Premium Format Phantom of the Opera

The films of the 20's might have been silent, but some effect us even today. Several key monsters got their start on celluloid during the silent era, including the subject of tonight's review, The Phantom of the Opera.

There's some sort of weird karmic circle here, with this Phantom based on the original screen version, and Michael Crawford starring in the modern Broadway version, and another Michael Crawford reviewing a figure of the original version...okay, so maybe it's not so much interesting as just weird.

The original film was released in 1925, but a re-edited version was re-released in 1929. So now you know that George wasn't the first to mess with history... 

Lon Chaney - the original, not his werewolfy son - played the insane, disfigured composer who loved Christine so much, he killed all those around her to make her his forever.

The musical version from Andrew Lloyd Webber drew heavily from this version, and it's truly a classic. Sideshow Toys has already produced two 12" versions of the Phantom, one in the Mask of the Red Death outfit, and one in the classic outfit. Now we are treated to a full quarter scale version in their 'premium format' series.

Sideshow now calls their quarter scale figures the 'premium format' line, simply to differentiate what they are doing from the usual 18" figure on the market. With a polystone head, hands and body parts, with some limited poseability and a beautiful cloth costume, their premium format series is certainly unique in the industry.

The Phantom has sold well so far, with many of the retailers selling him for below SRP already selling out. You can still pick him up through Sideshow though, and I have some suggestions at the end of the review. He is a limited edition of 750 and retails for around $225.

Packaging - ***1/2
These are very large, very expensive pieces of art, and as such the first priority of the packaging is to insure they make it to you safe and sound. In that regard, this large box does very well.

The main box is black and blank, and inside there's a tight styrofoam insert that holds the figure, cape and base snugly. This is the nice solid styrofoam too, not that annoying soft stuff that falls apart in your hands and ends up all over the house.

There's an outer sleeve that goes over this box, showing the usual gorgeous Sideshow graphics and a reasonable amount of text. The packaging is collector friendly of course, and you can easily return the figure to the package for shipment or storage.

Sculpting - ****
While I've been very happy with the previous versions produced by Sideshow, this quarter scale rendition is absolutely amazing. The texture of the skin, the lifelike appearance of the eyes and teeth, the cartilege of the hands, all of it is as close to real as you can get.

These figures also have more sculpting than past Premium Format figures from Sideshow. This is because the underlying body is now predominately sculpted polystone, instead of the soft bodies of characters like Dracula or Frankenstein. These hard polystone bodies aren't sculpted for muscular appearance, but to look perfect in the clothing, and that they do.

Erik's body is lean and mean, and this allows them to tailor the clothing perfectly. It fits tightly, with no weird wrinkles or stray bulges, because the entire figure is designed to look amazing in one pose, in these clothes, in just this way. By working toward that single final vision and no other, they are able to produce such fantastic figures.

It will be tough for you to notice much about the sculpt other than the head though, at least right away. You'll be drawn back to it over and over - it's that good. One of the advantages of this scale is that it allows for detail and realism that smaller scales can't. The other side of the coin is that any mistakes are greatly magnified, and can't be hidden at this size. Thankfully, there are none here to see.

The head is a *smidge* large, although that's not particularly noticeable, especially when he's wearing the cape. It's also quite true that action figure collectors seem to have a problem properly gauging the size of real human heads, and seem to think people have pin heads. That's not the case, and this version is much closer to reality than most. 

Paint - ****
The paint ops are predominately in two places - head and hands. The flesh tone is slightly sickly, although not cartoony or outlandish. The work around the mouth is very well done, with wet teeth and lips having a glossy finish, offset against the matte finish of the face. The eyes have that gloss finish as well, giving them a realistic sheen, and the edges of everything - from hair to lips to eyes to teeth to nostrils - are clean and neat. There's no bleed, no slop, and nothing I could find to complain about. How often does that happen!

The hands match the face in tone and style, and the finger nails provide some nice detail. The shows also sport a paint job, which is done as well as the rest of the figure. Now if you could just get work like this at half the price...

Articulation - **
These are not action figures, and that's why they aren't called action figures. These are some combination of poseable figure and art, done in the perfect scale. Therefore, there's very little articulation.

With the newer bodies, there's even less than there once was. Here, you can pose the head and arms to some degree, and it feels like the arms are bendy enough to allow some movement if you aren't too forceful. But that's about it, and I certainly didn't go wild in trying to alter the pose out of the box. I don't know about you, but snapping an arm off was the last thing I was interested in!

Accessories - ***
There's really only one accessory, if you count the cape as part of his standard outfit. That's the heavy display base, sculpted complete with cobble stones and sewer grate. It looks perfect, and the metal peg in the foot of the figure slips into the hole tightly and very sturdily. Be careful however, since the peg - and hole - are square, but you could accidentally force it in off center and damage the polystone base.

Sideshow goes out of their way to produce amazing works of art. Look no further than *inside* the grate in the base to see what I mean - it's sculpted and painted to appear very wet, as if there's a couple inches of water down there! Another of those great details that add to the overall appeal of the figure.

Outfit - ****
When you have a figure that's wearing clothes that fit better, look better, and are higher quality than what you wear, you know you have issues.

The Phantom has his tuxedo, with long tails. It's styled very 19th Century, with tight fitting pants almost like stirrups, a white shirt and big tie, and jacket with those long tails. None of this stuff is removable though, so don't expect to start peeling off the layers. This outfit is on and it's staying on. Fortunately, everything is perfectly in place right out of the box.

He also has his beautiful cape, made from very high quality material, and stitched every where a real cape would be stitched. There's not going to be any fraying or loose threads here! The collar can be worn up or down, depending on whether he's going for that Rebel Without a Cause look or not, and there are even arm holes in the cape. You'll probably not use them, but they are there for accuracy.

My favorite part is the very fine chain which wraps around a button to clasp the cape around his neck. It not only looks terrific, but works perfectly.

One of the major advantages that 1/4 scale has is that the thickness of cloth actually starts working well in this scale.  Cloth doesn't look too thick or out of scale with 18" figures, a problem 12" figures still often have.

Fun Factor - *1/2
If you let your kids play with this, we need to talk. If you can afford to spend $200 on a toy for them, I have some much, much better suggestions than a polystone and cloth statue of a monster from an ancient movie that they won't recognize anyway.

Value - **1/2
If you're looking for a great deal, or can't imagine spending $200 on a 'collectible', than the Premium Format stuff is not for you. Compared to other 'high end' items, like Gentle Giant statues or Medicom sixth scale figures, these are actually a pretty average value. Hard to believe something this expensive could be considered a reasonable value, but that's the truth.

If you are looking to spend less, you should check out the sixth scale version that Sideshow released. It's not quite as good, but it's still pretty damn sweet.

Things to watch out for - 
I wouldn't go wild with the arm poses if I were you. Sideshow has moved away from the poseability of the original premium format figures to a more static pose, in an attempt to improve the fit of the clothing and the final appearance of the figure even more. But that means that the arms are only going to move so much, and it's really not worth testing the limits.

I'd also be careful placing the foot peg into the base, to be sure that the square peg is lined up properly. It would be pretty easy to damage the polystone base with the harder metal peg if it was turned at all.

Overall -  ****
This is my fourth Premium Format figure by Sideshow, having picked up the Vampyre, Frankenstein and Dracula. The only other Universal Monster they've produced so far is the London After Midnight, and while I love them, I don't love that character quite enough to drop two big ones on him. Then again, my psycho-completist bug might wrestle my common sense to the ground and beat the crap out of it, leaving me vulnerable to the sudden urge to have them all.

My scores have steadily improved for these, with their first, Nosferatu, getting three, Frankie getting three and a half, and Drac getting four. But as much as I liked the Count, this version of the Phantom surpasses even him. If you're a big fan of the old films, or of this particular character, or you just have more money than sense, you can't go wrong with this guy.

My biggest issue with the format now is where to put them? I'm going to have to get a new house...

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

Where to Buy -  
You can still find these through Sideshow for $225, but there are some other retail options as well:

- Alter Ego Comics has him in stock for $191.

- Killer Toys has him in stock for $200.

Related Links:
I've reviewed some of the Phantom figures, and some of the other Premium Format stuff:

- Here's my review of the 12" classic Phantom of the Opera from Sideshow, and the 12" Mask of the Red Death version, also from Sideshow.

- and while I didn't mention it earlier, Sideshow also did 8" versions of the classic and Mask of the Red Death versions that I reviewed in days gone by. The also released a black and white or 'silver screen' edition of the 8" classic.

- and Sideshow even did Little Big Head versions of the Mask of the Red Death that I reviewed a long time ago.

- I also reviewed the Premium Format Dracula, Frankenstein, and Vampyre (Nosferatu).

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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