Adventure Team-based series, loosely patterned after the old Jonny Quest cartoons by Hanna Barbara.

For a glimpse into this exciting possibility, look no further than the sample AT video (above) created by animator Dana Rausch. You could even end each episode with a “cliff-hanger” ending that would leave audiences eagerly waiting for the next episode (same bat-time, same bat-channel). Hasbro would be happy too, as the new show would undoubtedly spur all-new demand for AT-related products. Can you say, “revitalized brand merchandising?” (Psst! There’s no charge for this unsolicited advice, Hasbro. Feel free to “steal” whatever you like and run with it. We won’t complain!)

The '60s classic adventure series, Jonny Quest, created a template of science, action and adventure that would apply well to GIjOE and his Adventure Team. Would someone please convince Hasbro to attempt funding such a project? (Art: Steve Rude)

Mixing the Formula For Success— The ’60s classic adventure series, Jonny Quest, created a template for intrigue and adventure based on science, cultural differences and ACTION that would translate well to a new TV show based on GIjOE and the Adventure Team. Perhaps the (obviously) “gutsy” McHenry Brothers will try to convince Hasbro to green-light an AT idea for their next project? (Art: Steve Rude)

What Did UK Action Man Fans Think of “Jackboots?”

You’d think spending $6 million dollars to make a movie featuring 1:6 scale action figures in the UK would be well-known by Action Man collectors actually LIVING in the UK. But you’d be wrong. This film was such a dud that even today, very few UK AM fans can recall that it even existed. To investigate this conundrum further, we contacted the one man we knew would have the answers: famed action figure dealer, Gareth Pippen of Pippens Toys (UK). Gareth owns and operates his own action figure toy store in Glasgow, Scotland, and we were sure that he’d know all about UK’s Jackboots. Imagine our surprise when he admitted:

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“I have never heard of it, to be honest. But if I were to guess, does it have something to do with British comedian Jack Whitehall and WWII? Okay… I just googled it… I’m WAY off.”
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Figures Don’t Lie— When in doubt, go to the official record. In this case, it’s from the UK film industry’s website “boxofficemojo,” which keeps files on all of that country’s releases dating back many years. We searched through 2010 and there it was: Jackboots on Whitehall. After 2 weeks in release, it had grossed only £7,847, down 98% from the week before. Now, THAT’S a “nose dive!” After an equally short run in Spain, the film was removed from theaters altogether. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Since so few fans actually paid to see Jackboots during its original theatrical release, it can be hard to track down individuals to provide reviews today. Fortunately, a handful of them had the foresight to post their thoughts (while they were still fresh in their minds) on the IMDb website, after seeing the film back in 2010. It’s quite revealing to read those reviews today. For example:

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“Went to see this at the weekend after watching the trailer online. I could have walked out after 15 minutes and I wouldn’t have cared less about how the film ended. The dolls themselves looked very silly, no real emotion and the comedy was very dull. The only time I laughed was right at the end of the film, a long time to wait for a laugh. I can appreciate the hard work which has gone in to creating the landscapes and models etc. However, it still doesn’t make up for the fact that there is no real plot to the film and some of the voice acting is embarrassing. PS: I really, really wanted to like this film. (Just watch the trailer.)” —Thommaryjane

The goof-ball American fighter pilot was another waste of time, predictable and completely unfunny. However, the back of his jacket revealed some nice detailing work, unlike the front, which was a hodgepodge of pilot's pins and other silliness. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

The American fighter pilot character lampooned in Jackboots was another complete misfire, wholly predictable and unfunny. However, the back of his jacket revealed some nice detailing work, unlike the front, which was a hodgepodge of pilot’s pins and other insignia. (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

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“Post modern comic allusions here (Lethal Weapon, etc) are uneven and haphazard at best. What makes me wonder most is how this amateurish production got a hold of an array of such top-notch A-list talents to do voices. Ewan McGregor, etc. They must have promised them a Pixar-caliber animation. Terribly disappointed.” — smeg-4-brains

For some reason, some of the better head sculpts were used for background characters that had little or no lines of dialogue. We caught a screenshot of this impressive looking (though oddly long-haired) SS stormtrooper during a quick camera pan-by of the troops. Why couldn't the same high quality have been applied to all faces of the main characters? (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

You Lookin’ at Me? For some reason, some of the better head sculpts were wasted on background characters that had little or no lines of dialogue. We snapped this screenshot of an impressive looking (though oddly long-haired) SS stormtrooper during a quick camera pan-by of the troops. He’s probably grumpy that he hasn’t had a decent haircut in months. HA! (Photo: Flatiron Film Co.)

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“If you only care about the puppetry and what not, yeah, you might like it. If you expect it to be funny like either Team America or Robot Chicken, I think you’ll be hugely disappointed. I was. Most of the attempts at humor just fell flat on their face. There are a few funny things here and there that got a smile out of me, but overall it was boring as hell…” —astralace69

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Seriously don’t bother. It’s *beep* And I mean that in the nicest way possible. As a lover of all things WWI-WWII comedy / humor (related), it’s *beep.* Avoid at all costs.boobookitty

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GIjOE “Sightings” on TV and in Motion Pictures

GIjOE fan Jerry Seinfeld plays with a vintage Action Sailor “in a real Frogman Suit” during a scene from his series, Seinfeld. “Mission accomplished. Back to base, Joe!”

Of all the toys on the shelves, Jerry goes straight to the GIjOE. Hooah!

The hardest working actor in Hollywood is only 12 inches tall.

Soon after his debut in 1964, GIjOE quickly became a “media opportunist,” and for 40+ years he’s been appearing regularly on both television programs and in motion pictures. compiling an acting performance record that would rival any current screen star. Clearly, in addition to fighting the world’s evildoers, Hasbro’s action figure also enjoys sneaking onto soundstages and backlots (maybe he’s just a ham) and making unannounced cameo appearances whenever and wherever possible.

Jerry is thrilled to discover both an Action Marine and Action Sailor.

Fans enjoy reporting “sightings” of GIjOE’s performances as well. Similar to spotting a UFO, a genuine sighting is considered to be quite the coup and is always a pleasant surprise. Such discoveries are a matter of personal pride among GIjOE and Action Man fans and it’s considered somewhat of a badge of honor to be the first fan to “report in” when a new sighting is made.

Jerry’s girlfriend refuses to allow him to play with her GIjOE, declaring it and the other toys “priceless!”

Typically, our hero is spotted lurking somewhere in the background, acting as if he was merely a decorative prop in some kid’s bedroom. But Joe has also managed to actually land parts, becoming a legitimate character in a production. On these rare occasions, fans get REALLY excited.

George plays with the Action Marine GIjOE while he waits for some fresh (30-year old) cake from the Easy Bake Oven.

For example, in the 1990s TV series, Seinfeld, there’s an episode in which Jerry discovers a vintage GIjOE Action Marine standing on a shelf full of toys in his girlfriend’s apartment. Despite her repeated refusals, Jerry goes to extreme lengths in order to play with the figure (natch!). Later, Jerry, George and Elaine end up playing with all of the toys, primarily the Action Marine and an Action Sailor (outfitted in full SCUBA gear). It’s hilarious!
Watch those scenes
HERE.

In this screenshot from an episode of Friends, Ross implores Ben to just “drop the Barbie” and play with GIjOE instead.

Similarly, on an episode of the TV series Friends, there’s a funny scene where Ross urges toddler Ben to just “drop the Barbie” and play with a GIjOE instead, to help “protect American oil interests overseas.” Ross even sings part of the 1980’s GIjOE cartoon theme song. Watch that scene HERE.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The story of Joe’s acting career actually began almost almost 50 years ago, in a western town far, far away from his East Coast origins—Hollywood.

At the beginning of GIjOE’s budding show business career, in his first-ever cameo appearance on TV, our hero was cast to portray a handsome, if slightly oversized chess piece, in an evocative episode of the 1960’s TV series, The Wild, Wild West. In that episode, a vintage GIjOE was required for a scene and customized to resemble the show’s 1:1 star, Robert Conrad.

In his first role on television, GIjOE portrayed an enigmatic chess piece in a classic episode of The Wild, Wild West. He was required to stand perfectly still as a beautiful woman lovingly “stroked his head.”

First, a miniature blue western suit was created, perfectly tailored to fit Joe’s 1/6th scale physique. The show’s propmasters also decided to add hair to the figure, making him—think about this now—the first-ever “Fuzzhead!” (Personal note: Wouldn’t that be a cool Joe to own today? Talk about RARE. Maybe someone in Hollywood still knows where it is. Probably stored in a box in a dark, old warehouse somewhere. What a “Holy Grail Search” that would be for some west coast collector!)

Reviews of Joe’s debut performance on The Wild Wild West were glowing and signaled the beginning one of the longest runs of any performer, of any size,  to EVER work in show business.

Joe as the mysterious “Iced Adventurer,” in an episode of The Partridge Family.

A few years later, Joe landed another cameo appearance on an episode of The Partridge Family. In that show, he portrayed the mysterious “Iced Adventurer” who was being held prisoner in David Cassidy’s room. For some reason, poor Joe had been encased in a clear plexiglass box, which was custom-weathered to resemble a block of ice.

By this point in his career, Joe’s talent for remaining motionless had clearly preceded him. As before, he was asked to stand perfectly still, this time to help create the illusion of being frozen solid. He succeeded masterfully, and the show’s producers were thrilled with the performance. Watch that scene HERE (starting at 8:58).

A closeup of “Iced Adventurer” Joe in his mysterious “Ice Prison” What is it? WHY is it? We may never know…

Die-hard GIjOE fans however, can’t stop speculating on the odd mission that must’ve taken place for a GIjOE to have ended up frozen in a block of ice. Collector Buzz Mooney commented on the weird, Partridge Family “Ice Prison” by saying…

“There’s the question of what it’s doing there, in the first place. You’d think that if a GIjOE appeared in The Partridge Family, Chris would be hitting Tracy over the head with it. Or Danny would be trying to get as much cash out of it as possible. Of course, if it were ever in a scene with Lori (actress Susan Dey), none of us would have even noticed the Joe.” (HA! Good point, Buzz.)

The reasons behind the show’s strange prop device were never made clear, and to a confused fandom, the episode remains one of Joe’s most puzzling television appearances. Nevertheless, requests for additional television cameos continued to pour in, one after the other. GIjOE had obviously found his on-screen niche as the “Go to Guy” for scenes that required someone who could stand very still. And fans were lovin’ every minute of it!

Joe must’ve been out spacewalking during this episode of UFO, but his trusty space capsule was front and center! (Screenshot: Sean Huxter)

Soon thereafter, GijOE’s cousin, Action Man, also decided to get in on the acting biz, and began appearing in numerous British productions. One of the most popular was UFO, a 60’s sci-fi series that often required its 1/6th scale performers to work in miniature space ship models and sets.

For these roles, GIjOE and Action Man Astronauts were clearly preferred, and their spacesuits would receive significant upgrades and customizations from the shows talented propmasters. In one dramatic episode, Action Man goes on a spacewalk, has his oxygen line and tether cut, sending him floating away into space. WOW!

Was this customized UFO Action Man forever lost to deep space? Or is he trapped in a box in a storage facility somewhere in the UK?

UFO is a hoot to watch today, and opportunities for fans to make additional “Joe sightings” abound. Keep a keen eye out for Joe-related props in the show as well. In many scenes, a GIjOE Space Capsule or Panther Jet  can be seen. Clearly, show creator Gerry Anderson wasn’t hesitant to use GIjOEs in his productions.

An Action Man astronaut doubled for 1:1 actors who didn’t have “The Right Stuff” to work in UFO’s miniature spaceships.

GIjOE’s performance resume continued to grow over the years. He’s also appeared on Third Rock From the Sun, Home Improvement, From the Earth to the Moon, MadTV, Emergency, Ghost Whisperer and animated programs such as South Park, King of the Hill and many others. In an episode of That 70’s Show, Joe is rescued from a terrible fate—trapped beneath a mountain of human blubber! Watch that ridiculous clip HERE.

Joe is rescued from under hundreds of pounds of human blubber in an episode of “That 70’s Show.”

Eventually, Joe decided to “up his game” and pursue appearances in motion pictures. In the past, such sightings were much more elusive than those on television, requiring greater vigilance from fans. But nowadays, with the advent of DVDs, sightings in movies are becoming more common. In one such sighting, Joe can be seen in the 2005 film, Amityville Horror.

During the opening scene, lightning is flashing on and off while the camera pans slowly around a darkened room. Ever so briefly, sharp-eyed fans will notice GIjOE sitting on the shelf, once again portraying his famous role of the “Silent Sitter.” One fan describes the scene thusly..

Blink and you’ll miss GIjOE in his ultra-brief appearance in the film, The Amityville Horror.

“At the very beginning of the new Amityville Horror movie, when the guy is loading the gun, it flashes to GIjOE for a couple of seconds. At this point, the movie is in black and white and lightning is flashing. He appears to be a hard-handed Land Adventurer wearing camo with a round AT dog tag and a cartridge belt. I really am glad to see moviemakers use props like this.” —Mike

You can watch Joe’s Amityville scene HERE. (Start watching carefully at about the 45 second mark.)

Action Man in his guest shot in the tepid Sci-Fi film, X-TRO.

As mentioned previously, GIjOE’s cousin, Action Man, has also seen his fair share of screen time. For example, Action Man appeared in the AWFUL sci-fi flick, X-TRO. A fan described it this way…

Just saw an Action Man soldier on Sci Fi’s showing of X-TRO, a pretty bad movie that has a woman giving birth to a full-grown man who is an alien that kills people.”

Sounds great. <cough> I looked for this flick for a long time, and sadly—I found it. If you’d like to see it, you can watch Joe’s scene HERE. (Starting around the 4:45 mark.)

Michael Keaton reconnects with his old friend, GIjOE, in a touching scene from the film, My Life.

By contrast, one of GIjOE’s most subtle and touching performances is in the film, My Life, starring Michael Keaton. In this particular movie…well, I don’t want to ruin it for you. Let’s just say the scene is something all fans can relate to, deep within their hearts. If you haven’t seen this special “sighting” yet, do yourself a big favor and watch it now HERE.

Just a few thoughts before closing this rather lengthy post. Please leave a comment if you know of any additional “Joe sightings” on TV or in films. I know fans around the world would all LOVE to see them. In gratitude, I hereby award all such past and future “Joe Sighters” an unofficial, GIjOE “Eagle Eye Award” for superb service and support in our noble cause. Salute!

(Photo notes: All screenshots were captured from YouTube videos available for public viewing online or DVDs. No copyright to these images is claimed. All rights remain the property of their respective copyright holders.)

NOW. Here’s your homework, Joeheads:

1) Track down these additional sightings from other collectors.

2) When you find one—and you WILL—return here and leave a comment letting us know all about it!

JOE SIGHTINGS TO LOCATE:

“I know its a chick show but I happened to see Ghost Whisperer last night and a young boy character was playing with a full set of 12-inch figures from the movie in several scenes. Of course, he was channeling ghosts at the time which is a creepy thought.” —William

“I just watched the new episode of South Park. Terrorists take over Imagination land. During the attack, the crowd of imaginary figures scatters. Across the front of the screen runs…. BULLETMAN! Helmet, chrome arms and all. (even the cheesy elastic belt).” —Doug Gamble

“In a Superman cartoon, the villain ToyMan sent some life-size action figures to wreak havoc for him, including two that were obviously based on Best of the West and an original Joe in a Vintage Mercury space suit, complete with out-of-scale zippers. The “Joe” even had a scar in a close-up, although on the wrong side to avoid any legal problems.” —Colin

“I saw an astronaut on one of the early episodes of “Emergency” yesterday. While Gage and De Soto were working on the drunk Daddy, a little girl was shown several times holding/playing with an astronaut figure.  Joe had on all the equipment, so I couldn’t see how many zippers were on the suit. The best part was as they took the father to the ambulance, the little girl dropped Joe on the steps and as the scene ended, the camera moved in for a great close-up on the astronaut by itself. I think this episode was from 1972 or 73.” Chris

“I did make a ‘Joe sighting’ over the weekend.  In the movie My Little Eye, there’s a scene where some of the characters are making a TC Joe get it on with a Barbie.I have no idea what the context was, I was just channel surfing. But it was a Joe sighting nonetheless.” —Rudy

“On Frasier, Joe is mentioned as Martin (Frasier’s dad) attempts to get the dog to switch from chewing on a Barbie found in the park to chewing on a Joe. He wants him to be more of a DOG, after having been fixed. Joe is seen at the end credits being chewed on.”—Unknown

“On the Jeff Foxworthy Show – NBC version – GIjOE is “on a mission” exploring the couch. Jeff finds him in the cushions. He is carried around by Jeff for 3-5 minutes and used as a sight gag.”—Desert Duke

Put your own “Eagle-Eyes” to work and watch carefully for GIjOE’s next appearance in a TV show or motion picture!

“There’s a scene in Thunderheart, (that movie with Val Kilmer as a FBI agent doing an investigation on the Sioux Indian reservation), where one of the Native-American children has a vintage GIjOE.” —Charles Digman

“I just remembered another one – on the HBO miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon” there is a scene w/an astronaut about to give a lecture to some kids and he’s holding a GIjOE astronaut.”—Ray Alma

“There’s a Disney movie about a couple that adopt some kids. Leslie Nielson plays the quack that rents the kids out on a trial basis. Anyway, the Dad has a GIjOE on display, part of his investments. Ends up being devalued by the Great Dane.” —John Lukasiewicz