20" Lord of Darkness

The 80's saw it's share of fantasy films. Along with movies like Willow and Labryinth, and television shows like Dungeons and Dragons or Beauty and the Beast, fantasy was definitely alive and well. In this mix came the film Legend, a film that didn't do great at the time, but has grown in popularity in the two decades since.

Legend was directed by Ridley Scott, hot off his huge hits Alien and Blade Runner. It's lead was Tom Cruise, also hot coming off Risky Business and All the Right Moves. But people don't remember this film for Ridley Scott or Tom Cruise today - they remember it for the Lord of Darkness.

Every great fantasy film requires a great evil, and in Legend it was the Lord of Darkness aka Satan. Complete with cloven hooves and pointy horns, he was perhaps the most visually impressive version of the devil ever put on film. Played by the great character actor Tim Curry, he was a monster that you actually felt for, and at times even understood.

Mcfarlane Toys produced a figure based on the character about four years ago, in a 7" scale. Now SOTA Toys is treating us to a 1/4 scale monster of a monster as part of their Now Playing line. There are plans to release more 1/4 scale figures in this series, with the next one scheduled to be Pumpkinhead.

The Lord of Darkness is now hitting online retailers, and the only brick and mortar store to pick him up is Tower Records. If you don't have one of those handy, I have a number of great online suggestions at the end of the article, but be forewarned - this bad boy is huge, and shipping won't be cheap.

Packaging -  *1/2
The one area that is going to get the most discussion in relation to this figure is the packaging. I think that might very well be a first, but collectors are going to definitely be complaining this time around.

First, let me explain the sheer massitude of this figure. He stands about 22" at the tip of his horns, and weighs at least 6 or 7 pounds. Packing something that big carefully is critical, and unfortunately, the package completely fails.  My own package was in such bad shape, it wasn't worth shooting a photo.

LoD comes in a window box, similar to the window boxes we've seen with other quarter scale figures. However, the weight of this guy makes it almost impossible for simple cardboard and twisties to keep him from shifting and banging. On mine, the head had popped off, as had one foot, but there was no breakage. However, I have a very bad feeling that this won't be the case for everyone, and that reports of damage and breakage may be common.

There is a twistie around the neck area, and I'm betting the heads pop off for a lot of folks due to the placement. This isn't a huge issue, since it's a ball joint and pops back on easy enough, so don't get scared if you open your box and see a decapitated figure.

There's also a massive twistie - the longest I've ever seen - wrapping around his torso and arms. Finally, there is a twistie on each foot, which tends to put some pressure on the hooves. If one or both of the hooves aren't glued in too well, you'll find them rolling around the box with the head.

I've already heard reports of breakage, and this is a case where going with a foam insert and basic cardboard box would have been a much better move. Obviously, the cost of more secure packaging might have been an issue, but the possible trade off is bad PR for the line, which could kill it moving forward.

Even if you skate by with no damage like I did, you'll never see a mint box with this figure. It just ain't going to happen, so it's best to set your expectations early.

Sculpting - ****
Whoa, momma. I like the original Mcfarlane version, but the work here (particularly on the torso, arms and horns) surpasses it. You could argue that since it's in such a larger scale, it should be easy to produce an excellent looking sculpt, but that's not the point - it's an excellent looking sculpt, and gets four stars not because of the level of difficulty but because of the end result.

I would have liked a little more texture in the skin on the face, but that's a pretty minor nit. The work on the skin overall is top notch, and there's a nice realism to the entire figure. Clothing textures vary, as does the look of the skin, hooves and fur. There's a ton of small detail work, and the sculpted expression fits the character perfectly. Early on, there were worries that the hard plastic would look cheap, but in person that's not the case at all.

And there is plenty of hard plastic here. The torso and arms appear rotocast, but the head, legs and cape are all solid plastic. The cape itself weighs a ton, but because it lays upon the floor behind him, it also supports its own and his weight.

The body sculpt is more svelte than the earlier Mcfarlane version, and I'm not sure if his waist size is really movie accurate.  He seemed thicker to me in the film than this, but that's a fairly minor complaint.

He stands great on his own, and I had little worry about him toppling over. Still, you'll want to put him in a safe place just in case it does happen. He stands a whopping 20" at the top of his head, 22" to the highest point on the horns. Considering that his knees are slightly bent, and his torso is slightly crouched, he's actually scaled even taller than that. This puts the character at between 7 and 8 feet tall, with the bulk to prove it.

Paint - ****
He's predominately dark, with the red body, head and arms offset by the blacks, browns and golds of his clothing. All the paint work is very clean, and the highlighting and false shadowing is not over done or excessive.

One of the nifty touches is the use of actual tiny plastic 'jewels' on various areas of his cape and belt, adding that regal appearance to a monstrous king.

The work on the face, eyes, and teeth is very clean, with each color well cut against the others. One of my favorite paint applications is on the cape, where a mix of brown and gold is used to highlight it.

Articulation - **
This is not a super articulated figure, and some of the articulation that is here is impeded by the massive cape.

He has a good ball jointed neck, with a nice range of movement. This one is a critical joint, since tilting his head and moving backward and forward are so important to adding personality to the pose. Mine was a little loose, since the head had popped off and popped back on again, but a little pipe tape around the ball fixed that right up.

He also has ball jointed shoulders, but these are impacted in a major way by the cape. It's attached over each shoulder and at the wrists, so lifting the arms above the waist is pretty much out.

The wrists are cut joints, and help with posing the cool sculpted left hand, and accessories holdin' right hand. It also appears as though the waist is articulated, but SOTA says this is NOT the case. There is a cut joint there, but it is not designed to be twisted, and breakage could occur. I did turn mine slightly to get his center of gravity right over the legs, but I wouldn't go cranking on that waist if I were you.

Talking Feature - ***
The talking feature was a little tough to get working, but once I figured it out, it worked great.

The reason it's tough is because the battery compartment and switch are covered up by the huge cape. When I found the switch, just turning it on wasn't sufficient. He doesn't come with batteries, so you'll need to crack out the screwdriver, adjust the cape carefully, open the battery compartment on his back, and insert three AAA batteries. Once he's back together, switch him on and the motion detector in his belly button will do the rest.

The switch is tough to reach when the figure is standing, because it's quite high on the back and covered by the cape a little too well. I also noticed something odd when I moved him around as he talked - it seemed like I could get the lines to skip. I'll be playing with him some more to see if this is really an issue, or just my mind beginning to slip.

His lines include:
"Every wolf suffers fleas. 'Tis easy enough to scratch!"
"I am the Lord of Darkness!"
"We are all animals, my lady"
"What have we here, a little boy?"
and of course, a demonic laugh.

These are lines taken right from the film soundtrack, so they're not all super legible or clear. There's background noise and sounds, and the small speaker in his back isn't going to compare to your 7.1 surround system. However, the lines are all loud and as clear as can be expected.

I do look forward to the day though when a company can actually convince the actor (and studio) to re-record the lines just for the toy. How cool would that be?

Accessories - ***
There are two accessories - his massive double edged sword, and the unicorn horn that played a critical role in his plan to bring permanent darkness to the land.

Both accessories fit nicely in his sculpted right hand. The pommel of the sword pops off to allow it to slide through his fist, and than reattaches easily.

The sculpts are solid, although I suspect most people will prefer the sword. It's an impressive piece of cutlery, and makes the figure even more visually impactfull than the horn.

Fun Factor - *1/2
This isn't designed as a toy, so I'm not weighting it much. However, if you can get a figure with all it's parts glued in place to begin with, it's definitely sturdy. Still, if he topples over on your kid, stitches are possible and nightmares a given.

Value - **
The retail on this figure is around $75. That's about $30 more than folks are accustomed to paying for some high end rotocast 18" figures like Hellboy. Now, you will find him easily enough for around $65 if you buy now, rather than later, and ten bucks really helps.

But $65 is still a steep price tag for most folks, even with a run of 5000 or less. Collectors are going to understand WHY he's so expensive, but will they be willing to pay it? That's the real question, and the answer will tell us whether the line continues or not.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention shipping, although that can't be blamed on SOTA. This is a very heavy figure, even with some rotocast parts. The solid cape and head alone add lots of weight. Since this will end up an online only option for most people, they'll have to factor in the cost of another $20 or more to get it to their door, which could hurt initial sales.

Things to watch out for - 
Once you have him in your hot little paws, you should be okay. Most of the issues we've heard about are caused in shipping, and the figure never felt weak or easy to break in my hands.

However, you will ABSOLUTELY want to place this someplace sturdy, and make sure his feet and cape are well aligned underneath his center of gravity. Falling off a high shelf onto a hard floor could be the end of a figure this heavy, made of hard plastic. It could also be the end of anything or anyone standing under it at the time, and you wouldn't want to explain to your wife how the cat was impaled on his horns.

As I mentioned earlier, don't go wild with the waist. It will turn, but SOTA says not to. Enough said.

Overall -  ***1/2
Each year there are a handful of truly outstanding figures that people will remember for months to come. The Lord of Darkness is definitely one of those. I've been anticipating this figure - and the upcoming figure of Pumpkinhead - ever since seeing the prototypes at shows last year. While he isn't Premium Format quality, he's also not Premium Format price, and he ups the ante for the under $100 quarter scale figure.

With future releases like SOTA's Pumpkinhead and NECA's Balrog this year, 2006 could turn out to be THE year for plastic quarter scale figures. The price and the problems with the packaging are the only things holding this guy back slightly from that perfect four star review, and I recommend picking one up now if you're on the fence about this guy. He's not going to last at the online retailers, and he's not going to get cheaper in the new future.

I will tell you this. If a girl walks into your apartment, and sees a 7" Lord of Darkness on the shelf, she's going to think "geek". If she walks in and sees this bad boy standing there, she won't think "geek". She might thing "Satan worshiping, kitten sacrificing, demon seed serial killer", but she most definitely won't think "geek".

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

Where to Buy -
The only local store you'll find these at is Tower Records (unless you get lucky and your local comic shop ordered some). Online options include:

- CornerStoreComics has him for $64, along with a ton of the other Now Playing figures and busts. I don't expect him to last long at that price!

- Amazing Toyz has already sold out of him at $64, but has others (including Pumpkinhead) on preorder.

- YouBuyNow has him listed at $70.

- Killer Toys has him listed at $75.

Related Links:
You'll want to check out:

- my review of the previously released but much smaller Mcfarlane version.

- and check out SOTA's own site for more info on upcoming releases. 

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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