#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 hunter 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.

#1328: The Wolf Man



Hey, remember when Hugh Jackman starred in a Van Helsing movie?  I know, I know, you were trying to forget.  Why’d I have to go and bring it up again?  Well, the reason is very simple: there were toys.  And, big shock, I had a bunch of them.  For the most part I’ve phased them out of my collection, but one item still remains.  It’s the subject of today’s review, The Wolfman, who within the context of the film isn’t the usual “wolfman” Larry Talbot, but is instead Velkan Valerious, brother to…oh who really cares?  He’s a werewolf.  There ends the list of interesting things about him.


The Wolf Man was released as part of Jakks Pacific’s basic Van Helsing: Monster Slayer line.  There were a couple minor variations on this basic figure; mine’s the one with “magic transformation color change,” which pretty much translates to “the actual Wolf Man bit has this clear patch at the front.”  The figure is just under 4 inches tall and he has 16 points of articulation.  The actual figure is just an un-transformed Velkan figure, which has him sporting the Bruce Banner shredded pants (they never did explain in the movie where those pants when he was the werewolf, by the way).  The sculpt was okay.  None of the figures in this line were particularly noteworthy, and Velkan seems to be the middle-est of the middling sculpts.  The proportions of the sculpt are passable; the hands and feet seem a little small, and the shoulders are definitely set too far apart, but that’s about it.  A lot of the work, especially on the body, definitely seems a bit rudimentary for the time when this was released.  The head bears a passing resemblance to actor Will Kemp, though he’s completely clean shaven here, and he wasn’t in the movie.  There’s some nice detail work on the hair, so that’s cool.  The paint is also pretty basic.  He’s mostly just molded in the appropriate colors.  The only real paint work is on the face, which seems oddly dirty.  He wasn’t exactly squeaky clean in the movie, but it seems a bit odd when compared to the rest of the figure.  The “Wolf Man” part of this Wolf Man figure is actually just a rubber suit that you pull over the Velkan figure.  I’m gonna be honest, it’s not ideal.  The basic sculpt is fine, but since it’s just thick rubber cover, there’s no actual articulation, and since it’s just rubber and not something sturdy, there’s actually no way for the thing to stand, especially with Velkan inside it.  Also, since the “magic transformation color change” bit requires the piece to molded in clear plastic, and paint on rubber is prone to chipping, the figure is invariably left with random clear patches all over.  Why exactly didn’t they just make this a whole separate figure?


So, believe it or not, I actually liked Van Helsing when it was released.  In my defense, I was 11.  Anyway, I ended up getting a bunch of the figures for my birthday that year, and the Wolf Man was one of them.  He was always my favorite of the bunch, so when I got rid of the set, he remained.  The figure’s not anything to write home about; he’s a kind of bland figure based on a flat character from a mediocre movie.