Wolfman, Mummy, Frankenstein, Gillman
5 Inch Scale
By Uncle Milton
Have you ever been to a toy show? Or maybe a flea market, where some guy invariably has a bin full of beat up vintage toys? If you have, chances are that you have seen these Universal Monsters figures. Like giant versions of green army men, these figures are solid plastic pieces capturing the classic Universal Monsters characters. Originally created by Louis Marx and Company in the late 1960s, they have been reissued in a variety of colors. Most recently, the figures were cast in glow in the dark plastic in 1990, by Uncle Milton.
These versions are probably the most common nowadays, and can be picked up loose or on a shelf-worn cardback fairly cheaply. Today I am going to be looking at four figures, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. There are also figures available of the Phantom of the Opera and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I have limited myself to my four favorites.
Each Movie Monster comes packaged in an identical blue graveyard cardback. The back features black and white diagrams of the entire six-monster set. The plastic bubbles were a bit yellowed and clouded for some of my figures, but that is understandable for 23-year-old toys. A small Universal Studios logo in the top right corner lets you know that these are the real deal, not generic monsters, mummies, and wolf men.
With no paint or articulation or accessories, the sculpts of the figures are very important. Luckily they are excellent, full of texture and capturing the feel of these classic characters with fine detail. Frankenstein’s Monster is in his classic pose, back and legs stiff, arms sticking out in front. The face appears to be based more on the Glenn Strange version of the character, rather than the more famous Boris Karloff Monster. The Wolf Man has been captured in a loping pose, making him look more animalistic than the limited makeup effects would alone. The wolf Man might be my favorite Universal Monster, but he really is just a hairy guy. The nose and grooming of the facial hair are what really capture the character, making this unmistakable as the Lon Chaney Jr. Wolf Man.
The Mummy is the most grisly figure, with a decaying face and a strip of flesh peeling away on the pack of his head. The bandages which cover his body have a nice texture to them, capturing the look of gauze. The fingers on his right hand are stubby, which led me to initially believe that my figure was broken or crumbling. It turns out that the figure was sculpted that way. It has been a long time since I have seen the original film, so perhaps it is screen accurate. Ol’ Gill-man is the largest and bulkiest figure, which makes sense given the thick monster suit. He too is covered in a nice texture, making the figure appropriately rough and scaly. There are manacles sculpted to the Creature’s ankles, revealing that the figure is based off of the sequel film, Revenge of the Creature.
Each figure is sculpted onto a display base, which extend the textures and little character specific details. For example, the Mummy stands upon cracked stone ruins, while the Wolf Man has forest debris, with what appears to be a stray root sticking up. Having their feet connected together reinforces the similarity to little green army men, and adds to the simple charm of these figures. They also each have a rectangular nametag sculpted into the base.
I paid between $8-$10 for each figure. These are vintage toys, so they cannot really be judged with today’s standards of quality and value. The average 3 3/4″ figure is the same price, but the age and relative scarcity create a premium price. For five inches of fun, solid plastic, I feel it was a solid value. The four characters together make for an interesting Halloween showpiece. And while I was worried the plastic may have become brittle over the years, once I opened the figures I could feel how solid they are. If dropped on a hard floor, small bits like fingers might snap, but overall these feel like they could take a beating.
As I mentioned, this series contained a total of six figures, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, who I looked at today, and the Phantom of the Opera and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. A solid lineup, but who is conspicuous in their absence? Dracula of course. The Count is one of the most popular of Universal’s characters, part of the core trinity with Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man. I have seen speculation that he was considered too violent and mature to make a toy of back in the day, but it would have been awesome for Uncle Milton to sculpt a new Dracula figure in this style. With the advent of designer toys and Kickstarter campaigns, it is hard to believe some enterprising collector has not already produced a Dracula to finish off the set.