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Sallah

Raiders of the Lost Ark
by yo go re

I hear chopping, but I don't hear digging!

Egyptian excavator and friend to Indiana Jones, Sallah is integral in assisting the intrepid archaeologist locate the lost Ark!

Normally you would expect the relationship between a white college professor from New Jersey and an Egyptian guy who seems to be a professional ditch-digger to be kind of one-sided and reductive (especially in an '80s action movie based on 1930s adventure serials), but it honestly seems like Sallah Mohammed Faisel el-Kahir is Indy's best friend. Possibly his only friend? The only other adult man Indy hangs around with (we make the distinction because men are the ones he doesn't try to sleep with) is Marcus Brody, and that's actually his dad's friend, not really his. Hollywood movies of the time normally treated minority characters like the hero's pet (see Short Round for an example) but honestly Indy is more like Sallah's pet than Sallah is like Indy's, sooooo... progress?

The likness is no good. Does it look like someone Indiana Jones would have met in Cairo in 1936? Yes, in that it's a man wearing robes, a vest, and a head scarf. Does it look like John Rhys-Davies? No, not beyond being "man with beard." A chubby white guy with brown hair? Give this toy a baseball cap and a pair of wraparound sunglasses and he'll be ready to sit in his truck and speak directly into his camera phone about why it's "woke" that he has to wear shoes at the 7-Eleven.

It's possible the reason we've never really had a successful Indiana Jones toyline is that the Indiana Jones characters just don't make very good toys. A guy wearing linen robes makes perfect sense in a scene set under the desert sun, but who's running down the toy aisle to buy the same? This Adventure Series line is still notoriously hard to find, but you know what you can find at any store that's carrying it? Sallah. I would bet good money that if he's not the only figure you've seen in stores, he was definitely the first. First him, then Marion. (Ignoring Target ordering full cases of their exclsuives, obviously.)

Sallah has a barbell neck, pec hinges, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows, tiny balljoint wrists, a balljointed waist, balljoint hips, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge knees, and swivel/hinge ankles. The thighs are not needed, since their range of movement is duplicated by the knees, and since he's wearing a full-length robe, it's not like the legs can do anything anyway. PVC skirts are never great. It's not like the toy could squat down like a real person wearing this type of garment would be able to, so is there really value in even bothering to try?

Here's something to ponder: why, when people want to complain about the windowless packaging, do they always focus on things that aren't actually problems ("What if it's broken?" "What if it's stolen?" "What if the paint is bad?") and never on something real, like "what if just being dropped in a paper bag with everything else means the accessories get bent all to hell?" For instance, Sallah includes his oh-so-important shovel, which gets so warped he could dig holes from around a corner. I've boiled and cooled it five times now trying to get it back to its proper shape, and it's still not quite perfect. Good thing there's no way to screw up a giant coil of rope, I guess.

Recognizing the general lack of appeal to be found in these characters, Hasbro has given them a Build-A-Figure to help them sell: it's the Ark, and Sallah has the base and lid.

This is a boring, boring toy in every regard. Hopefully Hasbro doesn't think this is sufficient representation of the character, so we can someday get a Last Crusade version, which would have a good design and might actually be fun to play with. What an idea!

-- 07/15/23


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