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Sideshow Silver Screen Edition Frankenstein
Sideshow Silver Screen Edition Frankenstein
This year marks the 75th anniversary of Universal's Frankenstein. Three quarters of a century have passed since that seminal debut, but the legacy is an enduring one: So definitive and standard-setting was the 1931 film that Mary Shelley's creation forever became synonymous with the morose, flat-domed, electrode-ridden creature as portrayed by its star, Boris Karloff.
Sideshow Collectibles has taken their successful line of Premium Format vintage monsters and given each the "Silver Screen Edition" treatment, emulating the subjects in their monochromatic film turns—as they were "meant" to be seen, a case could be made. These grey scale figures are available only as site exclusives and in a very limited production run.
The attributes of Premium Format are a natural fit for Frankenstein: At quarter scale, the statuesque Monster translates to well over 20 inches in height, carving out quite imposing a silhouette. If you have kept up on your Sideshow Collectibles vernacular then you shall know by now that the Premium Format figures (PF) incorporate sculpted polystone alongside fabric tailoring as a norm. Here, it is the head/neck, hands, and forearms which constitute the trio of sculpted elements.
Capping the figure is simply one of the finest renditions of the Karloff Frankenstein you are likely to find in a collectible. Courtesy of sculptor Mat Falls, the portrait is bold and assertive, yet lacking none of the subtleties befitting of the creature. With the enlarged, crinkled brow, broad square cranium, and wax eyelids, the iconic elements of Universal makeup artist Jack Pierce's design are carefully represented. Closer examination reveals the flesh to contain an assortment of pores, wrinkles, and gashes. The cauterized scar tissue on the neck is a particularly impressive detail. Beneath the Monster lies the Man, and Karloff's distinctive features figure prominently beyond the cosmetic embellishments. Look to Sideshow's Hellboy PF to find a similarly excellent example of Mat's expertise in under-prosthetics portraits.
Those famous electrodes protrude from the neck in separately cast pieces. Often neglected in Frankenstein collectibles, especially those of a smaller scale, here the angled pins are included for accuracy. The hands are posed similarly to one another but each quite beautifully sculpted despite their grotesque nature. Dark paint in the crevices greatly enhance the dimensionality, giving life to the complex anatomy of skin, vein, and bone. Anchoring it all is a environmental base consisting of floorboards. Although it fits in with the aesthetic chosen for the PF monsters line (bases with unique settings appropriate to each subject), one can't help but feel it is rather lacking in the glamour department. The off-kilter positioning is also perplexing. On the positive side however, the base contains a fairly economical footprint and provides ample stability for the towering piece.
Real fabric garments envelope the remainder of the figure and is credited to the talented Greg Mowry of Geppetto Productions. Consisting of an understated ensemble—blazer, trousers, boots, and undershirt, all of which are black or a very dark shade of grey. Details like proper sized coat buttons and a surprisingly functional breast pocket maintain the scale nicely, though in certain areas the fabric can read thick—most evident, perhaps, on the lapel. While the fit is generally good, certain areas could benefit from tweaking: The collar of the shirt should be higher, most clear reference photos show the shirt to begin just below the Adam's apple. The sleeves of the jacket also ride too far down, with no practical way of rolling them up further up the arms and keeping them there. The effusive (but appropriate) use of dark shades mean texture variations are relied upon to help break up the monotony: The blazer is wool-like and lightly weathered, brown satin lining inside the sleeves, while the snug undershirt is elastic and sock-like in weave. A crinkle effect runs the entire length of the trousers, employing dust-like coloration to accentuate the creases. And finally, the boots are softly flocked as advertised.
As the main selling point for the Silver Screen Editions, the approach to color is a logical focus. The monochromatic concept is certainly one fraught with potentially complex complications. What degree to which the values contrast and mimic light and shadow lies the tricky path in which the design team must tread. Indeed, darker tones are applied at the places that indicate shadow- under the brow and around the eyes, in the creases of the cheek, and under the protrusion of the mouth, as well as large sections of the neck. Yet the application never crosses into the extreme. Frankenstein himself is largely bathed in grey mid-tones. The result of this is that the piece is undeniably drab in most soft or diffused lighting conditions. But there's the rub: If you truly want to help fulfill its museum quality potential, you've got to pony up on your end of the bargain: Light it right and the sculpture positively comes ALIVE!
On a more practical level, the paint application is clean and crisp-where the hair meets the forehead is a particular fine example. Attentiveness in this aspect ensures that one is hard pressed to find an errant mark. Above being merely different from the full color release, it is also a decided improvement thanks to its improved refinement.
The pose-able elements of earlier PF's like Frankenstein often struck me as awkward remnants of its 'figure-meets-statue' lineage. Those accustomed to the diverse flexibility of 'action figures' will find the movement offered here extremely limited, while fidgeting aimlessly with your expensive collectible proves to be unsettling regardless of your collecting background. With no provided instructions, the box art becomes the logical guide as you begin to pose your figure for display.
There are large and stunning photographs of the Frankenstein figure on the box, though it must be a prototype of some sort. Here's why: Almost immediately you'll find the angles of the arms impossible to accurately replicate as shown. Upon closer scrutiny, one sees also that the head tilt itself differs, along with other parts of the posture, and even the tailoring (see the earlier mentioned sleeves).... that is to say—in a roundabout manner, that this prototype is not only noticeably different in comparison: It is also the way it should look. Why the discrepancy?
Ensuring that the brilliant qualities in the PF prototypes survive the mass production process can only be an immensely challenging task, even for a company as skilled and experienced as Sideshow. As the PF concept matured, the figures themselves have also continually improved. Increasingly, the statuesque side of the genes took hold and as a result the more recent efforts have eschewed the semi-poseability of the bodies in favor of full fledged polystone. A solution for the better—and one that would have alleviated some of the issues present in Frankenstein in hindsight. To Sideshow's credit, the images on the product page of their site are in fact updated photos that accurately represent the production model.
On the strength of its fantastic portrait alone this piece should find immediate appeal among classic monster aficionados. Despite the room for improvement, the Premium Format Silver Screen Edition Frankenstein remains an accomplished and worthwhile high-end collectible that towers figuratively and literally over others of its ilk. And until Sideshow themselves decide to revisit this most misunderstood of monsters, that will likely stand unchanged.
Unfortunately, all 275 pieces of this SSE PF have sold through as of this writing. Signing up for the waitlist on the Sideshow site is never a bad idea, and likewise, if you are keen on starting a collection of Silver Screen Edition premium formats you'll want to snag the others before they follow suit.