Planet of the Apes

Today is the first Guest Review here at Michael's Review of the Week.  Matt Totsky, long time friend and fellow collector of all figures action, has graciously volunteered to put together a wonderful, detailed review of the Planet of the Apes figures from Medicom.  If you'd like to do a Guest Review like this, please drop me a line.  And now on to the Apes!

With the new Tim Burton film on the horizon (July 27), the time is ripe for a Planet of the Apes revival and an onslaught of new merchandise, especially in the action figure department. Sure, there have been a lot of Apes toys over the years, but none ever hit a home run and captured the true spirit of everyone's favorite simians. The Megos were charming in their own way, but not very accurate (since when did General Ursus start wearing purple and mustard colored armor?) The twelve inch line by Hasbro from a few years back was OK, but like most Hasbro 1/6-scale figures they could have been so much better. And the less said about Hasbro's horribly misfigured seven inch line with the crummy paint jobs, the better - they should have left them in the Forbidden Zone! I am almost dreading to see what Hasbro puts out this year, since they have the license for the new movie.

The prayers of Apes fanatics everywhere were answered in 2000 when Japanese toy manufacturer Medicom put out a line of amazing six-inch figures. The line consisted of 19 main figures, with a few variants thrown in that covered not only the classic first film, but all four sequels and the ill-fated television series as well. With a line this diverse, not only were old favorites like Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius and Taylor made, but other characters like Caesar, Nova, Dr. Milo, Lucius, and even the Lawgiver were finally immortalized in plastic! Now that's evolution!

Here's the lineup of figures: From "Planet of the Apes" are Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius, Soldier Ape A, Astronaut Taylor, Savage Taylor, Nova, Lucius, and the Lawgiver Statue (referred to on the package as "Greatest Ape"). From "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" you get General Ursus, and Soldier Ape B (which has a longer beard and a machine gun). From "Escape From the Planet of the Apes" are Cornelius, Zira and Dr. Milo all in astronaut uniforms. From "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" are Prisoner Caesar, and a militant chimp and a gorilla that are both called Caesar Land's Ape (yes, that's the way it's printed on the package). From "Battle for the Planet of the Apes" comes Caesar and General Aldo. And from the TV Series are General Urko and Soldier Ape C (with the white "M" on his armor). The following figures are considered rare (I think because they were shortpacked): Soldier Ape B, chimp Land Ape, Caesar from "Battle" and a Cornelius repaint that has a brown suit instead of green.

Packaging - ***
These figures are packaged on blister cards that measure 4 5/8" by 13 1/4", which makes for a nice slim presentation, but you have to destroy the packaging if you want to get to the figure. There were six waves of figures and each wave has a different part of a scene that combines pictures from "Beneath" and "Battle." When one card from each wave is put side by side, it forms an interesting sepia-toned mural. The backs of the cards show pictures of the figures from each wave and list the credits from the folks at Medicom.  On the side of the plastic bubble is a sticker with some Japanese text, while the front has a sticker that says the name of each character. All of the figures and accessories can be viewed nicely while in the package, but the Astronaut Zira comes packaged with her helmet on so you can't see her terrific head sculpt unless you open the package (which I encourage all to do).

(Scale is a slight problem with Taylor - he's a tad tall)

(the rare Soldier Ape 'B')

(an example of part of the mural formed by the backer cards)

Accessories - ***
Not all of the figures here have accessories, but those that do have ones that are appropriate. Each gorilla comes with a different rifle. The soldier apes all have billy clubs. Ursus has a pistol. Aldo has a rifle and a knife.  All of the apes from "Conquest" have a different rifle, and the gorilla has a silver shield as well. Astronaut Taylor has a backpack. The Ape-o-nauts all have removable helmets. The Lawgiver statue (I just can't call him the "Greatest Ape") comes complete with a stone table with the sacred scrolls and another set of scrolls to place in front of him (he should have a base though). I am not a big fan of having accessories just for the sake of having them, but I think they could have given Dr. Zaius a cane, maybe a map for Cornelius. Not that big of a deal for me though.

Sculpting - ****
This is where these figures shine. The sculpts are simply amazing! For instance, Cornelius doesn't just look like Cornelius, he looks like Roddy McDowell as Cornelius. And the Caesar head sculpts are all different to capture the different looks and moods of the films. Astronaut Zira has flatter hair than the regular version (because she had the space helmet on!) and she looks just like Kim Hunter in the makeup. Ursus has amazing detail with all of the armor plating on his uniform. The gorillas all have expressions of menace. All of the different ape uniforms have the different glyphs (except for Battle Caesar, because he didn't have them in that movie).  The weapons look just like they did in the films. The sculpting here is right on target with the best work by Sideshow and McFarlane. The only one that really bugs me is the savage Taylor (and to a lesser extent the astronaut Taylor). They don't look exactly like Charlton Heston and are both much too tall. They tower over the apes. Yes, I know the apes are supposed to have bad posture, but Taylor is a full head taller than Ursus and Urko with their helmets on! That just isn't right.

Articulation - *
Unfortunately, this is where these figures lack. At the most a figure has three points of articulation (shoulders, neck). Some have no articulation and are basically statues (savage Taylor, Nova, both Ziras, the Lawgiver... wait he is a statue!) If these were fully articulated they could be posed in all kind of neat ways to recreate the classic scenes from the films. The gorillas could be aiming their rifles, Taylor could kneel and scream "Damn you all to Hell!"  They all have basic straight on poses that display each figure nicely, but limit the play value.

Paint - ***
These figures are all nicely painted with simple, flat tones. Some of the colors seem a bit off to me. The faces on Urko and the Soldier Ape C are too light, (they should be browner). The Lawgiver is an olive green color and should look more like marble in my opinion. The eyes on both Taylors are painted a bit cross-eyed as well. But for the most part, the paint-jobs are top notch and not too overly detailed.

Value - ** to ***1/2 depending on your level of Ape fanaticism
The value of these figures is truly a classic case of the theories of supply and demand working in full force. Simply put, there have never been Apes figures this nice and the franchise has been around since 1968! And since these are imports from Japan, the only way to get them is from dealers who specialize in this kind of stuff or from eBay. The figures average in the range of $30 to $35 apiece. The Soldier Ape B goes anywhere from $80 to $120.  The chimp Land Ape and Battle Caesar go from $50 to $75. The Cornelius repaint has gone from upwards of $75 (beware of some eBay dealers who post photos of the brown Cornelius, but ship the green one). This is a steep price to pay for simple (yet nicely sculpted) plastic figures. If these were domestic figures, I would expect them to cost no more than $10, but sadly Hasbro dropped the ball a few years ago, and hard-core Ape fanatics are left with no other option but to pay through the nose if they want these figures.

Overall - ***
The simple fact is, these figures are the only way to get your stinking paws on some damn dirty Apes of this quality. If you are just a casual fan of these films, then I hardly think that it is worth it to pick up any of these.  But if you're a hard-core Apes fanatic (like me) then these are a must have.  Yes, you may do a little soul searching once you decide to take the plunge, but if you think of these more like a luxury (and start putting a little money away for them each week starting right now) and just be thankful that they were made in the first place, then it may be easier to take. Sadly, the line is ending and Medicom is supposedly going to produce figures based on the new film. Personally, I wouldn't mind more of the classic characters, like Julius the gorilla jailer, other orangutans like Dr. Maximus or Virgil, the mutants from "Beneath," Caesar's wife Lisa (maybe it's a good thing for my wallet that the line is ending).

Here are a list of dealers that I have had success dealing with in my pursuit of these figures: (I got the Soldier Ape B for a mere $40.95 shipped)
Felix at Fantasia Toyz ( - fast shipping and nice to deal with)
Wil at Under One Roof ( - also a fast shipper and nice to deal with)

Here's a cool site that has some cool Medicom Apes displays (some are from the Aurora Apes models):

Special thanks to Brian at (this site is a must see!) for the use of the Solider Ape B photo and to Michael for letting me to do the review. It was fun and I hope it helps someone who was thinking about whether or not to get these amazing figures.

   From the collection of Matt Totsky

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