Continuing my look at The Green Hornet TV series here’s the 1967 Corgi Black Beauty die-cast model which proved a popular toy and a good seller in the UK.
It was equipped with a front firing missile, guaranteed to take someone’s eye out, and a flying radar scanner destined to get lost somewhere behind the sofa.
When the Green Hornet aired in America towards the end of 1966, Bat -mania was in full swing in the UK. I was certainly a Bat- fan and tuned in every Saturday and Sunday night when it was first shown on TV here.
UK shops were full of Batman related goodies, including the fabulous Corgi Batmobile which appeared in October, 1966.
It sold phenomenally well, only beaten by Corgi’s gadget laden James Bond DB5. The time seemed right for another TV production from the makers of Batman.
I seem to recall first seeing news of a new Batman spin –off series in TV Tornado comic, which began a run of Green Hornet strips starting issue dated 25th February, 1967. Like most Bat-fans and lovers of action TV, I was intrigued.
This time the hero wasn’t the campy caped crusader type. He was a smartly dressed, masked anti-hero, who wore a fedora. He, and his faithful aide, Kato fought crime in the guise of a criminals, using a car that could rival James Bond’s DB5, when it came to hidden weapons. I could hardly wait…!
Unfortunately, Batman’s popularity had apparently begun to wane, and The Green Hornet TV series didn’t get shown nationally here in the UK. I certainly don’t remember it being shown in my region at the time, although I’m told it aired on a couple of other regional channels, presumably to satisfy any marketing licences issued. The Green Hornet and Kato did team up with Batman and Robin in the Batman cross-over episode, ‘A Piece of the Action – Batman’s Satisfaction, but as far as I’m aware that was it at the time.
Remarkably, it spite of that, a few spin-off items were released in the UK, and by all accounts proved popular with kids like me. We had our own television annual from World Distributors with front cover artwork by Walt Howath, the usual text stories, and a reprint of the first Green Hornet Gold Key comic .
We also had that year’s TV Tornado annual which featured both a Green Hornet text and strip story. We had the odd story and colouring books, and the 3D Viewmaster reels featuring images from the ’Programmed for Death’ episode.
But, I think it’s fair to say that the best known piece of Green Hornet spin-off merchandise is the Corgi Crime Fighting Black Beauty.
The Corgi Black Beauty was released in the UK in December 1967, and along with its secret rocket launcher and flying radar scanner, it has a pivoting Green Hornet in the back seat pointing his Hornet Gun, and his faithful aide and chauffer Kato at the steering wheel.
Just in case there’s any doubt there’s a large Green Hornet logo on the roof, and a green hornet on the base.
A couple of minor problems with the model are the flip down radiator cover is generally quite loose and tends to slightly hang open. I’m presuming this is down to a weak spring inside to enable the opening mechanism to work easier. The other bugbear is the pivoting Green Hornet figure’s gas pistol is prone to being knocked off. As Corgi riveted their models, taking the model apart to replace it requires drilling them out and replacing them with self-tapping screws. The same applies if you want to replace the rear tyres.
Held back by its lack of TV exposure, the Black Beauty was never likely going to be as big a seller in the UK as the Batmobile, it never the less proved popular with kids, who, like me liked the model’s features, along with its cult status.
Corgi Model Club News, featured in TV Century 21 comic carried one or two articles on The Black Beauty.
Corgi Crime-Busters: Corgi’s range of TV and film related cars
1967 Corgi toy check list:
Corgi TV Century 21 advert:
Corgi Black Beauty feature: Note the lower right illustration shows The Green Hornet on the opposite side of the rear seat.
Here's the same illustration in colour from the 1967 Corgi Catalogue.
Corgi produced the Crime Fighting Black Beauty until 1972, turning out a respectable 800,000 units.
There are two versions, although the only visible differences are the wheel hubs.The first version has spun wheels; the later version has cast wheels.
There are also two versions of box art; The earlier one has part of the drawing of The Green Hornet seen on the display plinth on one face of the box, and a drawing of the car firing it’s missile and launching its scanner on the opposite side.
The later version has just the drawing of the car on the two opposite sides. The box end flaps are also slightly different.
The model comes with secret instructions and Corgi Model Club form, 3 scanners, and 3 missiles. If these got lost, you could buy extra ones in packs of 4 from Corgi.
I should add that Corgi Classics re-issued The Black Beauty in 2001. This looks like it uses the same tooling as the original, and does have some visual improvements. The wheel hubs look a little more like the ‘apache’ rims used on the real car, and the loose radiator grill, a niggle with the sixties version is a lot more rigid. However, the downside is there are no Green Hornet or Kato figures inside the car, and the Green Hornet logo on the roof is less detailed. It does come with 2 scanners and 2 missiles, which unsurprisingly are exactly the same as the originals.
Although, there’s no Green Hornet figure, the box contains a hand painted white metal figure of Kato which looks to be around 1:32 scale. The car is described on the packaging as 1:36 scale. However, like the original it’s actually 1:43.
“With the Corgi Black Beauty, join The Green Hornet and Kato in their fight against crime”