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The Headless Horseman

Sleepy Hollow
by yo go re

In 1999, McFarlane Toys released a line of toys based on Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. The line's box set was the best toy of the year, but it wasn't perfect: there was still a little bit of room for improvement.

When Constable Ichabod Crane is dispatched from New-York to the remote village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a mysterious series of murders, he finds himself in a close-knit community gripped by its fear of the Headless Horseman. This black spirit is said to seek revenge for his murder years before, riding forth from the Western Woods to claim the heads of his prey.

The Headless Horseman, in both Washington Irving's original tale (first published March 15, 1820 in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. alongside Irving's other famous creation, Rip Van Winkle) and Tim Burton's reimagining (written by Andrew Kevin Walker, but with an uncredited rewrite by Oscar-winner Tom Stoppard) was a Hessian soldier, one of the mercenaries hired because it was cheaper for England to rent them from Germany than to recruit its own soldiers.

Most Hessians wore their existing regimental uniforms and followed their existing regimental commanders, but the Horseman in the film seemed to answer to no one but himself, and he dressed in a very opulent manner. His tunic has two large silver dragons with red eyes and tongues, and there's a scaly pattern behind them. Everything is covered by a moldering, red-lined cape. It's no wonder Colleen Atwood got an Oscar nomination for her costume work on this film! The details of the sculpt aren't quite screen-accurate, but they're close enough that it shouldn't bother you. There are stylized axes on the backs of his gloves, and fancy red-and-silver buckles all the way up the sides of his fancy boots.

The figure moves about as well as you'd expect something from McFarlane toys in 1999 to move: swivels where the legs go into the boots; a swivel waist; swivels at the right glove, left elbow, and right bicep; and swivel shoulders. In short, nothing very impressive or even tremendously useful, even by the standards of the era. Naturally he doesn't have a neck joint, because he doesn't have a neck - just a bloody stump.

While the boxed set Headless Horseman came with his sword, this version has his axe, so you're already getting something new. He also comes with the severed heads of Midwife Killian and her husband - these aren't just generic heads, they're recognizable as Claire Skinner and Steven Waddington. Their hair pulls up to the top, forming a handle that fits into the Headless Horseman's left fist.

So, this figure already has a new weapon and a terrific accessory. What more could you want? How about a head! The only way to control the Horseman is with his head, so this set includes it. It's a bone grey skull with the teeth filed to points. The eye sockets are black and the teeth are outlined, but the nasal cavity gets nothing.

When he got his head back, the tissue began growing back on it, eventually covering it entirely and revealing the face of Christopher Walken! This figure's second head has the full Walken likeness, complete with big poofy hair and wild eyes. The underside of the neck is shaped to match up with the stump on the figure, and there's a bit of a ridge at the bottom tht fits into the collar, holding the head on securely. There were even two variations of the figure, one carded with each head in place on his shoulders.

If you only ever get one Headless Horseman, then clearly the box set is the one to get. But there's still a lot of worth to be found in getting a second one, since all its accessories are unique, and can be shared between them both.

-- 10/02/15


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