As we discussed in last month’s blog entry, Azrak-Hamway Incorporated’s acquisition of Remco Toys in 1974 led to quite an expansive range of bargain Star Trek rack toys. While Azrak-Hamway put out a fairly large amount of product under the AHI brand, the quality of these items unfortunately attested to their low cost. In an effort to expand past these inexpensive releases and make the most out of their new library of licenses, AHI began to market higher-end items under the Remco brand. Using the Remco name would help differentiate these releases from AHI’s usual product, while also taking advantage of the consumer brand name recognition that Remco had built over the years. Three major Remco-branded Star Trek items were released from AHI during the 1970’s: The Star Trek CSF U.S.S. Enterprise, the Star Trek Phaser Gun and the Star Trek Utility Belt.
AHI introduced the Controlled Space Flight line under the Remco name in 1976. Dubbed “CSF” for short, the line borrowed heavily from Mattel’s Vertibird toy concept… and by “borrowed” I mean straight-out copied. The basic format consists of a craft mounted to a rod which flies around a central base containing an electric motor. Using an attached switch, the owner “flies” the craft by controlling its throttle and pitch. What made the CSF line unique was AHI’s ingenuous idea to apply the concept to Remco’s various licenses. Adding Star Trek to the CSF line made perfect sense, as it is one of the few properties used in the line that actually featured space flight. Using the control switch, a child pilots the U.S.S. Enterprise to “pick up and deliver space objects” on an enclosed cardboard play mat. The first version of the toy was piloted through a dial located on an attached helm control, but a later version introduced a double lever helm to increase your operating accuracy, since you wouldn’t want any accidents to occur while delivering, um, “space objects.”
Released in 1975, the Star Trek Phaser Gun is one of the earliest electronic phaser toys. The gun isn’t what you’d call an exacting replica of the screen-used props, with its bulky size and the Gold Key-inspired “Star Trek” logo emblazoned on its side, but what the Phaser Gun loses in accuracy it makes up for in fun. The phaser emits a "Realistic Phaser Sound" and a light shines from the front when the trigger is pressed. While those features alone should have been enough to sell this $6 item to any young fan of the show, the makers added another tidbit to elevate this one to the next level. Located inside the attached Type-1 Phaser is a secret compartment housing 3 disks. On each disk is a small stenciled cut-out depicting a trio of space ships: the Enterprise, a Klingon Battle Cruiser, and a goofy little generic flying saucer. By attaching one of the threes disks to the front of the barrel, the light beam then takes the shape of your chosen spacecraft. The phaser now takes on a whole new dimension of fun, as it used to blast a conniving Klingon’s craft right off your living room wall!
Another staple of Remco releases in the 1970’s was their licensed utility belts. Each release consisted of an adjustable plastic belt and various detachable items pertaining to the character featured on the package. Some releases made perfect sense, like the Batman and Spider-Man utility belts. Others, like the Hulk and Mickey Mouse utility belts, probably worked better on paper than they did in execution. Thankfully, the Star Trek Utility Belt is one of the coolest of the batch. The standard black belt features the Star Trek logo on its buckle and has 3 spots to carry the enclosed equipment- a phaser, a communicator and a tricorder. Modeled heavily after AMT’s “Exploration Set” model kit, the toys were a tad on the diminutive size, but still maintained a solid resemblance to those seen on the show.
While these three releases highlight AHI’s use of the brand in the 1970’s, I’d feel remiss in not mentioning one more item that owes a bit of its existence to Remco Toys. After all, the Enco Company must have drawn inspiration from the 1969 Remco Star Trek Astro-Helmet when they released their Official Star Trek Helmet in 1976. Enco took the ridiculous concept to all new heights of absurdity, however, by adding a movable visor, pull-out antennae and a large red “flashing light emitter with pulsing sonic sound.” Perhaps the coolest feature of all, though, was the inclusion of a large sticker sheet, allowing the owner to customize the helmet with their favorite Star Trek character’s name! Without a doubt, the sheer insanity of this toy makes it one of my favorite pieces of Star Trek memorabilia ever made. How can you not love something carrying the tagline “Space Fun Helmet” on its box?
While many of the AHI and Remco products released in the 60’s and 70’s are sometimes criticized for their cheap quality and wild inaccuracies, they still hold an important place in the history of Star Trek toys. As some of the earliest tie-in items from the franchise, they really are the stepping stones on Star Trek’s journey to becoming one of the most-heavily licensed properties in television history. I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest look back at them! Next time around, we’ll jump forward a few years and take a peek at some of the toys from Star Trek’s first foray onto the big screen…
Want to read more from James Sawyer about Star Trek products? Check out his blog - A Piece of the Action.