Sideshow Universal Monsters
12 Inch Scale
By: Sideshow Toys
$20 (originally) $40-$90 (secondary market)
It’s hard to believe that Universal’s depiction of Frankenstein (or more specifically the monster) was created in 1931 and yet 80 years later, is instantly recognizable to everyone. It’s so recognizable that when you see him you say Frankenstein, even though he’s not actually named that. I have to imagine that it would be interesting to hop into a time machine and see what people thought of as Frankenstein prior to the James Whale feature film. Anyone who draws Frankenstein today either takes inspiration from this character or is instantly compared to it.
Thankfully, it’s a truly unique character creation, with menacing neck bolts, ghastly green skin and of course a flat head. Jack Pierce really hit a homerun with his creature makeup. Originally the design of the monster was said to be much different when the film had a different star and director attached. It’s been recreated time and time again in various forms, but perhaps the best action figures come in the form of Sideshow’s Frankenstein. It was a big hit for Sideshow, who cranked out a version for every major Universal Frankenstein film and actor. This figure was their first Frankenstein and also their first foray into this type of figure.
The most famous actor to portray Frank’s infamous monster and easily his most iconic role, is that of Boris Karloff. Supposedly Bela Lugosi was actually offered the role first, but turned it down because he didn’t feel there was enough depth and romance in the character. Having just re-watched the film Ed Wood this week, I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out different for everyone had he taken the part. Karloff’s first make-up tests had a much different look for the monster with horn like protrusions on his scalp.
Interestingly, Bela did eventually give in and take the role in the much later Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man film. At first Lon Chaney Jr. was going to do both roles, as the Wolf Man and as Frankenstein, but that proved to be a bad idea considering Chaney would also have to play Larry Talbot. Bela stepped in and it’s actually Lugosi’s performance that is most often what people think of when they think of Frankenstein. Bela’s Frank was blind and due to his thick accent, forced to only grumble. Hence the Frankenstein walk and noises that most associate with the monster.
I could go on for days with the fascinating details of the Universal Monsters, particularly the stars behind the green visage of Frankenstein, but let’s take a look at this 12 inch plastic incarnation instead!
Sideshow sort of created the wheel here, as so many others would eventually follow this style of using movie posters as the cover to the boxes in this scale. This is a great choice and the old school poster works in a lot of ways. Oddly this does appear to be a re-release poster, as opposed to the original. You’d think that Sideshow could have just Photoshopped that part out, if they didn’t have access to the original print.
The back has a wonderful still from the movie taking up the page.
The front panel opens up to reveal the figure inside. This makes for a nice window box display if you’d like to keep him MOC. The inner panel has the full cast and crew liner notes. It’s a neat touch. Unfortunately, there’s no real good way to put Frank back in the package once he’s out. A liner tray would have been better than twist ties.
I mentioned in my review of the Hasbro/Kenner Karloff Mummy that they also did a Frankenstein as well, which was the first to feature the official likeness of Karloff. That likeness was pretty weak, whereas here, Sideshow has captured Karloff’s monster in a very well rounded way.
It’s not necessarily perfect, as the original Frankenstein makeup was a little rougher and Karloff’s face perhaps a bit more sunken in. However, this is very, very close to being identical. If there’s any softness here, it’s because Sideshow was just getting started out. For a first time effort, this blows away what many masters in other toy companies have done.
The only real drawback is that this figure is beholden to the damned Universal style guide, which was revised at some point and forced Frankenstein to wear a green suit coat. Nobody really knows why Universal decided to do this, but they refuse to lift the ruling on it. So it’s not “wrong”, but it does end up being a tad less than ideal.
The outfit is quite nice and detailed fairly well for Sideshow’s first effort. Of course Frankenstein’s clothes are supposed to be a bit frumpy and ill-fitting, so they’d get a pass anyway. The only real drawback is that Frankenstein should be a bit bulkier. Sideshow did include a little padding on the inside of the coat, but it’s not quite enough.
The monster includes full green molded arms as well as a green head and neck. A part of his chest is painted green, but it’s not molded in green. Neither is his legs. His shirt is actually like one of those women’s crotch snap shirts. Who knew that’s what Frank was wearing under his trousers?!
The boots are a semi-hard rubber and can be removed. They are nice and tall, putting this Frankenstein figure at the 13″ range.
This is about as good of a classic Frankenstein figure as you can buy. It’s not unlicensed like some efforts and it’s got a great likeness to Karloff.
The 12 inch scale has some incredible articulation out there and although this is an older body from Sideshow, it’s still got more than enough articulation for a character like Frankenstein. One of the real advantages that sixth scale has over the smaller scales is that the clothes are cloth, allowing them to hide all sorts of articulation points that would be unsightly on a molded figure.
The head isn’t a very functional joint, but you can get a little movement out of it. There are double jointed knees and elbows along with a variety of cuts at the upper arms, wrists, thighs and just about anywhere else they can fit. It makes him very poseable. The torso is one solid piece and that seems a bit outdated these days, but works well enough, especially on a character like Frankenstein’s monster.
The wrist articulation is particularly impressive, with a really functional joint/swivel combo. There’s some great sculpting on this area too, and for the most part, the articulation doesn’t really get into the way of the sculpt.
Sideshow is known for including a lot of accessories and that’s a trend that starts here. Everything that’s included not only makes sense, but looks really nice as well.
The included accessories really add value to a figure like this and I like a few of these choices in particular. The stand is a little stone deal where you shove his foot into it. It works well enough for what it’s designed, but mostly he doesn’t need it.
The manacles are probably the coolest of the accessories and definitely the one that you can get the most use out of. This is a real chain in the sense that it’s individual links, although I believe it may be plastic. The paint job is fantastic on it.
They actually open and close perfectly, locking into place for a variety of display possibilities. Even if you don’t want to use them for Frankenstein, you can always throw them on another figure and let your wildest fantasies come true!
You also get the abnormal brain and the jar to keep it in. The brain is removable, fully sculpted and the jar has a lid (which I forgot to photograph!) as well as nice detailing. If it wasn’t for the this darned abnormal brain, Frankie would be a model citizen!
The smallest accessory might be the neatest in terms of Sideshow really knowing the property. He’s got a well sculpted pair of flowers. Just don’t let him pick the petals around your kid sister!
As hard as it is to believe that this Frankenstein design is still iconic after 80 years, it’s even harder to believe that this figure once retailed for $20 at Toys R Us. These days, that’s nearly the price of a DC Universe Classics figure! What’s even sadder is that these figures were a tough sell at the time. This particular incarnation of Frankenstein is probably the hardest to track down for a reasonable price (variants aside) and can run you around $50 on the cheap end. There are multiple other versions of Frank, with various actors and such that go for far less.
Because these are fantastic figures and the Sideshow name has become with synonymous high end prices these days, the older pieces like this can now run up to modern pricing. That means you may pay $75-$100 for some of these. Frankenstein is just as good in most regards as anything that Sideshow is putting out now for a higher price tag, but it’s best to shop around. If you’re patient, you can find Frank for less than an arm and a leg.
Packaging – 9
Sculpting – 9
Paint – 9
Articulation – 8
Accessories – Brain, Jar, Manacles, Stand, Flowers
Value – 9
Overall – 9 out of 10
If you are a fan of Boris Karloff, Frankenstein or Universal’s versions of the monsters… The Sideshow Frankenstein is a must have. Even though this was one of Sideshow’s first figures in this scale, it still stands the test of time and won’t look out of place, even in the best of collections next to $400 Hot Toys figures. This is one classic figure and is highly recommended during this 31 Days of Halloween.