#2919: Van Helsing



It’s October, which is classically a kind of a spooky month, I guess.  I don’t frequently get too invested in all the spooky stuff the way some people do, but I can enjoy it well enough, and I’ve certainly got some knowledge of various things spooky.  When it comes to classic monsters, Universal Studios really set the pace in the ’30s and ’40s, but as they began to fade away, many of those same monsters would be reimagined by Hammer Film Productions, whose horror films became a staple of the ’60s and ’70s.  Perhaps their best known work are their Dracula films, starring the late Christopher Lee in the titular role.  Playing opposite Lee in the role of heroic vampire Dr. Van Helsing, was Peter Cushing, whose take on Van Helsing (and one of his descendants) would help to shape later portrayals of the character.


Van Helsing is part of Mego’s Horror line, and was released in the latest assortment of mixed figures.  He was originally supposed to be released at the beginning of August, but he crept into the end of September.  As with other entries in the line, he’s showing up in a mix of specialty stores and select Targets.  The figure stands 8 inches tall and he has 16 points of articulation.  He’s build on the updated Type 2 body, which is a decent enough standard starting point.  Cushing was just a pretty regular guy.  The all-new head sculpt here does a pretty great job of capturing Cushing’s likeness.  It’s not often that we see a younger Cushing in toy form, but it works out well here.  He’s got rather distinctive features, and they lend themselves to this style pretty well.  This is actually the second time Cushing’s gotten a Mego-style figure, since he was also in Classic TV Toys’ Space: 1999 line.  I think the likeness here is a little bit better.  The paint work is pretty basic, but it gets the job done, and everything is pretty much in line with where it should be.  Van Helsing is clearly meant to based on his look from the first Hammer Dracula film, and he gets an outfit based on that.  It features his jacket, shirt/tie (one piece like on the Cheers figures), pants, and a pair of rubber shores.  They’re all really goofy looking, but, of course, that’s really part of the style, and he matches well.  Van Helsing is packed with a rather small stake, which is probably going to go flying the first time he gets jostled, being lost for the rest of eternity.  Or something like that.  Given is tendency to use both a hammer and stake together in the films, just the stake is perhaps a little light.  Honestly, I would have liked to get the candlesticks for the cross he makes during the film’s climactic battle, but I guess those might be a little harder for him to hold properly.


Van Helsing was initially intended as a birthday present from my parents, but he got delayed, so I had to wait a bit for him.  Worse things have happened.  While I’m not necessarily the biggest Hammer Horror fan, I’ve always quite liked Cushing’s take on Van Helsing, and I’m glad he finally got some figure treatment.  He’s goofy and hokey, but I do really like him.

There’s a slightly more serious side to this one as well, I suppose.  In the months since losing Jess, I’ve been trying to find comfort in the stories of people who have experienced a loss similar to my own.  In reading up more on Peter Cushing, and specifically how he responded to the death of his wife in 1971, I really felt like I found a kindred spirit.  His habits and the words he said about his loss really have resonated with me, and the fact that he was able to continue his life in some way after such a devastating loss has served as an inspiration to me.  So this figure, as hokey as he may be, really serves as a symbol to me, and how I can’t just give up.  And I like that.

#0015: Dracula Minimates



Happy Halloween everybody!  The Fantastic Four reviews will continue tomorrow, but I thought I’d do something a bit more festive today.  So, I’ll be looking at the Dracula boxed set from Daimond Select Toys’s expansive Minimates line.  This is the first of many, many, many, many, many Minimates reviews, because I have quite a few of these little guys.

For those of you that don’t know Minimates:  What is wrong with you?  Get on that!  In all seriousness, Minimates are a line of two and a half inch block figures produced by Diamond Select Toys.  This set comes from their Universal Monsters line.  Marvel is their flagship license (Waves 50 & 51 were just released last month!), but they’ve also done Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Both Modern and Classic Battlestar Galactica, DC Comics,  Playstation, Street Fighter, Tekken, Marvel vs Capcom, Tomb Rader, Terminator 2, Lost in Space, the Walking Dead, the Expendables,  The Dollars Trillogy, Back to the Future, Knight Rider, Rocky, Platoon, Silence of the Lambs, Clerks, and even Ace of Cakes and Desperately Seeking Susan.  It’s a pretty big line!


The set is based on the 1931 Dracula starring Bela Lugosi.  The set was released in the second wave of Universal Monsters Minimates, along with an accompanying Frankenstein set.


First up is the movie’s title character, Count Dracula himself.  Drac is based on his look from the film.  He’s built on the standard minimate body, which means he stands about 2-2.5 inches tall and has the standard minimate articulation of 14 points.  Most of the detailing on a minimate is conveyed via painted detail, but Drac has a few sculpted pieces as well.  Drac features a sculpted hair-piece and a cape/vest/jacket slip over piece for the torso.  They’re done well, with some nice small details.  As I said above, minimates rely mostly on paint, and Drac is no exception.  His primary paint is the details depicting his face.  They’re nice and sharp, though I’m not sure how much Lugosi I see in the face.  Still, it’s a very nice Dracula face, which is what counts.  Unfortunately, the paint is not as sharp everywhere, especially on Drac’s vest, which has some pretty bad bleed over.  Drac is obviously the draw of the set, and slight paint issues aside, he lives up to that.


Next is Dracula’s old foe, Dr. Van Helsing!  Van Helsing is also built on the basic minimate body, so he stands the same height and has the same articulation.  Van Helsing features two sculpted pieces:  his hair, and a jacket/vest torso cover.  They do the job suitably, and look pretty good.  His only real paint work is his face detailing.  The face is nice and sharp, and there’s some well-done silver detailing for his glasses.  He’s well-constructed, if a bit boring.


Next is the heroine of the piece, Mina Harker.  Like the other two, Mina is built on the basic body.  Mina technically has the same 14 points of articulation, but her leg articulation is rendered virtually non-existent by her sculpted dress piece.  In addition to the dress, Mina also features sculpted hair and a sculpted collar.  The detail work is done well, though she is noticeably more simplistic than the other figures in the set.  Like Van Helsing, Mina is a solid figure, but a bit on the boring side.


Last up is Dracula’s faithful servant, Renfield!  Like the rest of the set, Ren is built on the same minimate body and has the typical articulation.  Ren only features one sculpted piece, his hair.  It looks appropriate, and represents the character’s look fairly well.  The paint detailing on the figure is really where it shines.  He’s got a great set of suspenders, and his shirt has lots of folds and wrinkles, which give him a lot of dimension.  His face detailing is nice and sharp, and depicts actor Dwight Frye very well, giving him a crazed grin as though he’s about to let out that distinctive cackle.  Renfield is a great example of a figure that could have been quite drab, but was saved by the small details.


I really like this set.  I’m a big fan of the universal monsters movies, and this one covers one of the most memorable.  Mina and Van Helsing are kind of boring, but the set is made worth it by the inclusion of a really solid Dracula and an awesomely handled Renfield!