Planet of the Apes sixth scale figures
From Hot Toys

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

A couple weeks ago, I took a look at one of the new monkeys from Hot Toys, and I'll be covering the other two sometime in the next week or so. Til then, guest reviewer Jeff Parker steps up with a look at all three together - take it away, Jeff!

Thank you as always to the Lawgiver… Mr Crawford, he recently did a review on the new Dr Zaius PF statue from Sideshow and he seemed to come across as a pretty mixed bag in terms of quality. He then followed up with his low-down on the new Hot Toys Gorilla soldier, but being a man of a certain age I couldn’t let these figures pass me by (I often kicked myself for not getting any of the Sideshow Gorillas), so now it’s my turn to look over some figures from this groundbreaking series of movies.

The first, and original movie, Planet of the Apes (POTA) is without a doubt a bona fide classic of modern science fiction, and it’s testament to its enduring quality that it can be viewed almost as freshly today as it could back in 1968 when it was first made.

I was lucky enough to grow up, and be at a very impressionable age during a golden age of science fiction cinema (2001 A Space Odyssey also came out in 68) and over the next fifteen years some of the most influential sci-fi movies ever were to be released!

I wasn’t even one year old when POTA came out, but it was still spoken about in hushed tones by the time I was at primary school, you have to remember this was a time long before we had a VCR in every home (let alone DVD’s), and in the UK we still only had 3 TV channels, which still spent a lot of their time broadcasting dead air and test cards. So many of the classic movies were hardly ever broadcast, and existed nowhere but in the conversations of enthusiasts (unless you were lucky enough to have a local flea pit that showed re-runs).
I distinctly remember standing in awe while my friend Darren’s older brother Michael described to us in great detail what POTA was all about. In my imagination I had images and ideas, but when I finally got to see it on TV (circa 1974) I was still totally blown away.

The image of this Darwinian, dystopian future (well, for humans at least) had me enthralled, and when the TV series was shown shortly after, it became my favourite thing on television (well, along with Kung Fu, Star Trek, The Tomorrow People, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, U.F.O, Space 1999, Land of The Giants, Survivors and Doctor Who…  OK, OK, I watched too much TV… is that a crime?)

So, where am I going with this? Well basically I’m just letting you know I’ve been a long time fan! Not the hardcore type of fan who can tell you who the cinematographer was on the second unit pick ups, but more the type who bought the comics, wore the T-shirt, ate the ice pops, had the Mego figures (sadly only Galen is still in my ownership) and of course has the movie cinqology on DVD (though if truth be known I only really like the first two… Conquest is OK, lots of problems, but you can’t get too wrapped up in the chronology with these movies or you’ll just get frustrated).

However, the first movie was important for so many reasons, most notably that it took Darwin’s theory of evolution as read (at a time when some zealots still found it contentious… some still do!), interestingly the book La Planète des Singes (Monkey Planet) that the movie was based on, was by the French author Pierre Boulle who is also famous for writing Le Pont de la rivière Kwaï (The Bridge Over the River Kwai) loosley based on his experiences during the second world war.

The book took a much more ‘factual’ approach to the ape evolution, well I say factual, it’s obviuosly a work of pure fiction, but in his book the travelers DO actually go to another planet, but the apes on his planet do not talk perfect English (I know, I know the movie needed a quick fix to get the story across at a pace), but it’s a biological fact that apes (as we know them) had an evolutionary trade off that denies them speech. They have a flap of skin, like a trap door in their epiglotis, that prevents them from choking on food, us humans obviously don’t have this meaning we have developed many forms of speech… but sadly we still have a need for the Heimlich Manoeuvre!

This means that if apes ever did develop a pattern of speech, it would be something alien to our ears. Hence why in the original novel, the hero (who is a reporter not an astronaut) has to learn their language in order to communicate with them.

Boulle was oriinally approached to help develop the screenplay but he declined, Rod Serling was then brought on board basing his screenplay closely to Boulles original novel, however, it was soon decided that the conteporary/futuristic society that the apes frequented in these versions would prove too costly to bring to the screen. So finally, writing duties fell to Michael Wilson, who adapted the story of the ape society into the one we know today.

Another ground breaking aspect of the movie was the extraordinary concept design of the ape city. This showcased science fiction cinema at it’s very best, where virtually every aspect of the way these apes would live, work, learn and play was documented, giving us an insight into how simple everyday items might differ in a society that has evolved off kilter to our own. But perhaps the most outstanding achievement was the ape makeup and facial prosthetics, it was so remarkable that John Chambers (the man who gave us Spock’s ears) was awarded a special Academy Award for his ground breaking work on it’s realisation.

But I’ve prattled on for too long in my pre-amble, lets get onto the reason we are all here… TOYS!
I bought both Cornelius and Zira when Sideshow released their first 1/6th series, so the addition of the new HT Gorillas seemed like a great idea when I saw them. I did originally think that I could live without the exclusive (based on the TV series) but I soon realised he was just too cool to pass up, what with his banner, extra exclusive hand-gun and distinctive uniform, not to mention the fact it was actually the TV series that gave me a weekly fix of simian goodness back in the day! There were actually only 14 episodes but it was repeated ad nauseam on TV throughout my childhood)
So here for you now is my low-down on all three of the Gorillas, can they pass the acid test of looking good on a shelf full of state of the art Terminator and Batman figures… hell yeah!

Packaging - ***1/2
Hot Toys have been hitting us with some very cool boxes of late, and these certainly look good as well. The aged finish and colour scheme actually mimic something you might have found on a shelf in Ape City itself. 

All three manage to look like hand tinted B/W photographs, with the two figures from the movies being more sepia in tone while the exclusive ‘Gorilla Captain’ from the TV show has more of a blue hue. There are photos of the figures covering the boxes with a few choice pics from the film scattered about as well. The outer sleeve is a matt finish with embossed lettering while the inside box is a silk finished 5-panel box. The inside flap has a very brief bio with the window opposite showing the fully constructed figure held in place by twisties in the usual vac formed black tray. So, three very attractive boxes that embody the spirit of the movies pretty well.

I’m hoping the background shots of Cornelius and Zira featured on the boxes might hint that we’ll get them further down the line as well… because as much as I love my old Sideshow ones… and I do love them dearly, I’d love to see them done with this new ‘real hair’ technique that HT have developed for the Gorillas!

Sculpting - ****
One of the most enduring images from POTA for me was in the opening titles from the TV show, it was the Gorilla on horseback holding his rifle aloft against a setting sun, and those Gorillas were actually pretty intimidating! So although my favourite characters were always Cornelius and Zira, it was Ursus/Urko and the Gorillas that were the stuff of nightmares!

The 2 sculpts used here really manage to capture something of the characters they embodied on screen. Ursus was basically a very malevolent, human hating nasty piece of work, he was the one that whipped the Gorillas (who mostly come across as dumb brutes) into organising themselves for the hunting down and complete genocide of humans. 

So, to get this across Ursus has a half sneer and heavy browed determined frown, whereas the soldiers (who share the same sculpt as each other) have a more angry but quizzical look, bearing a slightly goofy under bite. If you peruse the links to this site you’ll find some good ref of the actual hero masks and secondary background masks that show just how well observed these sculpts are. To be fair, to the untrained eye both the soldier and Ursus sculpts are quite similar, however on close inspection, apart from the more obvious mouth positions, Ursus has deeper sculpted lines around the eyes and nose. The cheeks and lower mouth also look slightly leaner making him look more mature, and certainly more authorative. The faces are surrounded by real hair which buts up around the face really well. To your more hardcore POTA fans this hair may seem a little long, especially around the chin and shoulders, calling for a little tonsorial attention and trimming, but for me it looks just fine as it is. 

The hair sweeps back well and with some gentle futzing they look very convincing, certainly more convincing than on the Sideshow ones. You can see some good comp shots (thanks Jessica) at the bottom of this link over on SSF. It shows that they had a good general composition for the faces, but they lacked the deeper detailing, especially between the face proper and the hair, where the transition was just too soft.
They also come with a selection of hands, not hugely numerous but certainly pertinent for these figures. 

Now, Ape weapons (which I’ll cover more in accessories) mostly follow a pretty ergonomic design, carved and worked from timber with the working metal parts mostly hidden by these wooden casings. It means the distance between grips and triggers are pretty unique to fit the apes’ physiology, so the figures needed hands to fit these unusual qualities. Ursus has a different glove design with a raised square pattern on the reverse, he has two relaxed hands and two gun grips, one is specific for his ape machine gun while the other is more for the ape rifle (which he doesn’t come with) the machine-gun hand will hold his pistol, but sadly only loosely, a small spot of Blue-Tac soon rectifies the situation, but as he comes with two gun grip hands it’s a shame one couldn’t have been more specific for the pistol. 

The soldiers both come with the same selection, two relaxed, a right hand rifle grip, a right hand machine-gun grip and a left hand man-catcher/club/key/flag grip. As with Ursus the limited edition captain has a pistol, it’s a different design, but is still too small to fit the hands. However to be fair both the soldiers look better when holding the bigger weapons and I have my captain holding the man-catcher anyway. The problem is more evident with Ursus as his pistol is such a cool and unique design I’m tempted to display him holding it, so I might have to give one of his hands a heat treatment and re-form it to hold the pistol a little tighter, although I did notice the relaxed hand holds it reasonably well.
So, to sum up, some hands fit some items better than others and with a bit of futzing everything can be held reasonably convincingly!

Paint - ****
The paint apps are pretty minimal, but all the faces have some subtle washes to bring the sculpted lines out with more definition, the interior of the nostrils is darker, the teeth are expertly picked out and the eyes are all painted beautifully without exception, lovely crisp division lines and nice and glossy. Apart from that all the other paint apps are on the accessories and outfits. All the wooden guns and the club have some nice delicate work to bring out the grain and the captain’s leather tunic has the silver M painted on the front. Ursus armour has all the small metal ingots picked out in a steel colour and his helmet has the edging and the graphic glyph on the front picked out in a dark gun-metal colour. So, all in all I can’t find anything at all to fault here, minimal but perfect!

Articulation  - Ursus *** Soldiers ***1/2
Not much to say here other than it’s on the True Type  body and as they are all wearing mostly fabric outfits, so the articulation is good. The boots are rigid so the ankles don’t move much movement, and Ursus armour is solid so he has minimal articulation in his torso. His helmet is also made of a stiff material; it has some movement in it, but still hampers some of the head and neck poseability.
Apart from that they all pose and stand well, even when in that ape like half stoop. I found it a lot easier to inject more character when posing the soldiers, but that’s mostly down to the ability to pose their necks, which really do have an excellent range.

Outfit - Soldiers **** Ursus ***1/2
These are some great looking outfits, with many unique items but also sharing many common ones. The things they share are the base parts of the uniforms like boots, which have the ‘simian’ split toe design and buckles up the side, next are the base trousers and shirt, these are made of a plum coloured cotton fabric and are mostly covered by the tunics. The two soldiers wear identical pleather tunics with plain backs, but the fronts have raised horizontal seams and a Velcro fastening. The captain has the M motif painted on the front; his outfit also differs by having a traditional waist belt that has two pouches with small opening purses and a pleather holster for his pistol. The regular soldier, which I have to say is my favourite of the band, has a bandoleer baring ape glyphs and also has two opening purse-pouches attached; the end of this has a clip to attach his club and key. Both soldiers also have ribbed pleather gauntlets that but up to the wrists of their gloves.

Ursus has a much more rigid armour as his is all sculpted and cast in vinyl, he comes with gauntlets, a tabard with a holster attached and shoulder protectors laced to the sides with elastic and lastly a separate yoke that fits over the top.

I found a fantastic site that shows all the Ape guns and how the gorilla costumes were modified for General Urko’s police force in the TV show here, so by doing a little trawling you’ll find lots of great reference shots.

Accessories - Ursus *** Gorillas ****
Ursus isn’t quite as well equipped as his underlings; he comes with his helmet, machine-gun, pistol, two extra hands and figure stand. The two Gorillas have differing kits, the regular has a classic ape rifle, a key, a club, a man-catcher, three extra hands, a back-pack and a stand whilst the captain has a pistol, a machine-gun, a man-catcher, a banner/flag, three extra hands, a back-pack and a figure stand.

So that’s the actual round-up of items, but what’s the quality like?  Well all the weapons are supremely well observed, all the magazines can be removed, they have cocking mechanisms and even the hammers on the pistols can be drawn back. Both the man-catchers have working snare loops; the backpacks can be opened by means of a concealed press-stud (it’s stuffed with a block of foam but could be filled with whatever goodies you wish). The captains flag/banner can be unfurled and is crisply printed onto a cotton background, the only thing missing is a large net and a horse to throw it from. 

So, to borrow a quote from The Simpson’s POTA musical (well, Michael did!) they have the accessories covered from Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z (no, you’ll never make a monkey out of me!)… I thank you!

Fun Factor -  ***1/2
Like with any given figure, the fun derived from it depends totally on how much you are into the subject matter! These actually managed to re-awaken my inner ape, so I’ve just watched POTA and Beneath the POTA back to back to remind me just how ‘excellent’ the original is and how ‘OK’ the sequel was… I then watched Escape from the POTA… what can I say, it has it’s moments, and is a fair movie, but I decided to stop there for now so my memories wouldn’t be too sullied (however I do now have a hankering to get the TV series on DVD).
So, great display figures and I think any ape-fan will be delighted with the way they turned out.

Value - ****
For some reason these came in a lot cheaper than most HT figures of late, it’s certainly not reflected in the quality of work here as everything is up to their usual lofty standards. I’m thinking it must have been a lower licence fee to pay, and as I can’t see the Sideshow logo anywhere on the box, even though they are carrying these, I guess it must be an independent production.
The lower price managed to attract plenty of collectors, as all three have long sold out on the SS website with an asking price of $124.99 each, and basing my score on this price, how could it be anything other than a full score, and if you check out some of Michael’s sponsors  (be sure to link from the home page) you’ll find them significantly cheaper!

Overall - Ursus ***1/2, Gorilla soldiers ****
At this price-point I can find hardly anything to fault the soldiers with at all, and the only thing keeping Ursus back is his slightly limited articulation because of his outfit, which to be fair isn’t actually that bad. However having seen the boots with Silken Floss and Goemon Ishikawa, it would have been nice to get more ankle articulation all round.

Ultimately these are all about nostalgia, so if you are of an age where they bring back memories of a halcyon childhood, or even an average/slightly melancholic childhood spent in front of a flickering TV screen then they will scream ‘buy me’!

However to a younger audience, particularly one that isn’t that well versed in the classics, how can they compete with merchandise from Michael Bays noisy, tedious two and a half hour advertisement for robot cars… well they can compete by being a darn site better, which they are.

So if you fancy an iconic figure for your shelf from the days when Sci-Fi was thought provoking and smart, as well as exciting… look no further!

Scoring Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - ****
Paint - ****
Articulation - Ursus *** Soldiers ***1/2
Accessories - Ursus *** Gorillas ****
Outfit - Soldiers **** Ursus ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - ****
Overall - Ursus ***1/2, Gorilla soldiers ****

Where to Buy -
As I said above Sideshow have sold out at $124.99, but the waitlist can often come through for people so it’s worth a try. However some of Michael's sponsors below have them even cheaper as well, go get ‘em monkey boy!

Alter Ego Comics All three- $112.49 pre-order 

Or you might even find a bargain on eBay.

Figures from the collection of Jeff Parker

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