Hammer vs. Universal Monsters!
By Kurt Kuersteiner (© 1997 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards) for The Wrapper Magazine from issue #146
When it comes to monsters, battles between the beasts are nothing new. Frankenstein took on Wolfman in the 1940s. King Kong challenged Godzilla in the 1960s. This year, Hammer Studios unleashed their second set of monsters to face off against the Universal Monsters of the Silver Screen.
Both sets are fun and unique in their own way. Since it was Universal that first introduced monsters in movies, lets begin with them:
Universal Monsters of the Silver Screen is basically a black and white set. Kitchen Sink advertises it as "tri-tone", which is a printing process similar to duo-tone. It provides a more three dimensional look than standard black and white photos, but also makes the set somewhat dark. The cards are borderless and the set title is foil stamped on the front in red. It is interesting to compare the regular cards to the six promo cards that came out late last year. The promos have identical images within the set, but without the "tri-tone" or red foil stamp. The regular cards are noticeably superior to the promos.
There are 90 cards in the standard set. Each card profiles a different movie, except the big block busters (like Dracula and Wolfman) which get several cards. The commentary is brief but interesting, and the backs are laid out in a clean but stylish manner. On the downside, several images have already appeared in other sets (especially, You'll Die Laughing '73). There are also six images not taken from regular stills, but color posters or lobby cards. When converted to "tri-tone", these loose their contrast and don't go very well with the rest of the set.
No doubt they had a tough time finding photos for some of the more obscure movies. This would explain why a few shots are a little unexciting. But then again, what can you do with something like Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man? The "monster" is, after all, invisible! Hard-core monster fans will probably feel this was a worthwhile trade off to include the unusual titles.
The ten different full color lobby card stickers are quite nice. Some of these images also appear in other sets (most notably, Ackermonster's Cardiacards) but most of them don't.
By far, the neatest part of this set are the twelve different "Bio-Chromes". These feature close up shots of some of Universal's favorite sci-fi/horror stars, and profiles their career on the back. They're tough to find in packs though, with only a one in nine chance. This usually means you find four per box, and have to go through three different boxes to get all twelve... and that's assuming you don't get stuck with duplicates.
There's also an "ultra-chase" card of the Bride of Frankenstein. I haven't seen this yet, and with only a 1:432 chance of finding it, I don't expect to see it anytime soon. (It's redeemable for an uncut sheet of the entire set.) On the other hand, I did get three sets of cards and stickers from my box and that's about as good as it gets. I know others that were not as fortunate, but Kitchen Sink says they will exchange "a reasonable number" of duplicate cards for the ones you need.
While on the subject of packs, the wrappers are rather handsome. That is, as handsome as a wrapper can be with a portrait of Frankenstein's monster on it. The box is also cool. It features a die cut of the Phantom of the Opera (just like in the movie, you never know where he might pop up). Kitchen Sink claims 1,000 twelve box cases were produced.
Cornerstone's Hammer House of Horror series 2 picks up right where the last series left off: Card #82. There's 81 cards in the this sequel, plus six foil stamped cards and two Monster Motion redemption cards. If the regular chase cards aren't hard enough to find, there's also six autograph cards and one insider trading card. (You have to join a $20 club to obtain the latter.)
About half these cards are full color. The other half are color "tinted" black and white stills. All the cards are borderless except for 19 movie posters that have red borders. The movies profiled are Hound of the Baskervilles, She, The Devil Rides Out, One Million Years B.C., Vampire Lovers, Captain Kronos, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, plus three Quatermass movies and three Mummy movies. A box usually provides two to four sets and Cornerstone will exchange dupes.
The six foils show posters of Hammer films that were never produced. Unfortunately, it usually takes two boxes to finish the foil set. Both Monster Motion cards are redeemable for the same limited edition (1,500 made) lenticular card. The ultra-rare one (1:432 packs) is exchanged for free while the other (1:36 packs) costs $10 to redeem. The lenticular card features a werewolf that transforms as you view it.
The autograph cards (500 made) feature Frankenstein's monster on the front and one of six autographs on the back. Cornerstone says series 2 is limited to 250 twelve box cases and the odds of getting an autograph are 1:452 packs.
So who wins this monster card contest? That's easy... the collector. Both these sets are fun additions to the hobby except for one problem: Neither can be completed with the purchase of a single box. That aside, if you enjoyed watching these films, you'll probably enjoy collecting these sets. That's assuming the frustration of finishing them doesn't turn you into a monster!
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