#1840: Creature From the Black Lagoon & The Wolf Man



It’s Halloween, and I’m desperately trying to avoid opening yet another Halloween review with “Ooooo!  Aaaaah!  Scary!” lest I become some sort of cartoonish caricature of myself.  I have to hold to what little remains of my dignity, right?

On three of the five Halloweens for which I’ve written a review, I’ve focused on Diamond Select Toys’ ill-fated Universal Monsters Minimates.  It was a bold line, certainly well-received by the Minimates fanbase, but unfortunately hurdled by DST’s attempt to keep it a seasonal offering, thereby sentencing it to disappear from the public radar for about eight months out of every year.  Today, I’m setting my sights back on the first of the line’s three-year run, with a double offering of both The Wolf Man and The Creature From The Black Lagoon.


Each year of Universal Monsters Minimates focused on two entries in the Universal Monsters catalogue.  2010, the debut year, chose Universal’s two most prominent in-house properties.  Specialty stores got two boxed sets, one based on each movie, while Toys R Us got an assortment of four two-packs.  Three of the packs were just re-packs of the boxed sets, with the fourth set being the TRU-exclusive re-colors of the main monsters in black and white.  That’s the set I’m looking at today.


The Creature from the Black Lagoon was originally released by Universal pictures in 3D in 1954. Before the days of high definition color movies, the cinematographer and lighting crew had to work much harder to convey emotion and detail in their subjects. This paint variation attempts to pay homage to those past masters.”

I have a confession to make: I’ve never made it all the way through the original Creature movie.  I’ve tried, but it just never grabbed me the same way as the others.  I did, however, love Del Toro’s throw-back to it in The Shape of Water, so maybe I just needed a take with a little bit romancing?  The Gill-Man’s rather distinctive design made him one of the more complicated translations to Minimate form.  He’s built on the usual body, but gets new hands and feet, as well as a head piece and a chest cap.  Its success in capturing the design from the film is kind of mixed.  There’s no denying that a lot of effort was put into these parts, and the detail work is definitely top-notch.  In fact, I’d say the hands, feet, and even the torso cap, do their job pretty well.  The biggest failing, really, is the head piece.  If they were willing to do fully molded pieces, I think the Creature was definitely a design that should have gotten one.  In the movie, its all one slick piece; here it looks like he’s wearing some really goofy headgear.  The paintwork is respectable.  Obviously, it’s monochromatic, but that’s kinda the point.  The subtle detailing of his scales on his arms and legs works surprisingly well, and his face is as decent a rendition as we could have hoped fore.  The one slight drag is how dull the black detail lines are; these sets were produced during one of the worst periods of time for QC on Minimates, and while this pairing mostly escapes unscathed, this is the one lingering sign.


The Wolf Man was originally released by Universal pictures in 1941 and was actually the second Wolfman picture they released. Before the days of high definition color movies, the cinematographer and lighting crew had to work much harder to convey emotion and detail in their subjects. This paint variation attempts to pay homage to those past masters.”

Man, there was some serious copy-pasting going on for those bios, wasn’t there?  I guess after writing three bios each for these guys, even DST was at a bit of a loss for words.  I’m more familiar with The Wolf Man than I am Creature.  It’s still not my favorite of the Universal stable, but I can at least appreciate it for what it is, and I do like the main Wolf Man design.  His slightly more humanoid appearance does lend itself slightly better to the Minimate style.  He still gets a unique set of hands and feet, as well as a full-mask cover for his head.  The hands and feet are respectable pieces, and have seen plenty of subsequent re-use. The head-piece…less so.  While they didn’t give Gill-Man his own head, Larry Talbot apparently warranted one, despite the fact that a hair-piece seems it would be far more appropriate here, since there’s a clear distinction between hair and face.  What’s more, the choice of a slip-cover mask instead of a fully-sculpted head is another baffling one, as none of the three versions of the Wolf Man available has anything but a blank head beneath it.  So many questions, and no real answers.  The paintwork on Larry is okay for the most part.  The details on the body look fine enough, though that shirt seems a fair bit on the light side for what we see on-screen.  The face/hair also doesn’t feel quite right; a number of people have commented that he gives off more of a Teen Wolf-vibe than a Wolf Man one.  He’s packed with Larry’s wolf-headed cane, and while I’m hardly one to complain about extra pieces, I’m not certain what he’s supposed to do with it without any sort of alternate Larry pieces.


I was excited by the prospect of Universal Monsters Minimates when they were first shown off, but I’ll admit that after waiting the better part of a year for the actual product, and then finding out that the first two offerings were both films lower on my list of wants, my general interest cooled a bit.  It didn’t help that both boxed sets included unnecessary variants of the main monsters, and the civilians weren’t much to write home about.  So, I ultimately only picked up this one set, as it allowed me the opportunity to get the main monsters without any of the excess.  Neither of these two is really winning material.  The sets that followed definitely out-paced these greatly, but I think the line as a whole was always kind of stunted by the soft opening assortment and the long wait to see if anything better came of it.

#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.