Dark Shadows Barnabas Collins

When I was a kid, I loved Dark Shadows. For those of you living under a rock, this was a gothic soap opera that aired from 1966 until 1971. You can still find it on cable stations, and it has had several attempts at a revival. They even shot a pilot last year for a new version, but it wasn't picked up.

The show centered on the Collins family, a rich, old money East coast family, with more than a few skeletons in the closet, literally. While the show was centered around the entire family, it didn't really take off until the introduction of the vampire Barnabas Collins, during the second season.

Played by Jonathan Frid, Barnabas was an interesting and complex character. Now, I'm not going to try to convince you that this was great television, but it was certainly entertaining, largely due to Frid's wonderful work.

It's taken almost 40 years, but we now have action figures based on the show. Majestic Studios has just released not one but THREE figures based on the show, all in sixth scale format. There's the present day Barnabas (if 1970 were present day), the 1795 version of Barnabas, and the werewolf Quentin Collins. Tonight I'm reviewing the present day Barnabas, but I suspect I'll be picking up the other two as well.

You can find these at various online retailers, and expect to pay around $40 each.

Packaging -  ***1/2
You might mistake this box for Sideshow - yes, it's almost that good. The graphics are excellent, it's sturdy and well designed, and it even has a similar twisty tie arrangement to the Sideshow boxes of a year or so ago.

Unfortunately, he has one of those damn ties around his chest and under his shoulders. Thankfully, Sideshow cut that out. You'll have to pretty much remove his clothing - or at least open up the two jackets and shirt - to get it removed.

That twisty ties back through the cardboard insert, and there are also two wrist twisties. Finally, the legs are held in with a clear plastic band. You'll recognize the style of packaging immediately.

Sculpting - ****
I'm counting the main head and hands here, since I'll deal with the extras in the accessories section.

The main head is his vampire look. When Barnabas looked like this, it was always best to excuse yourself from the room, and make sure you had a cross handy.

Frid's character had a very craggy, aged appearance to him, and they've captured that extremely well. There's a lot of detail in the wrinkles and crevasses of this vampire face, and in close ups it might appear to even be too much, if that's possible. However, in hand, where the human eye can't discern details quite as well as the camera, they look extremely good.

They've also done a great job with his trademark hairline.  Dracula has the point, Barnabas has lots of points.  Of course it helps that this was so distinctly done on the show, making it such a trademark look.

The hands are sculpted in interesting, useful poses, and the ring is included on the right hand.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint ops are good, although not quite as perfect as I'd hoped.

The eyes are clear and straight, and there's a good consistency in the pale skin of the face and hands. It's a bit too pale though, or maybe it's the slightly yellowish quality, but it doesn't seem quite the right shade to me.

The hair is a little too consistent, without any sort of highlight or detail. The work on the hands is good, although I'd like some additional differentiation between the nails and fingers.

Articulation - ***1/2
The sixth scale body that Majestic is using has *most* of the bells and whistles of the current market, but this particular version is lacking a couple important points.

He has ball jointed shoulders and hips, cut biceps and thighs, double jointed elbows and knees, and all the other usual joints you'd expect. He has a ball jointed neck, but the range of movement is fairly limited.  He also lacks wrist joints, as the forearms and hands are all one solid piece. These then pop onto the arm just below the elbow joint. That means the hand can turn, but there is no lateral movement.

The figure stands great on his own, although a stand is included. The joints are also very tight, allowing him to take deeper stances and poses, and maintain them.

Accessories - ****
How can you complain about not one but TWO extra heads? I sincerely hope Sideshow is considering ways they can provide extra heads for key 'masked' characters, so that both the normal head and the masked head can look in proportion to the body.

Majestic manages the heads with a simple post on the body that pops into the neck of the head. The heads actually pop on and off a little too easy, if anything, and you'll have the best luck putting them on with the shirt open and out of the way.

The same level of quality and detail that's in the standard vampire head exists in both the 'old man' head and 'normal' head. These were both well known looks for Barnabas on the show, and are an excellent addition to the overall set. Of course, it makes it difficult to decide which head to use, but if you pick up both the 1795 version and the 1900's version, you can at least use a different head on each body.

Barnabas also has his trademark cane, complete with wolf's head. The sculpt is excellent, but the paint ops are a little inconsistent. Silver can be a tough color to do with a consistent coverage and thickness, and that appears to be the only issue here.

Along with extra heads, he also has extra hands. The extra pair have differently sculpted hand positions for added poses and the ability to hold the cane. These pop on and off fairly easily, and should hold up to quite a few hand changes without damage.

Finally, he also comes with a display base, similar to what other companies have produced for their figures, complete with the Dark Shadows insignia. You won't need to use the stand to keep him standing, but if you live in California, it will help keep him on the shelf.

Outfit - ***1/2
The clothing is extremely nice, will quality material and top notch stitching.

There is the shirt, coat, pants, socks, shoes, tie, and overcoat. The tailoring of the suit is particularly nice, with a great fit in both the pants and the jacket. The thickness of the material is appropriate to sixth scale, and they've included high quality snaps for both the jacket and the pants.

There's not one but two snaps on the shirt, one at the top and one at the bottom. This is very helpful, and keeps the shirt looking much neater and tighter. The sleeves are full length, and end in cuffs that also have snaps, done cufflink style.  Very cool!

The overcoat is a little thick, but hangs fairly well on the body. Again, there are snaps to hold it shut, and the stitching is quite impressive.

The tie is pretty standard, with an elastic band holding it around the neck. The knot is a nice size for this scale though, which is something that can be difficult to get just right.

Socks are always a nice extra, since they aren't really necessary. His are brown, proving that Barnabas wasn't color blind.

The only disappointment for me here is the shoes, and they hold him back from a perfect four star score. The sculpt is fairly basic and lacks much detail, while the glossy finish looks a little too toy-like.

BTW, while the suit looks dark in some of the photos, it's all brown.  I had to underexpose some of the close ups to avoid washing out the pasty face too much, which made the suit left in shadow.

Value - ***
Majestic's biggest competition in the 12" licensed figure market right now is Sideshow of course. Sideshow's prices have been inching up over the last year, with many new items now coming out in the $50 - $60 range, depending on the license. These figures are only $40 each, closer to the old Sideshow price point. They include an extremely well done costume and three heads, all beautifully sculpted. That's certainly an above average value in the current market, and if you can manage to snag these for $35 or less, you can add another half star.

Fun Factor - **
This isn't a particularly 'fun' figure. It's a nostalgia item for fans of the old show, and kids are unlikely to find it appealing. That won't effect the overall score for me, but if you were looking for a vampire figure for your kids, I'd go with a different selection.

Things to watch out for - 
Don't expect to easily swap arms (and even heads, for that matter) without removing the coat and shirt. While it's doable, you'll have a much easier time with them off.

Overall -  ***1/2
This is the second time this week that I have a review of a figure(s) that is *this* close to four stars. Majestic is really giving Sideshow a run for the money here, along with Product Enterprise, and I'm really looking forward to receiving my Doctor Phibes figure in the next few days. This Barnabas turned out so well, that I'll be picking up the other two soon.

Fans of the show have long since wanted figures based on the license, and it's great to see that Majestic has done them proud. Set Barnabas up next to Sideshow's Dracula and Nosferatu, and Product Enterprise's Christopher Lee, and you'll have one hell of a great vampire display.

Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - ****
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - ****
Fun Factor - **
Value - ***
Overall -  ***1/2

Where to Buy -
Online is your best bet:

- Time and Space Toys has the three figures for just $38 each.

- YouBuyNow has all three in stock for $40 each.

Related Links:
Majestic has produced a number of other 12" figures:

- here's a review of their Return of the Fly figure, one of my favs.

- They also released a Creeper from Jeepers Creepers awhile back.

- and let's not forget the Zuni Warrior from the film Trilogy of Terror. This figure actually ties in nicely with the Dark Shadows stuff, as Dan Curtis was creator/director on Dark Shadows, and then went on to direct Trilogy of Terror. He also created the Night Stalker, so how far off could a Kolchak figure really be?

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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