I may not have mentioned it before, but I have always been fascinated by pirates. Like many boys I read Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island as a child and eagerly watched any pirate movie that happened to be on televison. With regards to pirates, however, one year in my childhood stands out most clearly in mind: 1974. I don't know if there actually was more pirate related merchandise in 1974, but it certainly seemed that way to me.
Indeed, at least two different companies came out with pirate action figures. One was Mego, which brought out a small line they called the World's Greatest Super Pirates. The line included three figures: Blackbeard, Captain Patch, Jean LaFitte, and Long John Silver. Unlike their ever popular World's Greatest Superheroes line, Mego never produced any playsets to go with their pirate action figures.
That same year, Matchbox, better known for miniature cars, came out with a series of pirate action figures as part of their Fighting Furies series. Initially it consisted of two figures, Captain Hook and Captain Peg Leg. Eventually they added other figures: Ghost of Cap'n Kidd and Captain Blood. Two different playsets were sold in connection with the Fighting Furies line, although both were called the Sea Fury. The one sold at every store except Sears was basically just a vinyl ship that also served as a case. The other, sold exclusively through Sears, was a fully equipped toy ship. Matchbox produced a large number of accessory kits to go with the action figures, from the Hooded Falcon Adventure set to Cap'n Kidd's Treasure. Unfortunately, neither Mego nor Matchbox saw much success with their pirate figures. As far as I know, the World's Greatest Super Pirates lasted only one year. The pirates of the Fighting Furies (there was a Western series) managed to last into 1975.
In 1972 MPC released a series of model kits based on Walt Disney's Pirates of the Carribean ride. Seven kits were released in all--five in 1972 and two more in 1974. The models featured such titles as "Hoist High the Jolly Roger" and "Dead Men Tell No Tales." I have to admit that I am surprised that they did not reissue the kits in the wake of the success of Pirates of the Carribean: the Curse of the Black Pearl. Of course, pirates were nothing new to MPC. They had long been making plastic toy pirates, along with their plastic soldiers, knights, and cowboys.
Speaking of the Pirates of the Carribean ride, I have to wonder that, if there were more pirate related toys in the mid-Seventies, it wasn't due to the popularity of that ride. It opened on March 18, 1967 and soon became one of Disneyland's most popular attractions. Indeed, the apparent popularity of pirates in the mid-Seventies may have started in the late Sixties. While people were buying tickets in Disneyland for Pirates of the Carribean, 1969 a pirate themed fast food restaurant opened--Long John Silver's Fish 'n' Chips. I first became aware of Long John Silvers in the mid-Seventies when they would advertise on the St. Louis and Kansas City TV channels. I remember that they used pirate characters in their commercials. I have no idea why they ceased using pirates in their commercials, as those commercials held my interest much better than the generic ones they use today!
As I said, I don't know if there were more pirate related items available in 1974 or if I just took more notice of them. Regardless, it helped fuel a fascination with pirates that has stuck with me for the rest of my life. To this day I must confess to fantasies of unfurling the sails on fast ship and hoisting the Jolly Roger...
2 days ago