The Wolf Man Tin Wind-Up
Review by Sanjeev
In 1941, The Wolf Man launched Lon Chaney Jr.'s career out from under the shadow of his father, Lon Chaney Sr. (of The Phantom of the Opera fame)...even if it did sorta doom him to generally b-grade horror flicks...
Still, The Wolf Man is a classic and Lon Chaney Jr.'s performance nothing short of excellent. There's no question that this film and the legacy it created--of merchandise as well as sequels--make the titular monster, the Wolf Man, one of the most influential characters of all time.
The toy reviewed here was produced in 1991 by a company called "Robot House", a US-based Univeral Monsters licensee. I've come to learn from Jay at Robot Island, a dealer of fine tin wind-ups, that Robot House was granted the license to the monsters and then contracted Billiken Shokai of Japan to manufacture the toys. Billiken, perhaps more famous for their high-quality, realistic vinyl kaiju/tokusatsu kits and figures, are NO slackers when it comes to tin. And that quality clearly shows in these toys.
Along with the Wolf Man, they produced Frankenstein's monster, the Mummy, and the Gill-Man (the Creature from the Black Lagoon). In 1992, the company was renamed to "Mike Company", when they produced a similar Dracula wind-up with a slighty different style of packaging.
Now, I have to make the disclaimer that I don't normally "collect" tin walkers. As I'm fond of saying, I "buy what I like"...and that tends to be a little bit of everything. I only have about 10 tins and I bought them simply because I thought they were beautiful toys--they're not vintage or anything...and I really don't know much about the tin "MARKET".
I'm not too sure what constitutes an "outstanding" tin because I simply haven't seen enough to be able to judge what "outstanding" even is! The first four monsters will run you around $40-50 on the aftermarket (though the Mummy is becoming more and more scarce); Dracula, unfortunately, will run you over $100 easily. I don't know if that's a "lot" for a non-vintage (well...16 years old) tin walker, but I will say that based on the sheer quality of these pieces, it's worth it.
The lithographed print on the tin parts is flawless. The style is clearly not meant to be photo-realistic, but at the same time, it's not too cartoonish or exaggerated like a caricature. The details are great--like the folds and tears in the clothing, the seams and buttons on the shirt, and the belt.
The other thing I love about the lithography on the tin of this piece is the feet. All of these figures have the same sort of blocky feet, but check out the great detail of the print here:
The other thing to talk about regarding these toys is the vinyl parts: the head and hands. These parts are hollow and very lightweight, but they are also very stiff unlike your typical soft vinyl.
Of all of Robot House's Universal Monsters tins, I probably find the Wolf Man the ugliest. They, of course, took some liberties with the colors they chose--I would have gone with a much darker brown overall to match the look of the film, and the super-blood-shot eyes are a bit much for me.
Still, once again, the quality of the paint applications is quite high. The head is very nicely dry-brushed to bring out the sculpt. I also kinda like how his head is slightly tilted backwards like he's sniffing the air as he stalks through the woods!
The best part, though, is the hands. You'll hear me say this for pretty much all of Robot House's tins. The detail here is superb. The dry-brushing with a dark basecoat really makes them look all grimy and killy!
A nice touch Robot House did specifically with the Wolf Man was that they added an extra vinyl piece for his shirt collar--the head rotates separately from it. Not anything ground-breaking, but it demonstrates a real respect for the subject and a desire to make a quality toy.
Anyway, not a whole lot more to say about this piece. I think a video review wouldn't help too much seeing as how it's a tin walker. You wind it up...and he walks as the arms swing back and forth. The winding action is nice and smooth and the movement is brisk--if a tad noisy.
Clearly, the appeal of this toy is the subject and how great it looks. The wind-up gimmick is almost secondary!
|Posted 14 October, 2007 - 19:59 by Sanjeev