Toy Island Universal Monsters
Mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman and 
Creature from the Black Lagoon

Freddy and Jason, Aliens and Pumpkinheads...these are amusing enough desserts on the buffet of monsters.  But some of us grew up on the meat and potatoes of the creature features: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and others from the vaults of Universal Studios.

Over the years we've gotten some fantastic toys and action figures based on these classic monsters.  In the 60's we had terrific models and plastic statues, and companies like Sideshow have brought us modern goodies in both the sixth scale and 8" action figure markets.

About a month ago, a new set of action figures popped up on line that no one had heard anything about.  This set is from Toy Island, and includes all the heavy hitters. There's Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and even my personal favorite, The Creature From The Black Lagoon.  These have just started to ship, and if you search around online you can find them for $10 - $12 each, depending on how many you buy or the retailer.

In a similar vein to the Marvel Legends (and some other lines before and after them), the set employs the concept of a 'build a figure' or BAF.  Each figure comes with one part of a much larger (14") version of Frankenstein.  And yes, there's actually a small version as well. I know, it confused me too.

Packaging - ***
The package is a clamshell, shaped like a coffin.  That's a cute touch, and the interior card art is a very nice update of the classic style.  It's also clear on the front as to which piece of the BAF you're getting, and the shells aren't really any larger than they have to be to house the BAF parts and figure.

Sculpting - Mummy ***; Dracula, Creature **1/2; Wolfman, Frankenstein **
Let's be honest - the sculpts aren't very good.  The first and foremost issue is that none of these look very much like the actual monsters.

It's clear that while these were licensed with Universal, they did NOT get the appropriate licenses with the families of Talbot, Chaney, Karloff or Lugosi.  Companies that have done these characters justice in plastic form have done that, with some wonderful results.  Don't do it, and you end up with figures that look a lot like your neighbor on Halloween.

I'm going to cut the Mummy a little slack in this category though.  Of the five, he looks the most like the original character in the head sculpt, and the skinny body (something I'll abuse the other figures for) is actually more appropriate to the character.  There's also some very nice detail work done on the bandages, and his proportions (especially head to body) are much better than the others.  Don't get me wrong, he's still a B at best in this category, but he's my favorite of the set for Sculpt.

I really, really want to like the Creature.  As I mentioned earlier, he's my favorite Universal Monster, and perhaps my favorite monster design of all time.  But I've met Ben Chapman, and there's no way Mr. Chapman could have fit into a costume with these weird proportions.  The arms and legs are much too skinny, the torso is much too straight from shoulders to hips, and while there's some decent detail work on the skin texture and head, he still ends up looking like the original Creature's sadly undernourished cousin.

Dracula was the most fun to pose and play with, and his sculpt worked the best with the articulation.  He also has great hand sculpts, giving him the opportunity to take some very classic poses.  I didn't have any issues with his proportions either, although he is a bit lanky.  Still, this isn't THE Dracula, this is some guy dressed up in his costume.

The two that disappointed me the most were Frankie and Wolfie.  Wolfie's body is alright, although again he's a tad skinny.  But I can deal with it here, and actually, had it been an ML I would have expected about the same proportions.  His head sculpt is just...weird.  There's something about the shape and height of the head that just doesn't look right, and throws off the entire figure for me.  They also tried to go with slightly bent feet for this figure, designed I supposed so that he could rest on the balls of his feet.  Unfortunately, that means he's the only one of the bunch that can't really stand up straight without the display base, and even has some trouble finding a good center of gravity pose in a hunched, running stance.

I was actually shocked by Frank.  Who is this handsome man?  I understand that he isn't Karloff, but this is the Brad Pitt of Frankensteins.  He has a couple of the standard classic scars added in, and he has a slight brow ridge, but this guy could get leading actor work in Hollywood.  The proportions of the body came back to haunt me here as well, with shoulders that are narrower than the waist, and a itty bitty head for the size of the body.

I'm also going to mention in this section that the plastic used for these figures is clearly a cheaper quality.  The pins are soft, and you should be careful working the joints free the first time.

These figures stand 7 - 7 1/4 inches tall, depending on the character, which means that while they have ML style articulation, they'll be much taller than most of your ML figures.  Frank and the Creature are the tallest at about 7 1/4, while the Mummy and Dracula are just a hair over 7", and the Wolfman is just a hair under 7".  If you were thinking about displaying them together, you'll have to decide if that extra height over 6" scaled figures makes sense (perhaps for Frank) or not (like the Wolfman).

Paint - Dracula, Frank, Creature **1/2; Wolfman **; Mummy *1/2
The Mummy scored best in sculpt, but hits the bottom in paint.  Such is the up and down world of action figure reviews.

All the figures suffer from having parts cast in major colors.  The small details are painted in after, but the big pieces - torsos, legs, etc. - are cast in the color you see.  These makes the body part look much cheaper, tends to give it too much gloss, and is generally not preferred.

The Mummy takes a huge hit here because his head appears to be cast in the single color, and it's a color that's so distinctly different than the bandages, that it looks truly bizarre.  Now, his skin was a slightly different color than the bandages in the film (okay, it was in black and white, but you know what I'm talking about), but it wasn't this sort of night and day difference.  And the color they chose...let's just say it really isn't doing it for me. The did add a wash on his body to bring out the sculpt highlights on the bandages, and that worked well.

The Wolfman also scores poorly here because of the cast colors AND the weird work they did on his face. Again, the film was black and white originally, but you get the impression of variance in the color of his hair and beard.  Here, all the hair around the head, neck and jaw is the same dark color, with this little face of lighter hair peeping out.  This isn't your father's Wolfman.

The other three have reasonably decent paint jobs for mass market, but these aren't really mass market.  Dracula has the most small detail work, with the ring, necklace and facial details setting him apart.  His skin color is decent, and there's very little slop.  Of course, the colored the inside of his cape the incorrect red once again, but that wasn't much of a surprise.  

Frank has a green skin tone, but it's a bit lighter than I expected, and the use of the cast colors on him (jacket, legs, etc) is more overpowering than the others.

In general, the paint work is very mass market in what is currently a specialty market release.

Articulation - ***
These have been billed as Marvel Legends meet Universal Monsters, largely because of the articulation.  That's not quite true, as these aren't nearly as highly articulated.

However, they do have more articulation than the average version of any of these characters in this scale.  Each has a cut neck, ball jointed shoulders (only jointed at the torso), single pin elbows and knees, cut wrists and waist, ball jointed hips (jointed at both the pelvis AND the thigh), and pin ankles.  That's enough to get a variety of poses out, but there's still a couple missing joints that would have gone a long way to helping the figures.

They really need ball jointed necks.  If you want to get a good articulation score for me, but skip the ball jointed neck, you're going to have a tough time.  Simply turning the head from side to side with no forward/backward/sideway tilting isn't going to cut it.

Next, they really should have had joints on both sides of the shoulder, or at least cut biceps.  Again, there's only so much you can do with this style of arm articulation.

But the rest of the articulation is decent, and works fairly well.  The pins are a little weak, and you'll want to take some extra care when breaking them free for the first time.

Accessories - ***
All the figures come with a display base that has a modern style poster backer card.  The bases also have the classic monster's name painted on it, and the backer card (which is fairly thick) fits nicely in a slot on the back.

As backer cards go, these are a little short.  The don't give you a full background behind any of the characters.  But if you ignore that, the graphics and designs are terrific.  I like the modernized appearance of each, and there's some terrific colors and style with every one.  I personally liked Frankenstein's and the Creature's the best, but I like the fact that they simply weren't another reprint of the standard poster.  While they might be too short for backer cards, I'm thinking that putting them in acrylic would make some mighty nice coasters for the home theater.

The only other accessory with each figure is the piece of the large 14" Frankenstein BAF.  The small Frankenstein comes with the huge torso, while the Dracula comes with the head AND an arm (the monster was broken into 6 obvious pieces, but with only five figures in the line they had to double up on somebody), the Wolfman and Mummy each come with a leg, and the Creature has the other arm.

The pieces pop together easy enough, and he's certainly huge.  He'll make your ML Icons and BAF's feel inadequate, at least size wise.  Unfortunately, he's just a big version of the smaller Frank we already discussed, and has all the same issues - he's too good looking, narrow shoulders with wide hips, and the cheap look that comes from colored plastic instead of paint.  Still, he's interesting enough that I'll be including him on my display shelf. 

Dracula has one other item that could be considered an accessory - his cape.  Yep, it simply sits on his shoulders and is easily removable. In fact, it's a little too easily removable. The paint work on it is a tad sloppy, but I do like the sculpt.  They've made it appear as though a couple layers are folded over each other in back, and it looks pretty good that way.

Fun Factor - ***
Hey, they might not be the monsters I remember, but the articulation is good enough that kids can have some fun with them.  And that big Frank really is a good toy, just not much of a collectible action figure.

Value - *1/2
Nope, these aren't ten dollar action figures.  Six bucks?  Sure.  But at seven or eight you're really pushing it, and at ten to twelve you've lost me.  The addition of the BAF is nice, if a little confusing, but it's not enough to make these actually worth the money.

Things to Watch Out For - 
I mentioned the weak pins, and that's really the only thing you'll need to worry about.

Overall - **
With poor sculpts and weak paint, it's not too likely that you'll be thrilled with any of these in person.  The only thing saving them from an even lower score in the overall is the relatively decent articulation and the inclusion of the BAF.

If you're only interested in a single figure because he's a favorite of yours, or the only reason you were buying these was to put them with your Marvel Legends, then you're definitely going to be disappointed.

These aren't as bad as the God awful stuff that Jakks did though, and there were plenty of folks that said those weren't all that bad.  I hated those, so if you disagree with me there, you will most likely disagree with me here.

While some of the photos might not appear too bad, the cheap feel of the plastic ends up hurting these once you get them in hand.  I'm disappointed with them, and it's unlikely that any other than the Creature or the Frank BAF will end up on the display shelf.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt -  Mummy ***; Dracula, Creature **1/2; Wolfman, Frankenstein **
Paint - Dracula, Frank, Creature **1/2; Wolfman **; Mummy *1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - ***
Fun Factor - ***
Value - *1/2
Overall - **

Where to Buy -
None of my sponsors are carrying these right now, but do some searching on the web and you can find them for around $12 each in a set of five, or $10 each by the case.

Related Links -
I've reviews LOTS of Universal Monsters:

- If you want to see just how bad these sculpts are, check out the mini-busts that Sideshow did for the DVD release.

- there's the aforementioned awful Dracula from Jakks.  They did awful versions of Frankenstein and the Wolfman too, as well as the modern Van Helsing Wolfman and sixth scale Van Helsing.

- I have a guest review of the nifty little figures from Yanoman.

- Sideshow produced a truly fantastic line of 8" figures that I highly recommend tracking down.  I reviewed series 5, series 4, series 3, and series 2 (in black and white)

- Sideshow also did Little Big Heads of many of the monsters.  I reviewed series 2

- and in Sideshow's weirdest move, they did Little Big Head versions of the monsters as wrestlers.

- and then of course there's Sideshow's 12" line up, which was simply fantastic.  They started with Frankenstein, and went on to the Wolfman, the Invisible Man, the Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Fritz, Murder Legendre, Larry Talbot, more Frankensteins, the Gypsy, Renfield, Bride of Frankenstein, Mask of the Red Death, the Mummy, the Creature Walks Among Us, Werewolf of London, the Moleman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Mr. Hyde, Ardeth Bey, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Metaluna Mutant.

- Sideshow also did a set of sixth scale figures based on the hilarious send up of Frank, Young Frankensten.

- They also did a few more monsters that are old school, but not actually Univesal, like the Vampyre, Van Helsing, Anna Valorious, and London After Midnight, and Majestic Studios did the Return of the Fly, and Abominable Doctor Phibes.

- Mcfarlane has done his own take on the classics, including Frankenstein, and the Wolfman and Mummy, along with another Dracula and Wolfman set.

- one year, Burger King joined up with the Simpsons for some Halloween versions of their characters as classic monsters.

- and don't forget Sideshow's line up of Premium Format figures, including Vampyre, Frankenstein, Dracula, and Phantom of the Opera.

- other companies have done mini-busts like this Mummy or this Creature.

- Product Enterprise did this great Dracula based on Christopher Lee's interpretation.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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