Friday, October 31, 2008

Cancelled Action Figure Cavalcade: Universal Monsters

This is the second installment of Canceled Action Figure Cavalcade. It's Halloween night and this is a toyline especially suited to be remembered on the last day of October.

In the same year Jakks Pacific produced toys for Van Helsing, the company also took a stab at producing toys of the significantly more iconic versions of the Universal Monsters. While these icons of classic horror had received many plastic representations in the past (and even afterwards Toy Island would make a Marvel Legends-esque line of the characters) what made Jakks line stand out was their large diorama that seemed to be influenced by the popular Aurora model kits of yore. While this aspect would make them stand out to adult collectors, Jakks line was still first and foremost children's toys.

While I admired what Jakks was doing, the line never took off. I'm not sure any retailer even carried these besides Toys R Us. They only produced a single series consisting of Dracula, The Wolf Man with interchangeable Larry Talbot parts, and Frankenstein's Monster chained to the chair from The Bride of Frankenstein. All three also received black and white repainted variants, so technically six figures were produced but they were planning much more.

The Creature from The Creature From The Black Lagoon always seems to make for great toys. Planned for the never released second series, the Creature looks like he would've been the highlight of the toyline. The "swimming" effect is a nice touch.

Compared to the other monsters, the Invisible Man doesn't get as much merchandise and when he does he's usually in the robe and pajamas he wears in the latter part of the film. Jakks was going to produce a figure of Jack Griffin in the suit he wears in the beginning. That would've been really awesome. I much prefer this look with the false nose and hair that he wears with his bandages. I also love the array of chemicals on his table.

The third figure that would have been the Mummy, but not the mummy Imhotep played by Boris Karloff in the original The Mummy film. This figure is based on Kharis, the mummy played by Lon Chaney Jr. in The Mummy's sequels. I've never seen these sequels so I couldn't explain why the figure's base is a swamp or why there's a face in the swamp. Still I do appreciate that Jakks wasn't always going for the obvious choices in character selection.

Jakks was planning still more figures beyond series two. AFAIK these figures were never sculpted and didn't make it pass the design stage. They were considering a Frankenstein's Monster as played by Bela Lugosi in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man complete with the block ice he would be frozen in. I'm continually impressed with what Jakks was trying to do both with characters and the display bases.

I've saved the oddest for last. It's the Metaluna Mutant from This Island Earth. This alien from a '50s sci-fi movie doesn't quite fit in with the stalwarts of gothic horror. He looks like what the Mars Attacks! martians were spoofing but that's what makes him awesome.

Revisiting these never released figures ha really bummed me out. If it had the opportunity this could have become quite a great toyline. Ah well, Happy Halloween!

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