Quarter Scale Frankenstein

Sideshow Toy has been very successful with their range of 12" Universal Monsters, so much so that this year at Toy Fair they've announced several new additions for 2004 - Ardeth Bey and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  At runs of only 2000 each, these are sure to sell out quickly with the classic monster fans.

They've expanded into a whole different world with their 1/4 scale figures.  That's 18" of monstery goodness.  And these are 18" figures like you've NEVER seen them before.  What makes them so different?  Three things - they are a 'mixed media' figure, the artsy fartsy way to say they are made up of a combination of different materials.  The bodies are soft material, sort of like your favorite teddy bear, but with a wire armature inside.  The feet, hands and head are sculpted from polystone.  The soft body allows for realistic looking clothing, while the polystone allows for museum quality sculpts.

The second way they are different I just touched on - the sculpts.  While Sideshow always does excellent work, these are a step above anything you've seen in their sixth scale lines.

And finally, they are different in price.  At an average of about $225 each, amassing a collection of these may just put you in the poor house.

They've just announced a ton of new figures in this scale as well.  They've already released the Vampyre (reviewed here), who was their first and cheapest at $150.  Today's review covers the second Classic Monster, Frankenstein, who marked the rise to $225.  In the Classic Monster line they've also announced a Bela Lugosi Dracula for release in the spring, and a London After Midnight for release in the summer.

If Modern Monsters are more your thing, they've announced a Freddy Krueger with real metal blades.  If Star Trek is more your thing, they have a Kirk and Spock coming out at a slightly lower price point of $200 each.  It's clear they plan to expand this format to all their lines, as they've also announced a Hellboy, Sean Connery Bond, and Van Helsing for the movie properties, and a Napolean Bonaparte for the historical line.  Whew!

Packaging - ****
He arrives at your door in a very tall box, with a slip cover over the outside.  This cover has the art and text on it, and can slip off over the top and bottom.  You have to slip it off to open it, and having this a separate piece is a great idea.  If you decide to toss the box, you could always easily retain this outside cover, and even use the art as a backdrop.

There's also a ton of very well written text discussing the monster and the film.  This is something that's been missing from some of the more recent Sideshow boxes in the sixth scale arena, and it's very welcome here.

The box itself is black and nondescript.  However, the foam holds everything very safely, and it serves its ultimate goal well - getting Frankie to you in undamaged.

Sculpting - ****
I'm a big fan of the old Universal Monsters, and I have lots and lots of Frankensteins.  But none come close to the work on this one.

The head sculpt is simply amazing in its realism.  They've captured the Karloff monster beautifully, with a terrific attention to detail and style.

The hands are sculpted with that same attention to detail, and the scars look truly horrifying.  They hands are done in his classic reaching pose, and can be used with any number of arm poses.  There's not quite as much detail in these hands as in the Nosfertu claws, but I think that's due to the nature of the source material.

The final piece of the sculpting puzzle is the boots.  Movie accurate, they give Frank a little more height than the usual 18" figure, and he actually stands about 22" tall.  This puts him about 2" taller than the Vampyre, and gives him a towering appearance over any other 18" figure.

If I had one complaint about the sculpt, it would be the hair.  A little more detail here would have been nice, making the difference between this figure and the sixth scale version even bigger.  But it's not a major issue, and certainly the texturing of the face and hands makes up for it.

Paint - ****
The sickly green skin is even, clean and consistent over both the face and the hands.  The detail work on the eyes is straight and accurate, and the various areas that are darkened - the eyes and fingernails - look perfect in contrast with the skin.

The small areas painted silver look like the metal they are supposed to be, and that realism carries over to the paint work on the base.

Articulation - **1/2
They advertise these as 'poseable', and they are due to the wire armature inside the soft body.  But I wouldn't go nuts if I were you - the last thing you want is to snap one of those wires after you just dropped two bills.

Most of the posing is in the arms, and you should be able to get just about any pose there you want.  The legs can also be posed, but with the base fitting into the fit in a very specific way, there's not much point.  The upper body can also be bent a bit forward and back, but there's where my biggest complaint comes in.  See that nifty pose on the front of the box?  With the head and neck sculpted in a straight forward pose, and the body very tough to get to hold any slight bends, there's no way you'll ever get even close to that pose.  At least I couldn't come up with a good way, and I wasn't going to push my luck.

Accessories - **1/2
Unfortunately, there's only one accessory, the base.  The base looks fantastic, is nice and heavy, and has three metal rods that fit up into the feet and legs of Frank to hold him very safely in place.

But considering how many additional cool accessories were possible, their lack is disappointing.  Certainly we could have had some chains and manacles at the very least.

Outfit - ***
Another slight disappointment for me is in the tailoring of the clothing.  While the quality is once again exceptional, it doesn't fit the soft body quite as well as it did with the Vampyre.  The pants fit well, and have some very realistic and accurate bunching up along the legs.  Likewise, the shirt if fine.  All my issues really revolve around the jacket.

The fit on the jacket is oh so close, but not quite there.  I think this is not due to the cut of the jacket or the design, but where the jacket is buttoned on the front.  This isn't a snap, but rather sewn, making it tough for you to correct the placement.  It seems a little too high on the body on my figure, causing the shoulders to raise up a bit, and the collar to stick out on one side.

Frank does have his humped, oversized back, and the proportions on the body are much better than you'd expect from soft material.

Value - **1/2
Unless you're the Trump, it's unlikely you'll be buying every quarter scale figure Sideshow produces.  I have Dracula coming, and I'm awfully tempted by Freddy, but finding a way to justify that kind of expense is extremely hard.  If it's a license you really love though, the price won't seem that far out of line with the quality of the piece.  These runs are very limited as well - usually 1000 or fewer - which drives the cost up as well.

Overall - ***1/2
I only gave Nosferatu three stars, but I think my love for this particular movie monster has caused me to be slightly more generous.  I couldn't justify giving him four stars - not at this price point, not with the issues I had with the outfit and not without any additional accessories - but this figure is truly impressive at the center of any Universal Monsters collection.

Where to Buy - 
I haven't seen too many retailers pick these up, but there's a few.  On-line options include:

- Sideshow themselves of course.  They have a page dedicated to the 18" figures.

- Alter Ego Comics doesn't have Frank listed yet, but they have a great price on other Sideshow quarter scale figures like Dracula at just $180!

- Aisle Sniper has him for $215.

- and new sponsor Southern Island has him in stock at $190.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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