Sunday, September 29, 2013

I'm A Grown Man And I Bought This: The Munsters Action Figures

Diamond Select recently released a wave of figures based on the 1964 TV series The Munsters. 1964? Cheezus, that only took forty nine years! 

The first wave consists of all five members of the Munster family, plus a healthy selection of accessories. A second wave of figures is planned for later this year.

I loved monsters when I was a kid, so naturally I was a huge fan of The Munsters. What kid wouldn't love it? A sitcom starring honest to goodness monsters! What more could a kid ask for?

As soon as I heard the theme song I'd run into the living room, plant myself in front of the TV and eagerly soak it all in. All activity in the house had to stop while the show was on, less you risk a shushing by me. I'm surprised by parents indulged me so.

So what's up with all these toy companies just now releasing figures from shows that aired in the 1960s? Mattel just came out with a Batman TV show line, forty some years after the fact. Timely!

Supposedly there are two versions of each figure: the Select versions shown here, which each come with a piece of Herman's electric easy chair as a bonus, and a regular retail version without the extra pieces. I've never seen these figures in a regular store (which isn't surprising, considering they're based on a half-century old TV show), so I can't confirm this.

First up is Herman, the patriarch of the Munster family, as played by Fred Gwynne. Naturally he's the tallest of the figures, clocking in around 8.25."

Among his accessories is his enormous lunchbox, which sadly doesn't open. 

Did you know that in addition to being an actor, Fred Gwynne was also an artist and writer? He wrote and illustrated a series of fun kid's books back in the 1970s. His books were generally about puns and include The King Who Rained, A Little Pigeon Toad and A Chocolate Moose For Dinner. 

I kind of wish they'd have gone with a less glossy paint for his suit. Not very many people wear high-gloss clothing in real life. It's not quite as shiny in person though; the flash added some extra highlights.

Sculpting-wise, these figures are more stylized than realistic; just short of cartoonish. That's fine, as the show was pretty much a live-action cartoon anyway. This is a pretty decent likeness of Herman, and features his typical sweet, unassuming smile. The likeness looks much better in person. It looks even more like Gwynne when the eyes are in shadow under the prominent brow. The camera flash deleted the shadow.

Diamond Select actually went to the effort of sculpting Herman's shirt to look like real fabric! Well done, guys!

When Frankenstein premiered way back in 1931, Universal Studios had the foresight to copyright the Monster's ground breaking makeup (designed by Jack Pierce). Universal knew that since the Frankenstein story was in the public domain, other studios were free to make their own adaptations, but the copyright prevented them from copying Boris Karloff's iconic look.

Luckily for The Munsters, the series was owned by Universal so they could use Pierce's Monster makeup for Herman.

The figure's skin color isn't quite as bluish in person as it appears here. It's more of a light or sea green.


One thing I always wondered about the Frankenstein monster-- why did he have a flat head? I get that Dr. Frankenstein sawed off the top of the Monster's skull in order to replace the brain, but why would that flatten it out? Then one day it occurred to me that maybe that's not the top of his skull. Maybe the Doctor replaced it with a flat steel plate and fastened it down with those clamps you see. I don't know if that's the official explanation or not, but that's what I'm going with until I find out otherwise. 

Herman's quite well articulated for a bulky figure like this. He has a ball jointed head, ball jointed shoulders and elbows, unusual double articulation in his wrists, and waist, hip, mid-thigh, knee and ankle joints.

He can even stand on one foot, a rare feat (no pun intended) in the world of action figures. Here he is checking his shoe for gum.

One thing I noticed about these figures-- they're heavy! Surprisingly heavy. Good, solid, stay-where-they're-put-and-won't-topple-to-the-floor heavy. Heavy is good! It makes me feel like I'm getting my money's worth. 

Next we have Lily Munster, Herman's long suffering wife.

They did an amazing paint job on Lily's funeral gown; the subtle purple highlights add depth and visual interest and make it look like it's folding and draping like real fabric.They even sculpted some texture in the black bands tied around her waist!

Lily's quite well articulated, but unfortunately much of it's hindered by the sculpt. She has a ball jointed head, but its movement's restricted quite a bit by her long hair (which hangs down nearly to her knees). She has what may be ball jointed shoulders, but I'm not quite sure. They kind of look like ball joints, but don't move like them. She has pin elbow joints, and mid forearm joints. No wrist joints for some reason. Maybe that would have made her wrists too bulky? 

She has an unusual ball jointed waist (that allows it to twist and bend forward) and has hip, mid thigh, knee and ankle joints. Unfortunately all the  articulation below her waist is completely useless as her less are enclosed inside her rubbery plastic gown. Why they went to all the trouble to add all that articulation when it can't ever be utilized, I have no idea.

It's a pretty good likeness of Yvonne DeCarlo; especially in the eyes and lips. 

Lily comes with a grandfather clock accessory, complete with the wisecracking raven that lives inside (see below for a pic of all the accessories).

Herman, Lily and Grandpa all sported pale green makeup like this on the show. I always wondered about that. Why go to all the trouble of painting them green when the series was filmed in black and white? Maybe they did color tests and found that green looked best on film, who knows?

Next is Grandpa Munster, as played by veteran actor Al Lewis. 

Even though everyone always calls him Grandpa Munster, that's not his real name. He's Lily's father after all, so his family name couldn't be the same as Herman's. According to Grandpa, his name is actually Sam Dracula (!).

The Munsters was the second time Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis worked together on a TV series. They both starred in 1961's Car 54 Where Are You? (which you should try and track down, as it's a surprisingly funny show!). 

It's a decent sculpt of Grandpa; I can definitely see Al Lewis in there. Oddly enough in the pilot episode, Lewis' makeup included a long prosthetic nose. If ever there was a man who didn't need a fake nose, it was Al Lewis.

There's quite a bit of detail in Grandpa's sculpt, especially in his tuxedo. You can't quite see it here, but they even added a fabric texture to his vest!

The dark green wash they used to bring out the detail in his face looks harsher here in extreme closeup; again this isn't as evident and obvious in person.

Grandpa wins the prize in the accessories department, as he comes with a table, a test tube rack, five flasks, a stand with large globe and three books (see below for a pic of all the accessories).

Grandpa came with a piece of clear plastic tubing so you could attach his pet bat Igor to his back to simulate flight. Unfortunately the tubing was way too short-- when I attached it  Igor was hidden behind Grandpa's head. So I used one of the numerous wire twist ties in the package to fashion my own crude, but effective bat-holder.

What's up with Grandpa's left hand, you ask? I don't know. Maybe it's supposed to be like an "Aha!" or "Eureka!" kind of pose. It's taking all my strength to not suggest it's a "Pull my finger" pose. Damn, I just mentioned it!

Grandpa comes with two right hands, one in a grasping position so he can hold his various test tubes and whatnot, and one hand holding his cigar. I'm happy but very surprised that they included the cigar hand. It's very rare to see a smoking toy these days; the Million Moms have seen to that. Because as we all know, if a kid sees a toy of a vampire smoking a cigar, they'll run right out and take up the habit, amirite?

Next up is Marilyn, the Munster's niece, as played by Beverly Owen and Pat Priest.

Owen originated the role, but left after just fourteen episodes and was replaced by Priest for the rest of the run.

Marilyn was Lily's sister's daughter, and even though she was appeared to be a striking beauty to the audience, the Munster family saw her as "plain" and feared she'd never land a husband.

Marilyn has all the same articulation as her Aunt Lily, with the addition of an ab crunch joint. In fact she's got quite an impressive six pack going on there! Why would they sculpt a woman's stomach like that?

The ab crunch joint, while not really necessary, is fairly well integrated into the sculpt and doesn't stand out quite as bad as those of the figures in the recent Batman TV series line. See Mattel? It's possible to ad that joint without it looking so obvious.

Her ankles look a bit wonky here and are way too thick for an attractive young woman like Marilyn. I suppose it's a matter of engineering and they just couldn't make them any smaller (for the record, if you peek under Lily's dress she has the same thick ankles. What? Like you weren't thinking of looking under her dress).

Marilyn comes in a two pack with her nephew Eddie Munster. There are two accessories in the pack, but they're both seem like they'd be much more appropriate for Eddie, so poor Marilyn comes up short in that department.

Her sculpt is a reasonable facsimile of Marilyn; maybe they were going for some kind of morph between Beverly Owen and Pat Priest? Her left eye looks like it's slightly higher than her right, as if the stamping machine wasn't quite lined up right. Maybe that's not a mistake-- maybe that's the way Pat Priest's eyes really looked (like Shannon Doherty's)?

Bear in mind that you're seeing these figures here much bigger than their actual size. All these little flaws aren't noticeable in person, especially if you have eyes like mine.

Last up is Eddie Munster, as played by Butch Patrick.

Naturally Eddie's a bit shorter than the other figures, which is as it should be since he's a boy. He seems a little too tall to my eyes though, but that's a minor quibble. 

Eddie has a ball jointed head, ball jointed shoulders, pin elbow joints and wrist articulation. He turns at the waist and has hip, mid thigh, knee and ankle articulation.

It's an OK likeness to Eddie I suppose, but doesn't seem quite as good as the other family members. Again it does look better in person than in this closeup.

There's a ton of detail in Eddie's Lord Fauntleroy costume. They even sculpted fabric detail in his knee socks! Excellent! 

The action figure kind of looks like it's wearing novelty Billy Bob Teeth. At first I thought it was just a case of bad sculpting, but believe it or not, that's how Eddie's teeth really looked on the show! I think what we're looking at are werewolf fangs on either side of his giant kid front baby teeth. Blame Butch Patrick, not Diamond Select.

Eddie comes with two accessories: his ever-present Woof Woof stuffed toy and a collar for his pet spot.

Woof Woof sports a surprising amount of detail, especially since he's only about two inches high. Sadly he won't stand up here, and I had to stick putty to the bottom of his foot to get him to stand long enough to snap a photo.

I wanted a Woof Woof like that so badly when I was a kid...

As promised, here's a shot of the various accessories that come with the figures. The grandfather clock (with raven) comes with Lily, the studded dog collar (which I just noticed is upside down!) comes with Eddie, and everything else comes with Grandpa.

Speaking of the giant dog collar, supposedly each figure in Series 2 will come with a piece to build the Munster's famous staircase that houses Eddie's pet dragon Spot lives under. Cool!

As an incentive to buy all five figures, each one came with a bonus piece. When assembled, the pieces form Herman's electric easy chair.

The chair's very well detailed and sculpted with a ton of simulated wood and metal details. It even includes little fake leather arm and leg straps!

Best of all Herman can actually sit in the chair. Amazing! You wouldn't believe how many times I've bought an action figure that comes with a chair but can't actually sit in it.

All in all not a bad set. Decent likenesses and articulation, plus tons of accessories. If you're a fan of the series I highly recommend them!

Bring on Series Two!

4 comments:

  1. Nice review on these figs, Bob. I vicariously collect through your purchases. All the fun and I don't have to dust them! The Munsters remains one of my favorite childhood shows. Even today, when I hear that theme song, it brings a wash of nostalgia and a smile.

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  2. Thanks, Bear! I have all my action figures on display in a spare bedroom in my house. I've found that if I keep the door shut, they don't get dusty. Dust is composed mostly of human skin particles (yech!) so if I keep the door shut, no dust gets in. Some of the stuff has been on display for 10 years now and still isn't dusty.

    Plus by keeping all the toys in one room, it makes it look like a grown-up lives in my house.

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  3. Where did you find these? I have been looking for some like this?

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  4. Well, it's been four years since they came out, so it's unlikely you'll be able to find them in any brick & mortar stores. I'd suggest searching online toy stores, or the old standby ebay.

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