Funny thing about the iron maiden: the overwhelming majority of historical evidence indicates that it never existed in the Middle Ages, and indeed was just made up by some German weirdo in the 18th Century as a hoax. Not that religious authorities of the age wouldn't have used something like this - being of a devout and pious nature, they'd happily rape, torture and murder anyone and anything that got their repressed little libidos going - but they just didn't think of it. Hindsight, eh?
"Bethany, I love you," he said as he followed her down into the village to the door of her house, which she finally slammed in his perfect face.
That was where his followers found him an hour later, his throat so ragged from repeating his words of love that he spoke blood instead of syllables.
I should preface this review by saying that I don't have a complete Bethany Bled figure - she arrived complete, but that was quite some time ago, and in the intervening period I'd stripped bits and pieces off the set, befitting my preference for more streamlined displays (I have over 400 action figures, it's visually crowded enough in here without the figures themselves making it worse). So, the complete Bethany includes a demon-faced starburst plate atop the maiden (I've got the face, but the starburst has gone missing), and a circus train base identical, apart from the nameplate and mounting pegs, to that included with Mary Slaughter.
Righto then. Bethany is your typical (i.e. fictional) prisoner in the iron maiden, with her sex factor ramped up as per McFarlane standard. According to the snippet of the Clive Barker novella available on the line's website, and not included with the toy itself (possibly due to Australian censorship laws - did you know non-violent erotica, the basic X-rated movie, is illegal in almost all of Australia? So that copy of Pirates on the shelf there (get it, it's fun) is contraband. If I suddenly vanish from OAFE, now you know why),
Beth seems to have been a lovestruck woman who bought a love potion to secure the affection of some nobleman or other, and came unstuck when he got utterly fixated on her, as detailed above, him winding up insane, and she in a cell waiting to be executed.
I don't know whether the ringmaster of the Infernal Parade does the traditional deal-with-the-devil routine, or just scoops up tormented souls after they've died, but either way she seems to have decided that if she's going to be cooped up inside a wooden box lined with spikes, she may as well make a go of it. Fair enough, it's got bondage, bloodplay, sensory deprivation - something for everyone.
The main element of this set is Miss Bethany herself, who's 6¾" tall on her own - though she's got her hair up in a bun and is standing on tip-toes, so you could knock half an inch off that for strict accuracy. She's a good-looking lass, especially when you consider that she's cast in a somewhat softer plastic than is usual for action figures, which must have imposed challenges on both the sculpt and paint. She's got an interesting figure, healthy but not athletic in any real sense, with a sense of softness to her thighs, stomach and rear end - since her "performance" doesn't involve any great physical exertion on her part, it's quite appropriate for her, and her attire of lace-trimmed satin bra and knickers adds to her decadent aura.
She's got a stunning face, with a cute nose and elegant cheekbones, smouldering eyes half-hidden on the left by her artfully arranged hair, and a haughty, sophisticated turn to her lips that's equal parts come-on and sneer. The paintwork on her green eyes is a little bit simplistic, but difficult to notice unless you study her closely.
As you'd expect, she's just articulated enough to be fine-tuned into her single solitary pose - swivel biceps and neck, and a peg above her left knee. Since there's little else mobile about her, it's worth noting that the sculpt on her neck isn't so precise that it mandates a particular angle very strongly - especially with her right hand in front of the joint, her head can be turned with satisfactory results.
Beth is secured into her iron girlfriend by way of a main plug in her back, and a hole in her right foot which fits over one of the soft spikes in the maiden's floor. She's shipped already inside the maiden,
and with the back peg glued, but removing her isn't that much of a chore, and you're not risking damaging her or the maiden in the process. Besides the spike through her foot, Beth has a number of indentations in her flesh, presumably to indicate where she's run through every time the doors get closed - which, weirdly (though logically, given the set-up) marks her as a repeat performer.
The iron maiden is an imposing 7¾" tall, without its decorative plate stuck on top, composed of a rear and floor (including an angled block to support Beth's feet - nice and considerate), with hinged doors, all fashioned from wood and bound in iron that's turned black with age. There are handles on the doors, with star-shaped backplates, and three bands made of soft plastic attached to the right door, which can fit over the matching clasps on the left.
Three padlocks secure these bands, or hang from the clasps when the doors are open - they're single-piece sculpts, so they can't close anyway. The interior of the maiden is laced with spikes of varying lengths, all soft - they poke out at a variety of angles, too, which I find a bit visually irritating.
The maiden has the obligatory eye slit - used (according to folklore) by the kind and caring priests to see if their victims had bled to death yet or not - but being a woman of only middling height Beth can't look out, and from outside all that's visible is her forehead. That's "realistic," I suppose - if the thing were a real torture device it'd have to accommodate various heights of victim - but given that the whole point of this maiden is to house a masochistic display, it's kind of odd that it's not designed so that Bethany can gaze lustfully out when it's fully closed, and thus impaling her body from neck to toe. C'mon people, if you're going to do a torture porn figure, do it well.
Besides the whole iron maiden and its wheeled carriage,
Bethany comes with two identical swords, which can be slid into the maiden via two slits, one in the side of each door. The slits are angled, forcing the swords into a particular attitude -
with the doors half-closed the right sword passes slightly down in front of her stomach, while the left goes almost horizontal behind her butt.
Bethany's another interestingly different figure - she's not your standard action heroine or whatever, nor is she just another McFarlane mutilation bimbo. Her gimmick of the iron maiden is decently realized, and the figure itself has a sultry, sophisticated look that, along with the blatantly foxy pose, really makes her stand out. The only issue with displaying her is that the doors of the iron maiden either look too open, or hide the figure inside too much - eventually I just got her out of it. Spiked or not, she's an impressive piece or work.