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December 18, 2009

Kemler’s Dirty Secret

Filed under: Toy News — matt @ 6:56 pm

Kemler!

After many years — and a fierce duel on the battleground of Morphy’s Auction House, where I was outbid by an order of magnitude by a mysterious woman with a fetish for fine diecast — I have finally gotten my hands on the King of the Diecast Beasts: Kemler! (Thanks again, Warren!) This elusive prey represents one of the few diecast monster toys made in the Seventies, and the only one to my knowledge not made by the kaiju-powerhouse of Bullmark/Ark.

kemler

Now here’s the interesting thing. When it arrived, I noticed that the spring-loaded disk launcher on the back didn’t work as advertised. “Open the wings to launch the disks!” shouts the box-copy. (Then again, it also claims “tilt the mouth open and it screams,” suggesting that whoever wrote the instructions was either mildly delusional or working on little sleep and much saké, or perhaps both.)

I opened the wings. Nothing launched. It didn’t even seem to have a trigger, though a gaping rectangular hole in Kemler’s side seemed to indicate that it had at one point. It took approximately two seconds of fiddling with the plate that holds the mechanism in place before it popped — perhaps “fell” is a better word — clean off, revealing an engineering effort so singularly pathetic only Marushin could have pulled it off.

Kemler’s vaunted disk-launching mechanism consists of a spring seemingly scaled down from a clothespin, actuated by a lever balanced on a tiny point, held in place by little more than slight pressure and wishful thinking. (Bear in mind that in an era when rival firms like Popy were executing intricately engineered works of transforming and combining toy-art, this was a company that resorted to magnets to hold questionable looking diecast figures together. Even Kemler, arguably Marushin’s masterwork, features loosey-goosey limbs tacked on with a design apparently inspired by “pin the tail on the Donkey.”) A few seconds of re-rigging and everything was back in place, barely… But mysteries remained.

Was this a defect? Was it damaged? Or do those adjectives better apply to the grown men (and the occasional woman) who spend insane sums of money to own bejeweled diecast lizards? I suspect few of us care to know the answer to the latter, but the former were quickly ascertained by a call on the chogo-phone to Uncle Warren, a.k.a. The Keeper Of All Those Crazy Toys You Wish You Owned.

Warren's Kemler's back.

Warren examined his two specimens and discovered that the back plates weren’t fixed in place on those, either. This in spite of a tiny hole on the upper right that would seem to accomodate a rivet, pin, or screw of some kind. But: “Mine doesn’t even have a screw socket,” reported Warren. “I think they must have painted over the hole at the factory.” Ah, Marushin.

Anyway, consider this my throwing out the “toy-signal” for assistance: any other Kemler owners out there willing to send pics or describe the condition of the back-launchers of their specimens? Post ‘em in the BBS!

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