Gremlins: Dissecting the Department Store!

For this installment of X-E Dissects (check out the new series logo I made for it…two minutes well spent), I want to establish that this won’t just include random movie bedrooms and the many toys within. Nope, we’re also good with random movie department stores…and the many toys within.

I refuse to enter redundant territory. Yes, I’ve entered this territory with some regularity and was in fact stationed there during my last post, but I meant that I refuse to enter redundant territory now. I’m not going to tell you the plot of Gremlins. On a site that’s already delved so deep into Gremlinsdom that a broken promise of me transforming a cardboard box into a tribute to the movie’s sequel sits openly in the archives, there’s no way I need to go over what the stupid movie’s about.

So, we’ll just jump to the scene in question. Near the end of the film, Billy chases Stripe into a Montgomery Ward department store. Billy and friends (Phoebe Cates, Gizmo) had already murdered dozens of Gremlins, but Stripe was of particular importance because he was the last one. Kill Stripe before he cannonballs into another pool, and voila, no more Gremlins.

So you’ve got Billy wrestling Stripe all over Montgomery Ward, from the candy-filled window display to the electronics department, down to the toy aisles and over to the potted plants. It’s an intense sequence, and no shot is onscreen for long — partly to build suspense, but mostly because letting the camera hang on Stripe gave too-clear views of the rods and strings that brought him to life.

It isn’t until you see Gremlins a thousand times that you become familiar enough with their death duel to ignore it. Then and only then, your eyes are free to soak up all of that neat stuff littering a mid-’80s department store. They obviously filmed in a real Montgomery Ward, because renting one of their stores was absolutely cheaper than building a life-sized replica just so Stripe could throw cutting blades at Billy’s head.

When you hit that point – when you’ve seen Gremlins a thousand times – that department store is a beautiful reward. This place had some major goodies in it.

For those playing at home, below is an assortment of source images pulled from the DVD. I needed more than these to find as much as I did, but it’s enough to get you started. Each Gizmo = a different source image. Collect all seven!

This time, finding the items wasn’t easy. These scenes were extremely dark. Not figuratively as in “evil and iniquitous.” I mean there were no fucking lights. After putting in my hours and killing my eyes, I think I found jussst enough to not be totally convinced that I should’ve written about Elliot’s bedroom from E.T. instead.

Now, the sentence I was put on this planet to type: Below are 24 fun things briefly seen during the “department store scene” in Gremlins.

Hard to see, but it’s there. Stripe is holding it. Doesn’t seem very exciting until you picture him eating it. Like a dog with peanut butter, but with the dog in the shape of a monkey/lizard.
Love the old box style. So unpretentiously forward. These Milk Duds were what they were and they were nothing more. Change “were” to “are,” and you’ve got half the lyrics to their 1950s ad jingle, sung by Don Cherry.
It’s a pair of those pre-stuffed Christmas stockings – the ones made of that fishnet material, which typically contained only the shittiest of toys and candies. Click here for a better look. I see everything from a Dukes of Hazzard car to Smarties in there.
Clue, Big Boggle and Survive! I know the first two, at least. Was tempted to research the last one and play it off like I was a longtime fan, but something about titles including exclamation points has always bothered me. When I type “Survive! was a board game,” even my Archnemesis Spellchecker agrees that it sucks.
I can’t ID it perfectly, but it’s definitely a Mad Magazine game. If you’ll recall, Buzz McCallister had a Mad game in his bedroom, too. They were everywhere, and we never noticed them. Who knows what they might’ve gotten away with?
Another board game, yippee. I did kind of warn you that this wouldn’t be as interesting as the previous dissections. If I was always hitting home runs, X-E’s multiyear traffic graph wouldn’t look like a sketch of a playground slide.
Had Garfield already been through that slenderizing makeover by 1984? If so, this was old store stock. Cat is fat. Fatter than usual.
Joining Garfield is Odie. Lots of Odies, actually. I only saw two or three Garfields, but I’m confident that Odies have never gathered in stronger numbers than they did at this Montgomery Ward. Odie had more screen time than Keye Luke.
There were tons of similarly generic robots all over the store, and it seemed like a shame not to include one. I chose this example because he’s a little bit 3P0, a little bit Alpha, a little bit Conky, and a little bit Every Other Robot I’ve Ever Known.
Midnight was “Barbie’s beautiful black stallion,” and if you don’t believe me, here’s a better look at the box. I’m no Barbie expert, but I dunno…strip away the extras, and it’s the same plastic horse every toy store in the world sells for $5 or less.
Their appearance is beyond brief, so it may be a leap of faith to say that these are Care Bears. The bright side is, words can’t express how little I’d care if I was wrong.
I could be a bit off on the title, since only the word “DASH” is plainly visible. Had to piece together the rest with the help of Google. Google is great for a lot of things, but not this. Could be Dash & Crash. Could be Dash 4 Crash. Could be Crash & Race.
A Barbie bubble bath doesn’t leave me with many appropriate things to say, so I’ll instead use this space to tell you that “IIII” is indeed an acceptable alternative for “IV” in the world of Roman numerals.
Faaaack. I know exactly what this thing is, and I know that you’ll know exactly what this thing is, but I absolutely cannot name it. It’s one of those things. Those wheely things, with the arrows and the characters who say things when the arrow gets to them. IIII = IV.
Blech. I’ve mentioned that when it comes to Disney, I’m a Donald loyalist. Well, with Looney Tunes, I’m a Daffyphile. Donald…Daffy…those vending machine toys patterned after Brett Favre…it seems I have a thing with ducks.
My reaction to Sylvester is one of absolute ambivalence. Don’t like, don’t dislike. Would invite him to the party if I had room, but definitely not if it meant buying another folding chair.
Smurfette’s head looks like it’s about to explode. When you’re dealing with plush dolls of that sort, it’s a safe bet that they’re filled with thousands of tiny styrofoam balls. If your doll is filled with those, it’s only a matter of time. Consciously, subconsciously….you’ll find a way to break that bitch. Tiny styrofoam ball spills are epic.
In Toy Universe, generic Smurfs were lumps of clay, ready to adopt whatever persona you told them to have. I’ve turned generic Smurfs into everyone from Pesty to Magicky.
Maybe the surrounding scenery messed with my sense of scale, but these Garfield shirts seem too large to have been for children. We might shudder at the thought of an adult wearing one, but the truth is, even at the old age of six, no kid could’ve stumbled into my classroom wearing a Garfield shirt and not be killed immediately.
Famous as Gizmo’s preferred method of adorable travel, children left movie theaters believing that Barbie’s Corvette could achieve speeds greater than 100 MPH.
I can’t ID which Atari game it is, but from what I gather by the box art, it had something to do with guys reading newspapers.
#22: E.T. DOLL
It’s a nod to a Spielberg movie from within another Spielberg movie, and it has all the subtlety of an exploding head. This E.T. doll is onscreen forever, and it’s the only thing in the entire Montgomery Ward that we get a crisp look at. If I had a chance to pay homage to myself in a movie that otherwise featured a shot of a reptilian devil breakdancing in pink legwarmers, I absolutely would’ve done the same thing.
Time flies and memories fade, but I find this E.T. tricycle peculiarly familiar. Is it possible that I owned this? If so, shouldn’t I be a much happier person today? Seen in the store’s window display, we must applaud Montgomery Ward for knowing that an E.T. tricycle was more of a lure than Barbie’s idiot horse.
Poochie is tough to see in the film, so click here for a clearer photo. The dog spawned all sorts of toys, but none were as popular as this simple plush doll with cotton candy ears.

I run a macho site, but the contents of this Montgomery Ward were…well, pretty girly. I wanted this article to be tougher, and since I was already staring at scenes from Gremlins with my finger over the print screen button…

Nothing brings X-E back to its target demographic of gym rats with tribal tattoos faster than a picture of Stripe dying.

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78 Responses to Gremlins: Dissecting the Department Store!

  1. John T says:

    “I know exactly what this thing is, and I know that you’ll know exactly what this thing is, but I absolutely cannot name it. It’s one of those things.”

    See ‘n Say, Matt. See ‘n Say.

  2. DunkyBasketball says:

    Both references/descriptions of gremlins made me laugh audibly. “Reptilian devil” can’t help but conjure images of latin people shaking their angry fists at gremlins who tumped over their trashcans, or launched them into the stratosphere via a weird armrail elevator thing. “Monkey lizard” is just plain funny, and somehow disrespectful to my beloved grem-a-lins.

  3. Richard16378 says:

    The house in Close Encounters Of The 3rd Kind was to the late 1970s as the house in ET was to the early 1980s.

    In both cases Steven Spielberg hired a set dresser who managed to make both houses really reflect their eras, probably without even trying to do so.

    When I first saw Gremlins I got the joke of Stripe hiding on the shelf of ET toys stright away.

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