Universal Monsters
Dracula (Jakk's)

Over the years, we've gotten many versions of the classic Universal Monsters.  And of that bevy of greats - Frankenstein, Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, etc. - perhaps the one most often incarnated in plastic goodness is the Count himself, Dracula.

Jakk's got the license to do a series of 6" - 7" figures based on the original monsters at the same time they got the license to do figures for this year's Van Helsing film.  Interestingly enough, their competitor Sideshow does the 12" classic monsters, and will also be doing a 12" line of Van Helsing.

These classic series includes Dracula, Wolfman, and Frankenstein (from Bride of Frankenstein).  The each include play sets or dioramas, and retail for about $15.  I found mine at the local Toys R Us, and haven't heard of any reported sightings yet at any other retailers.

I'm just covering Drac tonight.  He's all I picked up, and by the end of the review you'll know why.  I will end up buying the other two - I like to keep my Universal Monsters collection fairly complete (I did NOT buy the awful Exclusive Premiere Dracula) and will want to fill in the other two later.

Packaging - ***1/2
I like this packaging quite a bit.  The box is very sturdy, and has a unique look to it compared to other recent Universal Monsters product.  The red looks good, and they've done an excellent job of placing both the figure and the accessories in actual poses.  Notice how the rat is on top of the arch, and Dracula is holding his candle outstretched.

Of course, it also says 'authentic Bela Lugosi likeness' on the front, which is definitely debatable.

Sculpting - **1/2
So let's discuss that likeness.  Perhaps this is Bela in his later years, because it's certainly not the one that did the original film.  Here he has a huge Leno jaw, complete with large butt, I mean cleft.  The exposed fang look isn't completely inaccurate, but is not the hypnotic expression I would have preferred.  On top of that, the head is oversized for the body.  While it looks passable with the extra bulk of the cape in place, remove the cape and he looks like a balloon head.

The body sculpt is slightly better, although it's soft.  The details around the vest, amulet and buttons is weak, but the hand sculpts look good, and he can hold the candle nicely in his left hand.

The sculpt on the general accessories is okay, but again, nothing to write home about.  Rather than use a 'dragon' style candle holder, this one is as basic as you can possibly get.  The bat and rat are also fairly generic, but the coffin and stone arch piece are nicely detailed.

One more disappointment in the sculpting is the choice of scale.  Had these figures been slightly larger, it's possible that the spiffy diorama could have been used with other versions of Dracula.  Unfortunately, this scale means the accessories are too small.

Paint - *1/2
The fastest way to kill even the best head sculpt is with a lousy paint application.  Here it's no so much about quality as it is about color.

But first the suit.  Here the work is acceptable, but not extraordinary.  The amulet and red cloth are a tad sloppy, with some bleed and inaccuracies between the red, gold and white of the shirt.  There's not a ton of detail, but what is here is adequately painted.

One paint op that really bugged me though was on the candle.  The flame is wax colored - where's the yellow or orange?  Fortunately the rat has little beady red eyes.  That doesn't completely make up for it, but it helps.

Ah, but what about the face and hands?  The Prince of Darkness has always had somewhat of a pasty complexion.  No sun for centuries does that to a guy.  But when did he turn yellow?  He looks more like George Hamilton in Love at First Bite than Bela Lugosi.

There are some quality issues here as well - the hair line is a little sloppy, and the eyes could have been improved - but these issues aren't the big problem.  The color is just to eye poppingly bad to notice much else.

Articulation - ***
Bela has neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and one bicep cut joint on the left arm.  It's better than I had expected, and it certainly works fine for this character.

The added cut joint on his bicep allows you to put him in the classic pose with his cape over that arm, held up to his face.  It comes up a little short, since the articulation doesn't allow the arm to be positioned perfectly, but you can get it in the general position.

The figure stands just fine on his own, and you won't have any trouble keeping him up on the shelf.

Accessories - ***1/2
There are six in total - the diorama with coffin and removable lid, a bag of stones to dump into the coffin (perhaps from Transylvania!), candlestick with candle, a rat, his cape, and a bat.

The rat and bat work fine, and there's an elastic string on the bat to allow him to hang from the arch.  The rat stands up nicely on his own, and can sit just about anywhere you're little heart desires.

The base is terrific.  The detail work on the coffin and archway is excellent, and the paint ops give a realism to it's appearance.  Throw in the bag of rocks, and Drac has himself a comfy little bed.  The lid fits on perfectly and comes off easily, and he fits inside (without the cape) just right.  It's also fairly source accurate, but not perfect in every detail.  Still, it looks great with or without him, and you might find some use for it with other undead figures.

The cape is made from a decent quality material, but not anything unusual for this price point.  It's hemmed, with an elastic band for the neck.  I have one major issue with it though, but for some this will be minor.  The interior of the cape is red, the wrong color.  This is a common mistake, but the correct color is gray.

The candlestick is the only disappointment in this category.  As I already mentioned, the sculpt is very basic and not source accurate, and the flame isn't painted properly.  It does fit well in his left hand though.

Value - *1/2
If the sculpt had been better and the paint ops dead on (pun intended), I wouldn't have complained very loudly about the $15 price point.  The diorama is cool, and this could have been such a great figure on the shelf.

But with those weaknesses, this figure really is only worth $10 tops.

Overall - **
The diorama base is the only saving grace here.  It looks great, and I really do think that adding in the bag of rocks (cheap as it might have cost) was a pretty creative idea.  Still, that can't overcome the fact that the figure itself looks like something from the mid 80's.

Had Jakk's put this figure out 15 years ago, it would have been truly impressive.  But now with the kind of work being done by Sideshow, Mcfarlane, Mezco and others, it simply can't compete.  Perhaps Jakk's was stepping outside their comfort zone, since they've been relying on the Real Scan process for some many years now.

Where to Buy - 
I picked this up at Toys R Us, so that's where I'd suggest trying first.  On the other hand, if you want a better looking if a bit larger version of the Lugosi Dracula, you can pick up Sideshow's for just $30 at their site.  And if you are a big Lugosi fan, head over to Sideshow and check out there Lugosi as Frankenstein for just $20, their Lugosi as Muder Legendre for $40, or their Lugosi as the Gypsy, also for just $20!


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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