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Dracula playset

McFarlane's Monsters
by yo go re

Todd McFarlane hasn't had much luck with Dracula. The solo figure was basically Spawn with a bat face, Vlad the Impaler came out when the company's cracks were really starting to show, and the Movie Maniacs were barely ever released at all. Today we go back to 1997 to take a look at his first effort.

The Dracula is... weird. I mean, all Todd's monsters are weird, to one extent or another, but this is an inexplicable melange of ideas. As you might expect, he's wearing old-fashioned upper crust clothes: black trousers, a maroon vest, a frilly white cravat, and a long black coat with a maroon lining visible at the cuffs and the tall, pointed collar. He's also wearing a bright red softgoods cape that's glued to his nape and wrists, allowing it to move with him as he flails his arms about (with swivel wrists and swivel/hinge shoulders to complement his swivel waist and neck).

Then there's the face. Obviously McToys couldn't just copy Bela Lugosi, because 1) that would cost money, and 2) that isn't what this line was trying to accomplish, but what they came up with was an inhumanly pointed face with solid red eyes, pointed ears, and fangs that stick out of the corners of his mouth and reach all the way to his chin. His dark grey hair is long enough to reach below his waist. So you've got a combo of "once classy clothes" and "high school metalhead dirtbag" with a face like a shaved rat. Seductive!

The Monsters playsets all came with two figures, usually a monster and someone to oppose them (be it victim or tormentor). The Dracula set bucks that trend, by having both figures be the same person. If "human" form Dracula isn't what you're into, you can also have him as a giant ridiculous bat!

"Ridiculous" is an understatement. The bat's face is the same shape as the human's, so at least we know what they were going for there. Its arms - not counting the hands, just the arms - are longer than its entire body, and the fingers are large bone spikes, rather than something flexible enough to support and contour a wing. Of course, that's okay, since there's almost no skin between them. Its legs are small to the point of being vestigial, and it has a long, prehensile tail. You know, the way bats do. The body looks like it has a lot of exposed bones, but that may just be a function of paint job. In any case, this is clearly an unnatural creature.

This set was worked on by Erics Treadaway and Mayse of the Four Horsemen, and the diorama is a bit of creepy graveyard - if there were 3¾" Castlevania figures, they'd look right at home here. It measures approximately 8" wide and 7" tall, so it's definitely more "diorama" than "display base."

The ground is irregular stone pavers, and there's a stone archway with iron bars through it in the back. On the right side is a large crypt with a plaque identifying it as belonging to "Vlad Dracula the Impaler." Naturally, it's decorated with skulls and bat wings. The left side of the set is covered in piles of dirt, and there's a large coffin with an ornate... Japanese dragon(?) design on the lid.

The coffin just sits in the dirt - no pegs or anything needed to hold it in place - and the lid is on a hinge so you can open it. The interior is detailed just as impressively as the exterior: the lid and sides have a fine wood grain, while the bottom is a red quilted pad. With his arms down by his sides, Drac can fit inside quite cozily. It doesn't look like too bad a place to sleep. And thanks to the way the dirt is designed, you can display the coffin with the lid either open or closed (though if everything's in place properly, the skull next to the box will mean you can't actually swing the lid from one position to the other).

The crypt features a classic old-school playset action feature, the spinning "change" door. You know the kind: you put a figure on a specific spot, turn a wall around, and reveal a different figure in its place; it's been used as Star Trek transporters, as a way to turn Clark Kent into Superman, etc. In this case, the idea is that you're seeing Dracula change into his bat form. The "human" side is recessed, has an unpainted plaque, and two footpegs for the figure. The "bat" side has a gold plaque, a hook for his tail to fit over, and a peg that plugs into the figure's back. So it's a cool idea, but the execution is lacking. The bat's wings don't contract far enough to allow it to easily fit through the opening in the crypt - that means you can't just spin it around, you have to squeeze it past the walls. So A+ idea, but C- execution.

Should any vampire hunters wander by, the set includes an axe and a wooden stake. There's a hole in the dirt pile where one can be stored, and the stake can either fit into Dracula's chest or the hole in the bat's back. Shame McToys never made a Van Helsing set to pair with this one, like they did with the Frankensteins. After all, we know it's possible to come up with a cool version of him.

-- 10/09/15

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