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Review of Van Helsing - Universal Monsters action figure

Diamond Select Toys
Date Published:
Written By:
Overall Average Rating: 3 out of 4

Universal Monsters Van Helsing action figure

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Introduction

Diamond Select Toys has been producing a series of Universal Monsters in an 8" format, covering most of the critical creatures.  The latest wave included the monster from Son of Frankenstein, as well as the best Creature ever produced in this scale, from Creature from the Black Lagoon, of course.

The third figure in the wave is a bit of a departure.  They have done their own take on Van Helsing, the infamous monster hunter. If you ignore the Jackman movie, there haven't been very many Van Helsing figures in the past, making this a rather unique idea.

This guy is available online and in stores right now for around $22, depending on the retailer. This is the online retailer version I'm looking at tonight - there's also a Toys R Us exclusive that's a few bucks cheaper but lacks the cool diorama accessory.

Click on the image below for a Life Size version
Universal Monsters Van Helsing action figure

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Packaging - ***
While the package lacks the Universal Monsters logo, it follows the same overall design aesthetic as the rest of the series. The version I'm looking at tonight is the online retailer version, with the diorama base. That also means it comes in the larger bookshelf style package, always a winner for me.

Universal Monsters Van Helsing action figure

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Sculpting - ***
This is DST's own take on the Van Helsing character, and the design is not based on any particular past rendition. They've opted for a 'wise but yet youthful' look, with a full head of gray, thick hair, piercing eyes, and muscled body.

This figure, in this category, is a bit bipolar. There's some very nice detail work in the hair and face, and yet the pants and boots seem oddly featureless and lacking in texture.  While the ax and sword have great sculpts, the guns seem quite plain and toy-ish. For every positive, there seems to be a diminishing negative.

Most of the negatives are pretty minor though. The only one that really bugs me is the placement of the stakes in the belt on his chest. These are not adjustable or removable, and they are place so high up that the top stake blocks his face when you look at him from his left. They should have simply skipped this last stake, since the sheer number end up looking too busy and overloaded anyway.

He stands about 8" tall, and will fit in nicely scale-wise with the rest of the line. He had no trouble standing on his own, although the included diorama does have a foot peg for him if you'd like to use it.  The hands are sculpted to work with the accessories, and while the plastic is quite hard, you will be able to manipulate the weapons into either grip.

Universal Monsters Van Helsing action figure

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Paint - ***
Overall, the paint application is solid. There's not a ton of detail work - which is why it can't rate up there with the best of the best - but what is here is generally clean and goof free.

The best work is on the head and diorama.  Both have greater detailing, allowing the quality to show through.  While the body and accessories are reasonable, there's nothing there to really set them apart or make them stand out in this category.

Universal Monsters Van Helsing action figure

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Articulation - ***1/2
He is fairly well articulated, although some of the joints can be difficult to work with.

The ball jointed neck is one of those. There's not a lot of tilt and lean going on, so it pretty much works like a cut joint. I wish there was a bit more movement in this critical joint, particularly with the issue I mentioned with the stakes on his chest.

He also has pin/post shoulders with cut biceps, pin/post elbows, and cut wrists. While you can't get the arms to lay all the way down at his sides or cross completely in front of his body, you can get some two handed weapon stances, and position the arms in some fairly relaxed ways as well.

There's a waist joint too, as well as hinge hips, cut thighs, pin knees, a cut at the top of the boots, and pin ankles.  The ankles even have a little rocker movement. Overall, this articulation allows for deeper stances, and he can stay standing in just about in pose since it's possible to adjust to find the perfect center of gravity.

Universal Monsters Van Helsing action figure

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Accessories - ****
Here's where he really shines - this guy needs weapons to kill monsters, and he's got them.

He comes with two guns - a blunderbuss style rifle, and a flintlock pistol. The rifle fits in the center sheath on his back, while there's a perfect holster for the pistol on the front of his belt. As I mentioned earlier, the sculpts are a bit 80's Joe knock off in detailing and paint, but it's a minor quibble overall.

He also has two bladed weapons. One is a large, nasty looking sword, the other an executioner style ax.  Both of these have their own sheath slots on his back, and both have much better sculpts and paint work than the guns.

The stakes are not removable, making them invalid in this category. 

The online retailer version also has a diorama base. This base is made up of four pieces: a hunk of cemetery ground, two headstones, and the upper body of a woman. The tombstones and body attach to the base, so that the young woman is clawing up from the grave in front of the larger tombstone, labeled 'Harker'.

This is interesting, since it implies the woman is a Harker.  There are two women of note in the original book - Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray. Mina marries Jonathan Harker, ad does get attacked by Dracula, so your first inclination would be to assume this is Mina. But Mina lives - it's her best friend Lucy who is killed in the story and becomes a vampire.

In the Universal film, Lucy's last name was different, but the story played out the same way. However, there have been other movie and book versions where Lucy and Mina were mashed up, creating a single character who was both Harker's fiance/wife, and died due to feedings by Dracula. I'm going to assume that's the case here, and this dark haired beauty is supposed to be a Mina/Lucy hybrid.

The sculpting on the base is excellent with terrific detail work, texturing and realism. It's a bit small, but that's a minor nit, and overall it's a great addition to the display.

Universal Monsters Van Helsing action figure

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Universal Monsters Van Helsing action figure

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Fun Factor - ***1/2
While the serious Universal Monster fan is probably going to poo-poo the design, kids will eat up the playability, articulation and accessories. It's great to have a Frankenstein Monster or Werewolf in an 8" scale, but who ya gonna call to take them out? Now Van Helsing can come to the rescue!

Universal Monsters Van Helsing action figure

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Value - ***
With a price point around $22, this guy comes with a nice assortment of accessories, and plenty of articulation, which are two big cost drivers. Considering that most retail action figures in a smaller scale with fewer accessories are pushing $20 (Star Wars Black, Game of Thrones, Marvel Legends, etc.), I'd say these are a solid value.

Universal Monsters Van Helsing action figure

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Things to Watch Out For -
Not a thing!

Overall - ***
I know that a lot of Universal Monster fans will be unimpressed - there is no way to make a figure that everyone will agree with, since it has no basis in any film. But I think it was a smart move for DST to bring a 'hero' into this line up, adding to the potential for conflict play.  While this is largely a line aimed at collectors, you can never ignore the appeal that these monsters have with kids.

I had expected to like this guy a lot less than I did, which is why I saved him for last to review in the set of three. I was pleasantly surprised by the cool accessories and the nifty base, which make up for any discrepancies I might feel exist between the overall look of the character and my own mental image.

Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***
Sculpting - ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - ****
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - ***
Overall - ***

Where to Buy 
Online options include these site sponsors:

- is at $22.50.

- is at $23.

- Entertainment Earth has him for $23.

- or you can search ebay for a deal.

Related Links -
I reviewed the first excellent Creature from the Black Lagoon last, as well as their Son of Frankenstein, and in the past I covered the wave of Moleman, Hunchback and Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde, and previous DST Universal Monsters including Frankenstein, his Bride, and Dracula, and the Creature, Wolfman and Mummy.

And if you want to check out some other Creature figures, there's the recent Mezco version, the Sideshow 8" version, the black and white bank, the goofy Monster Pals version,  the Sideshow PF (one of the nicest collectibles produced),  Sideshow has done a great 12" version, and one from the later film, The Creature Walks Among Us,  the most recent smaller figure was from Toy Island,  and this mini-bust might not be an official Creature, but it's mighty close.

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Universal Monsters Van Helsing action figure

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This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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