Thursday, October 2, 2014

31 Days of Halloween Creepy Toy Review – Universal Monsters Creature From the Black Lagoon from Diamond Select Toys

The Gill-man is one of my favorite monsters of all time.

I love the bizarro concept of a missing link man-fish. I like the surrounding narrative of what essentially amounts to a Bigfoot hunt in the Amazon. I also like that this is a very different setting from the rest of the Universal Monsters movies. Rather than being period pieces, it is a modern (for the time) tale. Given that, I am mystified as to why it has never been remade while countless attempts at revitalizing Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein have happened.

Mostly, though, I just really like the suit.

The Creature suit is amazing. I have yet to watch the film on Blu-ray, but in the countless times I’ve watched it in other formats I have never detected a seam or caught an awkward moment. The Gill-man is very alive in a way that it is very difficult to achieve with rubber suit monsters. Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning created a body language for the Creature that was menacing, sympathetic, and alien. Between their efforts and the incredible quality of the suit, one of the best monsters ever was brought to life on the silver screen.

Diamond Select Toys is the current license holder for this scale of Universal Monsters action figures (I’ll be reviewing Funko’s Gill-man soon). It changes every few years. As a result of this, we receive a wide assortment of varying qualities of collectibles. 
 
Right now DST is absolutely killing it. Not content to release two of the best Gill-man figures we’ve ever seen:
Retail Version

Direct Market Version (Which was painted a lighter, metallic green)

They also created a magnificent vinyl bust bank:
I’ve been raving about DST’s bust banks for months now. If you haven’t found one that you must own, then you haven’t been looking hard enough. These are beautiful and affordable alternatives to pricier busts. I don’t collect busts, but for twenty bucks there’s no way I could pass up that Creature.

Now they’ve started what basically amounts to a new line of Universal Monsters figures, and just in time for the Halloween season. This first wave consists of the Gill-man, Frankenstein’s monster (as seen in Son of Frankenstein), and a Van Helsing figure that is a sort of amalgamation of different versions of the character (thankfully with no trace of the Hugh Jackman portrayal). I don’t know if they’ll do more and I don’t know if it will take until next September for them to come out. Diamond is very canny about timing their releases, but this sometimes leads to sparsity within a line.

Despite having the two earlier Creature releases, as well as numerous others, I had to have this one. Well, two of this one. Once again DST released Direct Market and retail (Toys R Us Exclusive) versions. I am not obsessive about collecting Creature memorabilia, but I will buy anything I run across or can easily order. This release demanded I buy the variations because I knew I was going to need to open one for review. The reason is that the major selling point of this new wave is significantly improved articulation.

Past DST releases essentially aped what Sideshow Toys did with their own 8” scale Universal Monsters line. The style and poses were extremely similar; DST was clearly trying to recapture that collector. They did a great job with those figures, but are now cranking it up a notch by adding as much articulation as the well-crafted, aesthetically pleasing new sculpts will allow.

As I mentioned above there are two versions of this Creature. One is the Direct Market version you would get if you ordered this from your Local Comic Shop. The other is the Toys R Us Exclusive. 
 
The TRU version is $14.99, which is a remarkable price for a figure of this size with this much detail. That’s three dollars less than a comparable NECA figure, five dollars less than Hasbro’s smaller 6” scale offerings, and seven dollars less than Mattel’s Batman ’66 figures.

The MSRP on the DM version is $24.99. It comes in a much larger box and includes a larger base.

The figures themselves are the same in both paint and deco. On the last figures the two versions sported different paint jobs.

I am only going to review the DM version, thought I will reference certain things about the TRU figure. I wanted one to open up and it made sense to me to open the one with the more intricate base. Also, the TRU version will take up significantly less wall space.

FIRST GLANCE

This is a very large Gill-man. If it’s possible, it seems to be even more detailed than the previous version. I think that might just be because the sculpt is a bit deeper to help conceal the points of articulation. Whatever the case, it looks fantastic.

PACKAGING

The DM version comes in one of the gigantic Diamond Select boxes that you typically see their Marvel Select and other lines in. 

The TRU version comes in a simpler blister card. They both feature basically the same art, just presented differently. It’s all the classic style graphics that we know and love.

Each box features a pretty good biography of the Creature, though it is limited to the first movie. There really wouldn’t be much point in mentioning Revenge, since that’s essentially the same suit. I wouldn’t mind a figure of the altered Gill-man from The Creature Walks Among Us, though.

LOOKS
From gilled head to webbed toes, this figure is absolutely fantastic.

The joints are blended into the sculpt so well that some of them are barely even noticeable. It’s one of those figures that you can’t tell exactly how much articulation there is until you take it out of the package. Even the hip joints – which are those hinge things that the DC Universe Classics and Doctor Who lines use that I don’t like – are subtle and look good. But more on the articulation later.

The head on this figure has a slightly more mask-like aspect than some other Gill-man toys I have. I think it’s due to the way the eyes are done. I am totally fine with this, by the way. I love the idea of toys of monster suits. One of the items on my toy collecting bucket list is a 12” Godzilla that is actually the suit. It fits over a GI Joe-type action figure and has the face flap in the neck and everything. I’d love to have a Creature equivalent.

Anyway, the head looks awesome. The gills are wonderfully detailed and look layered and stand out individually. The mouth has been sculpted open, which – aside from the articulation – is the main aesthetic difference from DST’s last Creature figures. It’s not a bad variation to throw in there. When you’re dealing with a monster like this you don’t have a whole lot of options outside of level of detail. It’s not like he has Arctic Action suits or different hats or something. I also appreciate that the sculptor – Jean St. Jean – managed to give this guy a sinister face around those buggly eyes.

The fins on this version are the best I have seen. They’re very thin (but sturdy) and the detailing is fine. The edges have a natural, organic look.

The depth of the sculpt highlights the details of the Gill-man’s physique in a way that other, more conservatively sculpted figures have not. All of the scales and ridges stand out so much more here and lend the character an even more monstrous aspect. It toes the line of being caricature-ish, but does not cross it.

The paint is beautiful and highlights the sculpt even more. The base lighter green is perfect and the dark green wash compliments it and brings out all of the small detailing. The wash is consistent throughout the figure, as well – there are no spots that feel overly done or not covered enough. The fins have a lighter color that blends well but draws the eye. The facial features are applied precisely and muted a bit compared to some other releases. The eyes are a milder yellow and the mouth is a soft mauve as opposed to the bright red on other Creatures.
ACCESSORIES

The Direct Market version comes with an intricate base designed to look like the bottom of the lagoon.

I’m not crazy about this thing. I mean, it’s beautiful. The sculpt is great, the colors are vibrant, and it has skull. But it looks less like a stand for your homicidal fish monster and more like something you’d stick in your aquarium. What really pushes it over the top for me is that little wave of water on the back with the fish stuck to it. C’mon, man. That’s just too much.

The Toys R Us version comes with a much simpler and more appropriate base, so for ten bucks less I’d say that one is definitely the way to go.

FUN

This Gill-man represents the peak of modern technology’s ability to provide a fun-to-play-with fish-man-monster action figure that also looks great.

Because this is a new figure from a line that hasn’t done this before, let me run down the points of articulation:

Head – swivel on a hinge

Shoulders – ball joint

Biceps – swivel

Elbows – swivel/pivot

Wrists – swivel/pivot

Abdomen – ball joint

Waist – ball joint

Hips – hinge on a swivel

Thighs – swivel

Knees – pivot

Ankles – pivot

Gill-man’s head is somewhat restricted by the fin on the back. I wish he could look up just a little bit more so he could look right in a swimming upward pose. 
 
The shoulders have a very good range, especially considering the overhanging plates. I’m not sure why the figure needed swivels at the biceps and the tops of the elbows, but neither is easily detectible, so whatever. The elbows can’t quite achieve a 90° bend, but that’s okay because I’ll bet the original suit couldn’t, either. The wrists rotate 360° and have nice, deep pivots.

The abdominal and waist joints rotate fairly well but don’t have a lot of play in any other directions. Between them they provide just enough flexibility to give the Creature a few different postures. But he’s not going to be doing sit-ups or anything. Like the rest of the joints these are fairly well concealed, so it’s not like they’re damaging the aesthetics at all.
The swivel/hinge combination was probably the best way to go for the hips on this figure. Ball joints would have been ugly and obviously you couldn’t just have swivels. The hinges don’t go out very far, but it’s far enough. And the joint is much cleaner and subtle than Mattel or Underground Toys make them. The knees and ankles are fine. Nothing spectacular and nothing substandard. The thigh swivels make a huge difference. Without those, the figure would be severely limited. With them, you have a ton more posing possibilities.

All of the joints move easily and the plastic is quite sturdy. At no point was I worried about limbs breaking off, nor were there any issues with warped limbs.

OVERALL

The figure itself is fantastic – as close to flawless as we’re likely to get for this sort of thing. For twenty-five bucks you can throw the base in the trash (or in your aquarium) and still have a figure worth the value.

But for fifteen measly bucks you can buy the Toys R Us version and for that price this figure is an absolute steal. No fan of monsters has any excuse for passing up this kind of bargain. I’ve bought a lot of toys over the past few months and this Creature is without a doubt one of the highlights.
5 out of 5

If you want the fancy base, go to Amazon and buy one (and help Needless Things out at the same time!):


 
Needless Things V. 31 Days of Halloween

Every October for the last few years Needless Things has provided commentary on SyFy’s – the television channel devoted to science fiction (sort of) – schedule. Not because the channel provides the best Halloween content, but because they provide the most. Aside from some paid programming in the wee hours of the morning (because somebody has to pay for Sharknado 3: Again With This?), SyFy makes an effort to program content that is at least Halloween-ish every hour of the month.

It is for this that we thank them and devote far more effort than we should into dissecting what they have to offer.

Oct 2 11:30 AM Syfy Original Movie Witchslayer Gretl

Oct 2 01:30 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Night Of The Demons

Oct 2 03:30 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Halloween II (2009)

Oct 2 06:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Freddy Vs. Jason

Oct 2 08:00 PM Haven Much Ado About Mara

You know, I still haven’t given this show a chance. As much as I love Stephen King you’d think I would have by now. Especially considering that Edge was (is?) on it. I saw an episode the other day where Colin Ferguson was playing some kind of sinister dude that struck me as being somewhat like Leland Gaunt. I only saw a couple of minutes so I could be completely wrong about that, but it made me want to watch.

Oct 2 09:00 PM Spartacus: Vengeance Fugitivus

Oct 2 10:05 PM Spartacus: Vengeance A Place In This World

This is one of those things that bugs me about SyFy’s 31 Days of Halloween but that is simply unavoidable – inappropriate programming. Spartacus isn’t very Halloweeny, but it’s part of SyFy’s regular schedule and they can’t very well just not show it for a month.

Also, I highly recommend you track down the first two seasons of Spartacus in their original, not-edited-for-cable forms. As far as I’m concerned they’re must-see television. But not without the titties and dongs.

Oct 2 11:10 PM Haven Much Ado About Mara

Oct 2 12:10 AM Syfy Original Movie Flu Bird Horror

This title sounds like Engrish. If I wasn’t going to be at work tonight I might actually make an effort to see this, just to find out what the heck the horror is about.

Oct 2 02:10 AM Syfy Original Movie Warbirds

I hope that this is a sequel to Battledogs and that it’s about human/bird hybrids. And I hope that there are different kinds of bird/human combinations. Eagle people and hawk people and… I dunno, finch people. Ooh! And flamingo people! That would be great!

Oct 2 04:10 AM Syfy Original Movie Bats: Human Harvest

This is a thing that I like about SyFy’s programming – they often do themes. Tonight’s theme is obviously “flying things”. This one is about Delta Force versus genetically-altered carnivorous bats. If you don’t know, “carnivorous” means they eat meat. In this case, presumably people meat. I wonder what that does to their poop? Don’t most bats eat flowers and berries and stuff? Or maybe moths? I think I’ve seen video of a bat eating a moth. But what is human flesh going to do to the consistency of their poisonous bat poop? 
 
Oh yes – if you didn’t know, bat poop (guano) is deadly to humans:

 

Is Bat Guano Dangerous? | Will It Make Me Sick?

Guano in Attic
Ask nearly anyone, and you’ll hear that bats (although beneficial in insect control) can be dangerous because they carry rabies. But a lesser known danger, and one that is not as easy to avoid, is histoplasmosis, a disease you can get from exposure to bat guano (bat droppings).

What is Histoplasmosis?

It is an infectious disease caught by inhaling the spores of the histoplasmosis capsulation fungus. While it is not contagious, the disease can affect a wide variety of the population who may not even be aware they are at risk.

Now you know. And knowing is half the battle. Stay out of caves, kids.

Oct 3 06:00 AM Paid Programming 

Oct 3 08:00 AM Syfy Original Movie Bats: Human Harvest

Oct 3 10:00 AM Syfy Original Movie Vampyre Nation

My first instinct is to disregard this because of the “y” in “vampyre”, but the second-best show ever to be broadcast on television featured a big-ass book with “Vampyr” on the front, so I just don’t know what to do. Chances are I won’t be up at 10 AM anyway, so I shouldn’t have to worry about it. Of course, there’s a roughly 1000% chance that SyFy will show Vampyre Nation again, so I’ll jump off that bridge when I get to it.

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