“Mobile Army Surgeon Hospital”
The television series M*A*S*H is up there somewhere in my list of favourite TV shows of all time. The show ran for an amazing 11 seasons from 1972 to 1983 and produced a whopping 251 episodes. The M*A*S*H finale episode used to hold the record for most number of viewers for any single television program in history with 106 million viewers tuning in to see the end of this wonderful series. Only recently has this record been broken by the 44th edition of the Superbowl in early 2010.
Much to my surprise I only recently discovered the existence of M*A*S*H action figures and toys by watching Chad Hucal’s documentary Collectible Spectacle on YouTube featuring super collector Mark Bellomo and part of his immense toy and action figure collection. Disregarding the apparent contradiction of producing children’s toys to what is considered as an adult oriented television series, the toyline was released in 1982 by Tristar International Ltd and consisted of action figures, a couple of vehicles and a playset.
“Many Tri Stars”
Tristar International Ltd is sometimes confused with Tri-Star Pictures, which is a totally unrelated movie and television company founded, coincidentally, also in 1982. Mark Bellomo mistakenly refers to Tristar International Ltd as the movie studio “now known as Columbia TriStar” in the above mentioned documentary. Tri-Star Pictures was actually founded in 1982 under the initial name of Nova Pictures and is currently known as Columbia TriStar, part of Sony Pictures Entertainment and has nothing to do with Tristar International Ltd, maker of the M*A*S*H toy line of 1982. To further add to the confusion, there’s another totally unrelated toy company/importer called Tri Star International, Inc., based in Newark, California, mostly known for recalls of toys due to choking and laceration hazards in 2007.
The Tristar International Ltd that made the M*A*S*H toy line has nothing to do with either of these companies and is known for having produced toys much earlier, even as far back as 1963 or so, when it released Poor Pitiful Pearl dolls, based on William Steig’s eponymous cartoon character from the 1950s. Tristar International Ltd was located at 5 200th Avenue in New York, a location still known to house several toy or toy related companies according to Google Maps.
Back to the toys! Tristar released a total of 7 action figures, consisting of the main cast of M*A*S*H towards the last couple of seasons of the show, being Hawkeye, B.J., Klinger, Colonel Potter, Hot Lips, Winchester and Father Mulcahy.
What’s really cool is that Klinger was actually released in two versions. The first was the regular army uniform wearing Klinger, which is the easiest to find. The second, also pictured on the back of the cards, is a cross dressing Klinger wearing a pink outfit! This one is a lot harder to find and is usually a lot more expensive! I’m not sure whether this drag queen Klinger is just a variant or a mail away figure, but it’s really cool that Tristar produced this variation. Actually, when I think about it, it’s pretty amazing they got away with producing a cross dressing action figure in 1982. How cool is that!
Moving on to the vehicles. Tristar created a total of 3 vehicles, being a jeep, an ambulance and the iconic Bell 47 helicopter. All three vehicles came with an unnamed “G.I. action figure” and look very much like their television series counterparts.
“Kick Ass Playset”
The coolest piece of all from the Tristar line, which is conspiciously absent from the back of the action figure cards and vehicle boxes, is the M*A*S*H military base playset! Featured in the afforementioned documentary on Mark Bellomo this is one kick ass playset that’s currently high on my wish list.
I currently have most of the action figures in my possession (including the cross dressing Klinger variant) and the Jeep. Still looking out for the helicopter, ambulance and ofcourse the military base playset! Check out the forthcoming individual pages of the M*A*S*H items in my collection for more photographs!
posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in M*A*S*H
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