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B&W Imhotep/Quasimodo

Universal Monsters Minimates
by yo go re

In their third year with the Universal Monsters license, Art Asylum really has the pattern down pat: release two four-packs to the specialty market, and release related two-packs at Toys R Us - including an exclusive grayscale set of the year's two main monsters.

Punished for his unnatural practices by being mummified alive, the priest Imhotep was discovered centuries later, and revived by a resurrection spell. Now living in modern times as Ardath Bey, he seeks to bring his beloved princess back however he can.

1932's The Mummy was the inspiration for the 1999 Brendon Fraser movie, so if you've seen that one, you're at least familiar with the broad themes of the original. The movie was a direct result of the discovery, in 1922, of King Tut's tomb and the resultant surge in interest in ancient Egypt. But that's just the window dressing: the storyline was almost a beat-for-beat copy of Dracula, with the mysterious foreigner causing deaths and attempting to seduce the girlfriend of the hero.

When Frankenstein was made, Boris Karloff was completely unknown. That movie was such a sensation that only one year later when The Mummy was made, Karloff's name preceded the title of the movie in the advertising - he was the draw. The likeness on this Minimate is terrifically, unmistakably Karloff, even better than Frank last year.

The Mummy's body is dark grey and painted with lines to show his bandages, but budget concerns mean that the lines just stop on the sides of the torso, the back and insides of the legs, and the insides of the arms. It's not too distracting on this black and white figure, because the figure is so dark overall, but it may look worse in color. His right hand is a new mold, oddly enough: rather than simply painting his big, fancy ring on as a dot of paint, they've molded it as a raised lump on the finger. That is both unexpected and welcome.

A mute, half-deaf hunchback, Quasimodo lives a solitary life in Notre Dame cathedral, where he rings the bells and hates a world that barely knows he exists. But when drawn into a web of intrigue by others, he is unwittingly led down a path of doom.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame came out in 1923, before the "classic" era of Universal monster movies, but was the most successful silent film the studio ever released. It was based on Victor Hugo's 1831 novel, of course, but it was still Lon Chaney's movie: he was the one who suggested the story, along with a director and much of the cast (though the studio didn't take all his suggestions).

"Quasimodo" literally means "almost standard," fitting the deformed bellringer. The makeup was created by Chaney, and was so good for the time that audiences thought it was the way the actor actually looked. The makeup covered one eye so completely that it caused him permanent vision damage. The Minimate head does a decent job of replicating the design, despite its unavoidable flatness.

There's a rumor that the hump Lon Chaney wore weighed 72 pounds and left him with back problems for the rest of his life - the truth is it only weighed about 15 pounds, and he wore a clever harness to keep him hunched over. The Minimate gets a gigantic new chest cap to create his bulky, malformed torso, and there isn't a lot of future potential in this new mold. Sure, there are plenty of characters who could benefit from a bulky chest like this, but very few of them wear Renaissance tunics. The shirt and coat are molded as one piece, with a tattered lower edge and a few simple wrinkles where the belt binds it. The only thing missing are poofy sleeves, but their absence makes the torso look bigger and lumpier by comparison, so that's a win.

We know Art Asylum has an Invisible Man Minimate worked up - he was seen (no pun intended) at Toy Fair 2010 - so we can only assume that will be next year's Universal offering. At least, we're hoping this isn't the final year of the license, because the Mummy and the Hunchback show there's still some life left in these old bones.

-- 10/04/12

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