For genre fans, one of the best lines of action figures released last year was Aztech Toyz's way cool "Silent Screamers." The figures, based on classic silent-era horror movie icons such as the original Nosferatu and Dr. Caligari (from THE CABINET OF...), were as intricately detailed as the best of McFarlane's offerings, but also benefited from representing great, timeless characters from a period of cinema when Happy Meal marketing tie-ins hadn't yet been invented.
Alas, Aztech folded shortly after the release of the figures, and for a time it seemed that the planned second series of Screamers might never happen. Fortunately though, some of the people who helped make Aztech what it was have managed to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the former company and have formed a new toy group called Mezco. Not surprisingly, the Silent Screamers' second wave was one of the first lines released by Mezco Toyz.
The flagship figure of the new Silent Screamers (dubbed the "Reel Masters" line) would have to be "Maria from METROPOLIS." Based on the character from Fritz Lang's visionary 1926 epic, Maria is one of the original robots of sci-fi. Sleek and sexy, Lang's Maria had the metallic finish of C-3PO but the curves of Britney Spears she was every sci-fi fan's dream before there was such a thing as a sci-fi fan.
Like Aztech's figures, Mezco's are exaggerated variations on the original characters. Maria, for example, measures in at about 7 ½ inches high a fairly standard size for these figures. But consider that her chunky, platform boots account for about an inch of that, and her legs another five - this Maria is a robotic supermodel! And don't even get me started on those Double D's with a chest like that, it's no wonder Maria was able to start a rebellion among the worker class so easily in the film. I'd overthrow my oppressors in a second for a chick like that.
So traditionalists should stand warned that Mezco does take liberties with their designs. But while their figures tend to be hyper-stylized, they still manage to convey the original look of the character as well. With Maria, for example, there is no doubt who the doll is supposed to be, and other elements of her overhaul are simply the result of the transition from black and white to color. Whereas the robot was gray on film, she is now metallic silver, with some purple and blue highlights.
Maria has around 13 points of articulation (in her neck, shoulders, wrists, hips and knees), though unfortunately her fingers are stiff and immobile. She also comes with an "industrial throne and docking station" on which she can sit; faux-fiber optic cables stream from the chair and plug into its base, and a couple of these cables also run out of the back of the robot's head. As with all of the figures, a "collectible trading card" is included in the package.
The second figure in the line is "Edison's Frankenstein" from Thomas Edison's little-seen 1910 film version of the Shelley novel.[IMG2R] This creature, who bears no resemblance to Karloff's monster or any other variation on the character, was played by an actor named Charles Ogle as a Quasimodo-type thing, hunchbacked and horrible. Not surprisingly, Mezco has taken great liberties with the design, and in fact this may be the Silent Screamer that is most unlike the character it is based upon.
One of the most noticeable aspects of the figure that differentiates it from its cinematic inspiration is the use of color. The monster has bluish purple skin and plenty of garishly red gashes and bloodstains on its exposed head and arms. The brown trousers and shirt (with tannish, plastic-molded fur) also serve to emphasis the departure from the character's black and white origins. The original line of Screamers from Aztech did offer both color and sepia-toned versions of the dolls, with the latter matching their monochromed inspirations much closer. Mezco has chosen to go only with color versions of the figures, thereby fully embracing the comic book stylizations of the Screamers line.
Edison's creature, as sculpted here, is a snarling, one-eyed thing with huge claws and a hunchback. Oddly, the figure is missing the wild hair that Ogle wore in the actual film and instead is completely bald. It stands about seven inches tall, and features 10 points of articulation though its legs don't move. This is owing to the fact that the figure is quite top-heavy, and essentially needs its legs to be in the exact pose it was sculpted in so that it can hold itself up. The monster also comes with a laboratory base, alchemy equipment, books and a skull. The requisite collectible trading card rounds out the package.
The last of the figures is "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde," based on the 1920 filming of the oft-told Robert Louis Stevenson story.[IMG3L] There were many silent films made about old Jekyll and his alter ego in fact, but Mezco has based its toy on one of the most popular the version that starred John Barrymore. Still, this Silent Screamer is bound to be the least recognized by most genre fans, who will certainly know METROPOLIS and NOSFERATU better than an early version of Jekyll & Hyde.
Having said that, the figure is actually very nicely sculpted. Like the Caligari doll from the first line of Silent Screamers, this is actually a two-for-one package. The giant Mr. Hyde (well, 7 ½ inches) is all that can be seen when the figure is still in its box, but once it's removed from the plastic all one needs to do is split the thing down its seam in order to reveal Dr. Jekyll hidden inside. Hence, an easy transformation from man to monster. The Caligari piece offered the "sane" doctor on the outside and a hideous "crazy" version on the inside, and I for one am glad to see that Mezco has continued with this nifty idea.
The Hyde figure, being basically a shell, consists only of a big trench coat, head and claws. As such, it offers little articulation though it's nicely detailed and horrific in a suitably sinister way. Ditto Jekyll, who obviously is much smaller in stature and dressed in proper 18th century garb. He has a slightly less devious expression on his face though one wouldn't go so far as to say that he looks pleasant. While Hyde's facial features look quite like the character in the actual film, the Jekyll version is, at best, only an approximation of Barrymore. Additionally, this set comes with a diorama-type base that doubles as a laboratory for Jekyll or a street scene for Hyde. Miscellaneous lab equipment is included, as is another trading card.
All in all, Mezco has done a fine job of maintaining the excellent standards set by their predecessors. While some aspects of the sculptures in this second series aren't quite on the same level as the original figures, for the most part this is a very well done line. A deluxe set based on Paul Wegener's THE GOLEM is due out soon, and looks like it may be the best of the Silent Screamers yet.
Reviewed Format: Action Figures
Distributor: Mezco Toyz
Retail Price: $12.99