In 1976, a new toy appeared on the market that quickly seized the imagination of many young boys. Kenner’s Stretch Armstrong – released in the UK by Denys Fisher – was a strangely homoerotic blonde muscle man, clad only in (removable) blue underpants, and his big selling point – apart from looking uncannily like Rocky from The Rocky Horror Picture Show – was that he could be stretched, twisted and otherwise manipulated.
A couple of determined kids could stretch Stretch from his initial fifteen inches to four or five feet, thanks to his latex skin and gelled corn syrup filling. Inevitably, most Stretch Armstrongs didn’t last too long – storage at the wrong temperature or overuse could result in hardening, and although puncture repair information came with the doll, more than a few kids were unable to resist the urge to carry out a stretchectomy for too long, the mystery of his internal workings being too tempting.
Still, for a few years, Stretch Armstrong was a top-selling toy, and in 1977 he was joined by Stretch Monster. Billed as Stretch Armstrong’s mortal enemy, this was a green, alien-type creature that was somewhere between The Incredible Hulk and every great comic book alien. His scaly skin, ‘devil’s eyes’ and general monstrousness mean that he was immediately more popular than his bodybuilding adversary – so much so in fact, that your author was denied the chance of owning one as Christmas supplies ran low (I’m sure my look of disappointment at getting an Armstrong instead must’ve been obvious!).
You could tie your Stretch Monster in knots, or wrap him around Armstrong to make them ‘fight’ (though these photos look more like the pair are sharing a private moment). Still, you have to love the look on that kid’s face…
The Japanese version of Stretch Monster changed his facial design to make him less reptilian and more alien.
Inevitably, the nature of these toys has meant that few have survived – some estimate that over 50,000 were sold and less than 100 still survive. If you have one, it’s probably worth more than your house.
Plans continue for a Stretch Armstrong movie. Fingers crossed that he gets to once again do battle with Stretch Monster!
You can read more about Stretch Monster – with great photos – here.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA