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Dread Pirate Roberts

The Princess Bride
by yo go re

NECA hasn't really been having an easy time of it lately, with website problems, lack of communication from the top, quality control issues and uneven distribution. A year ago, we had a fairly solid idea of what toys were coming when, as well as any problems they might have had when we got them. Now? Now it's a total crapshoot, with only vague ideas of what product NECA is planning to release and no guarantee that the figure in that package will really be worth your money. But still, the variety of licenses they grab make them impossible to ignore - licenses like The Princess Bride.

Heartbroken over the "death" of her beloved Westley, beautiful Buttercup finally succumbs to the advances of the wicked Prince Humperdinck. Yet when she's suddenly kidnapped by a motley band of deviants, what gallant hero comes to her rescue? None other than Westley himself - masquerading as the Dread Pirate Roberts.

The Princess Bride license was announced at SDCC '07, with the first unpainted prototype shown at Toy Fair the next year. They officially have an Inigo Montoya in the works, but so far the only figure they've released is the Dread Pirate Westley, here. Still, nothing wrong with a slow start, right?

Since this toy is sold as the Dread Pirate Roberts, you can pretty much guess what outfit he's wearing - it's not like he changed clothes a lot, even after being mostly dead all day. So we get black boots, black pants, a black belt, poofy black shirt, black leather gloves and a black mask. Gotta give the boy credit, he knows what he likes. You also have to give credit to Gabriel Marquez, Kyle Windrix and Jason Frailey, who handled the sculpt: each of the different fabrics in Westley's costume have a different texture, from the thick leather of his boots to the smooth silk of his mask. There's even a delicate pattern on his shoulders, and though his sleeves are solid, they look light and airy.

If NECA's Lucius Malfoy likeness was an A+, Westley is an A-, B+. Yes, it is recognizably Cary Elwes, but there are a few spots that don't seem quite right. The look on his face is supposed to be a small, confident smirk, but instead he looks mildly digusted, like someone's just handed him a used tissue. Compared to stills from the film, his cheeks are too prominent and his face seems thin - he ends up looking a few years older than he did in the film.

There isn't a lot to talk about with the paint, but what apps we get are (mostly) good. The clothes are flat black, but there's a hint of gloss on the mask - just like there was in the film. There are splotches on either side of his nose that I can't identify: they're evenly matched, so they may be intentional, but they look like mistakes. His boots have muddy soles, and his skin is a fine cross between "I wear black from head to toe" and "I work on a boat." The darker areas on his face are perhaps a bit too heavy (contributing to his aged look), but his hair and mustache are the perfect dusty blonde. One noteable error, though? His eyes should be blue, not brown. Whoops! Considering there's no blue anywhere else on the figure, they probably cut an app to save money - the brown in his eyes is the same color as the brown on his boots.

In his fencing stance, Westly is 6½" tall, which makes him the same scale as any other Cult Classic. The figure's construction is very strange: his back is solid ABS plastic, but the front of his shirt is PVC; the bit of chest visible at the neck of the shirt is also solid, but it doesn't extend very far past where you can see it; those two facts combined mean that the majority of his torso is actually hollow, for some reason. Did doing it that way really save a significant amount of plastic? Maybe - it's not like NECA would have done this randomly, so they must have had some reason behind it. The articulation doesn't suffer for the choise, either, with a balljointed head and right shoulder, plus swivels at the left shoulder (upper bicep, really), gloves, waist and boots. It's certainly not a record as far as movement goes, but it's enough to put him in a few different poses and keep him from falling over.

Befitting his pose, the Dread Pirate Roberts has the one accessory you'd expect: his sword. It's actually two pieces - the guard is a separate piece, not glued on - and fits in the included sheath. Getting the sword into his hand is tough, because the pommel doesn't come off; you have to force the whole thing through. And once you do, there's no way for him to hold the sheath, so it ends up just laying on the ground.

The Princess Bride is a classic movie, just the sort that's perfect for NECA to mine. This is the same company that gave us A Christmas Story toys, after all, and I'd say those two movies occupy a similar territory between ubiquitous and cult. You really need to look at the paint apps on the face before you buy this one, but the Dread Pirate Roberts is one of the good examples of NECA product: it could be better, but it's not bad.


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