With the recent release (and review) of Rebor’s Charles R. Knight inspired Mesozoic Rhapsody I thought it would be a fitting time to look at the very first Charles Knight inspired Tyrannosaurus toy, and one of the first Tyrannosaurus toys ever produced. I’m talking of course about the Marx Tyrannosaurus, a toy that isn’t just retro in appearance, but so vintage that it was produced at a time when it would have been considered reasonably accurate too.
The Marx T. rex we’re looking at today is one of two T. rex toys produced by Marx. The original figure, known as the “Pot-Belly” T. rex was first released in 1955 and clearly based on Rudolph Zallinger’s Age of Reptiles mural. It would have been the first mass marketed toy Tyrannosaurus. Only the 1947 SRG metal T. rex is older, but it’s also metal. But we’re not reviewing the pot-belly T. rex, not yet anyway, today we’re looking at its replacement, dubbed the “Sleek” T. rex and released in 1959.
The sleek T. rex is part of Marx’s Revised Mold Group, PL-977. Within this mold group were 7 other re-issued figures that by-and-large are almost identical to their original counterparts. The only dinosaur to receive a completely new and unique sculpt was the T. rex. Why the change? Apparently, the original pot-bellied T. rex took too long to cool after being removed from the mold, so Marx wanted to trim the fat so to speak and make a T. rex that was faster to produce.
The Marx sleek T. rex is without question inspired by Charles R. Knight’s 1906 painting for the American Museum of Natural History. Knight’s painting was based on Henry Fairfield Osborn’s skeletal drawing of T. rex, also from 1906. Knight’s reconstruction became the look for the tyrant king for decades to come, just as the Jurassic Park T. rex is the default image of the animal today. Knight’s T. rex would be brought to life in 1933’s King Kong and is the same T. rex that inspired Rebor’s recent throwback figure.
The Marx T. rex has the same rounded head, obvious ear holes, and incorrectly placed eyes as Knight’s painting. The eyes were placed within the antorbital fenestra instead of within the actual orbit. This error would lead to incorrectly placed frog eyes on T. rex becoming a trope in paleo-art.
The figure is presented with the upright, tail dragging posture that you would expect it to have. Although this is the “sleek” T. rex it has a bit of a gut of its own. This is most obvious when viewed from head on. Again, this is in keeping with Knight’s depiction. The right foot of the figure is firmly planted on the ground while the left leg is pushing off the ground behind it. The arms are appropriately short but it’s difficult to tell exactly how many fingers are present. There’s clearly two on the left hand but the right hand looks like it may have as many as four. Knight’s illustration has 3 fingered hands. The name Tyrannosaurus and a length of 50’ are printed on the belly.
If you were put off by PNSO’s oversized scales on Wilson, you haven’t seen nothing yet! The body of this figure is covered in a mosaic of absurdly large scales, scales so large that they make the figure appear more cracked than scaly. It’s clear that they’re based on the scales in Knight’s painting, but even larger in ratio to the body. Smaller scales are sculpted on the head and on the neck’s fleshy dewlap. A series of wrinkles run down the length of the tail, making it look segmented like a worm.
The details around the face are nicely done, with openings for the ears and nostrils present, a lipped mouth, defined jawline, and some fine detail present on the tiny, exposed teeth. Folds of skin are sculpted along the neck and are bunched up where the head of the figure is tilting leftward. The eyes are large and almond shaped without pupils, giving them an unsettling alien appearance that’s enhanced by the figure’s smooth, rounded head, and bent, cumbersome posture.
Honestly, the Marx T. rex is not my favorite vintage T. rex depiction. It’s a bit too creepy and awkward of a T. rex for me. I much prefer the full-sized T. rex from the 1965 World’s Fair, or the Invicta T. rex as far as vintage toys go. Still, I do prefer it over the older Marx T. rex, it’s a much more refined, and nicely detailed take on the species. It’s creepy awkwardness also gives it its own appeal, there’s no other T. rex quite like it in my collection. The Marx 1959 T. rex is widely available on eBay but is one of the more expensive Marx toys, averaging about $20. If you can find it in a lot, then you’ll probably get it at a better bargain. If what you want in your collection is a T. rex based on a Charles R. Knight painting that’s not just retro in appearance, but vintage in age, then look no further than the Marx T. rex.