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Columbia, Frank N Furter & Riff Raff

Rocky Horror Picture Show
by yo go re

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.

Back in the late '90s, there was an explosion in the toy industry. Following Todd McFarlane's lead, dozens of companies popped up, thinking they too could make a fortune by snagging an obscure property or two and cranking out toys. It was a lot like what had happened to the comic industry in the early '90s - a speculator market created an environment that looked like it would support any product from any company, so anybody with a little bit of money tried their hand at milking consumers for all we were worth. This boom created a lot of crap, but there were some decent releases in amongst the flotsam. Still, even that didn't help most of these new companies from disappearing when the bubble burst. Remember a company called Vital Toys? No, of course you don't. But back in 2000, they put out the first series in a planned line of Rocky Horror Picture Show toys.

The first series comprised Frank, Columbia and Riff Raff, available either individually or in a Special Edition Boxed Set with a variant Frank. The box was black, with a red interior, and lightning bolts scattered around the outside. Kind of a plain presentation, but it matched with the feel of the film, so that's what really mattered. Of course, the placement of the figures in the box made it look like Frank was punching Columbia in the mouth, but what Rocky fan hasn't wanted to do that at one point or another? Give her one for us, Frank! And two for yourself!

Columbia is possibly the only Earthling in Dr. Furter's entourage. Billed as "a groupie," she met Frank while walking down the street one day. Apparently impressed by his pickup truck and the gleam in his eye, she left her previous life behind and moved in with him, living the life of a 24-hour party girl. At some point she was in a relationship with professional delivery boy Eddie, though whether it was before or after meeting Frank is unknown. Unfortunately, she realized she was yesterday's news when Frank began working on her replacement.

The figure is 7¾" tall, and moves at the neck, shoulders, waist and thighs, making her the most mobile character in this assortment. It's still not enough to get her in more than one pose. Maybe one and a half. We have "Columbia does what she's supposed to" and "Columbia tries to take a giant, invisible pumpkin off her head." That's dynamic! At least the pose is good. The sculpt is simple, but realistic.

The likeness is decent, but really doesn't look like Little Nell. It's mainly the makeup and the fact that this head is on Columbia's body that sells it, not the prowess of the sculptor. Plus, the head is too big for the body, so that's not helping. The paint on the figure is quite good - her jacket, bowtie and removable hat are all glittery, but it's not the kind that flakes off and gets all over everything. The stripes on her hot pants are crisp and straight, even when running over the sculpted wrinkles. There are shadows and highlights on her legs, but she has about twice as many polkadots on her left shoe as on her right. The distribution really should have been better.

Though he looks human, Dr. Frank N. Furter, scientist, isn't much of a man (by the light of day) - he's actually an alien. When he declares himself "a sweet transvestite from Transexual Transylvania," he's not boasting of his sexual proclivities, but his national origin. Frank comes from the planet Transexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. The question remains, though, are those words in his native language that just happen to match up with words in English, or are they words that have been translated to their English equivalents?

At 8¼" tall, Frankie is the biggest figure in this series - thanks mainly to his mighty man-perm. He has a waist joint, though it doesn't really work. He has peg joints at the neck, forearms and wrists. We don't need two joints to provide the same range of motion, guys, especially when the figure is still stuck in one standard pose. This is a very classic look, with Frank in his black negligee, fishnets and pumps as he's first introduced to the audience. He even has the silver-lined cape he wastes no time in casting off.

The Tim Curry likeness is probably the best of the three figures. Again, the makeup helps quite a bit. While the single-carded release of Frank had a closed mouth, here in the boxed set he's got a sinister smile. The sculpt on the hair is good, and his fishnets are textured. The paint on his garters is kind of a mess, but the variety of colors used overall is good. Bonus points for making his feet look like they have toes under the stockings, rather than just formless lumps. The "Boss" tattoo on Frank's shoulder is present, but not the 4711 on his right thigh.

And finally, we have Riff Raff, Franky's faithful handyman. He knows how to say "thank you" in French, and can deal a mean slice of meatloaf. Hailing from the same "androgenous" planet as Frank, Riff and his sister Magenta long to return to their home galaxy, back to the moon-drenched shores of sweet Transexual, land of night. When Frank's lifestyle becomes too extreme, Riff declares himself the new commander of the failed mission and prepares for the trip home.

Riff stands 8" tall, but tends to lean quite a bit. He has articulation at the waist, wrists, shoulders and neck, though his stringy blonde hair keeps his head from turning. At all. The shoulder joints are on an angle, so the arms don't just move straight up and down, which helps him look a bit more natural. His arms are definitely more poseable than Columbia's, for what it's worth. Nice touch with the shoes, though: the right one has a spat, while the left doesn't. That's accurate to the film, as is the fact that the left pantleg is tucked into the boot, revealing laces.

The likeness, however, is atrocious. Riff was played by Richard O'Brien, the writer of Rocky Horror, so if you're going to get anybody right, shouldn't it be him? Even the paint apps fail us, here - Riff is pasty, but he's still done up in skin tones. The figure is wearing what looks like clown makeup, a thick white pancake with pink around the eyes and dark red lips. The eyes are forgivable, but the rest is wrong. Even worse, his neck and chest aren't the same color, so it looks like he's wearing a cheap Riff Raff mask. This is very poor.

So those three figures comprise RHPS Series 1. Looking at them today, it's easy to see why we never got any more. Series 2 was to include Stage Show Frank N Furter, Space Magenta and Space Riff Raff, while Series 3 would have given us Lab Coat Frank N Furter and Charming Underclothes Janet, plus one other figure to be determined. It was a nice plan, but it wasn't meant to be.

Vital Toys' Rocky Horror Picture Show figures are pretty terrible. Even more terrible than the show itself! The figures were all sculpted by Gabriel Garcia, who's now Senior Sculptor at Gentle Giant - to say the guy's gotten better would be a vast understatement. The choice of scale is odd, since these figures are an inch too big to fit in with other horror movie figures. Even Movie Maniacs had better articulation, and the construction is a joke: both Riff Raff and Frank N Furter have uneven, lopsided legs. So much so that even McFarlane Figure stands can barely keep them upright. Columbia is the only one who can stand on her own, and fans of the movie know that's not right. Stupid bitch couldn't even tap dance across the room without falling on her ass, so how is it she ended up the best figure of Series 1?

-- 10/29/07

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