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B&W Frankenstein's Monster/Dracula

Universal Monsters Minimates
by yo go re

Though Diamond Select Toys has had the Universal Monsters license for two years now, they've been very smart about how they're using it. Rather than flooding the market with product all at once, they've chosen to focus on a different pair of monsters each year. Last year was the Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon; this year it's Frankenstein and Dracula. And just like last year, Toys R Us gets an exclusive black and white two-pack of Minimates.

The most famous tale of Dr. Frankenstein's Monster is stil the 1931 "Frankenstein," starring Boris Karloff as the Monster. Created from the body parts of the deceased and given life through artificial means, the Monster ultimately turned on its master, and on humanity.

It may be the most famous, but it's not actually based on Frankenstein - rather, it's based on a play based on the book, 1927's Frankenstein: an Adventure in the Macabre by Peggy Webling. And that play took elements from a previous play! Webling's play was popular in England, and was about to be staged on Broadway when the backer lost his money in the stock market crash. The rights went back to Webling and she sold them to Universal.

The original choice to play the monster was Bela Lugosi, and he even performed a screentest despite thinking the role was absolute crap. The test was so bad the director was fired. Boris Karloff was having lunch in the cafeteria when he was approached about the role, and it ended up being his breakout role (at the ripe old age of 44).

The head is new, though it's not like Minimate heads weren't already square. The hair and his heavy brow are sculpted, though he's missing the bolts on his neck. There's a "neck ring" that may be meant to stand in for them (there appear to be mold sprues on the sides), but it's hidden pretty well beneath his new jacket. I pried the ring off my figure, put the jacket back on and positioned the ring above the collar, which seems to help. Between the slightly taller head and the big platform boots (also new pieces), Frankie is taller than the average Minimate.

Sleeping in a coffin by day and preying on beautiful women by night, the man called Count Dracula is not a man but a vampire! Following his voyage from the mountains of Transylvania to London, the 1931 Universal Studios adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel remains the most iconic.

Yes it does. It was the first fully licensed Dracula film (remember, Nosferatu used the plot, but did so without asking permission first - for the complete story, go read that review), though it wasn't based on Bram Stoker's novel: rather, like Frankenstein, it was based on a play. A play that Bela Lugosi had starred in, though he wasn't the first choice for the title role in the film.

This Minimate may be Dracula, but it sure isn't Bela Lugosi. None of DST's toys will be. Why? Because his heirs control his likeness rights. He played the role without any makeup, so there's nothing above the neck that Universal can lay claim to. If Art Asylum wanted to make this a Bela Lugosi Minimate, they would have had to negotiate a second set of rights, which probably wouldn't be worth it financially. His likeness rights are protected at least until 2026.

Below the neck, though, this is definitely Universal's Dracula. He gets a new chest cap that has his shirt, coat and cape all in one. The cape has slight wrinkles on the back and a high collar that reahes the figure's ears. The jacket lapels are sculped, and beneath it he's wearing a vest with tiny, tiny buttons. The star-shaped pendant he wears on a ribbon around his neck is fully sculpted, as well - on the Minimate it's a five-pointed star, but on the 7" Universal Select figure it will be a hexagram. Which is correct? Ask a movie nerd!

The "black and white" paint scheme is very literal for Dracula: while Frankenstein had grey skin to go with his black clothes, Dracula's face and hands are shockingly white. So's his vest, in fact. The lining of his cape is dark grey, but since it's usually in shadow due to his body, you're unlikely to notice. So while Frankenstein looks like a typical grayscale figure, Dracula really does appear to be black and white. If you got last year's black and white set, this an excellent companion to it. We can't wait until next year, when we'll probably get the Mummy and... Invisible Man? Who knows? Either way, we're building up an impressive collection of Universal Monsters in block form.

-- 10/02/11

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