In 1999 Elsa Lanchester, eponymous star of Universal Studios’ Bride of Frankenstein, received the action figure treatment courtesy of Sideshow Toy.
Between 1999 and 2001 Sideshow Toy released 15 action figures featuring the stars of Universal Studios classic horror movies of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, and the monsters they portrayed. Included in the collection were figures based on Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, and The Phantom of the Opera, amongst others. The toys were released in five waves of three figures, and this Bride of Frankenstein figure was part of series two.
Bride of Frankenstein was released by Universal in 1935 and was a direct sequel to 1931’s Frankenstein. Both films were directed by James Whale, who injected the sequel with more than its fair share of sly humour. The film deals with the tormented Baron Frankenstein (Colin Clive) creating a mate for Boris Karloff‘s monster, with the aid of his mentor Dr. Pretorius (played with delicious glee by Ernest Thesiger). Lanchester appeared in the film in two roles: in the film’s opening sequence as Frankenstein author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and then again at the climax as the Bride herself. The film was a big hit for Universal and it went on to spawn another sequel, 1939‘s Son of Frankenstein.
This action figure was based on a sculpt by Oluf W. Hartvigson, who also designed the bulk of the toys from this Sideshow Toy collection. The figure shipped in a cardboard-backed blister pack, the reverse of which featured a short summary of the film, as well as promoting the others toys in the collection available at that time. Bride of Frankenstein measured 9½ inches in height (when placed on its base), and featured 12 points of articulation. The Bride came with several accessories: a white gown; a stand that incorporated a nameplate that featured the film’s legend, and a second, alternate head (the first head depicted the Bride in full makeup and fright wig, white the second showed her swathed in bandages).
Although most of Hartvigson’s work in this collection was of a high standard, unfortunately this figure counts a rare miss for both the artist and the collection — it just doesn’t work. The non-bandaged head bears little resemblance to Lanchester (see below), and the robe is very difficult to fit over the toy’s body (even with the head removed), and due to its large size it just doesn’t sit right on the figure. It’s also covers most of the toy’s body, which is a shame as it also obscures Hartvigson’s work. (It’s interesting to note that the image of the gown on the back of the packing bears little resemblance to the actual one supplied).
On the plus side, the paint job was accurate and featured some nice colour shading on the bandages (more’s the pity then that it’s all but covered by the gown). When the Bride was originally released I didn’t actually buy it at the time because I wasn’t massively impressed with it. When I purchased it recently (more for the sake of being a completist than anything else), and I saw it in the flesh (as it were) it just reminded me why I hadn’t bought it in the first place — it just isn’t as good as the others in this collection.
As with other action toys in this collection, Sideshow Toy also released a black-and-white ‘Silver Screen‘ variant of the figure, but as I’ve stated in my other reviews for this series, I’m not a big fan of these black-and-white editions as they look very drab — I much prefer the colour versions.
If anybody’s interested in purchasing their own Bride of Frankenstein toy, they can still be found on eBay, but it’s a rare action figure to track down — not, I suspect, because it originally sold-out but more because nobody actually bought one at the time, and therefore there just aren’t that many left in circulation. I picked up mine BNIB for just under £20, but I’ve seen this figure being offered for a lot more than that, and I just can’t recommend it at those prices — frankly it’s not worth more than the 20 quid I paid.
I’ve stated in the past that I’m a huge fan of Sideshow Toy’s Universal Studio Monsters action figure range, and it stands as one of my all-time favourite toy collections. On the whole the range is of a high quality, and the collection have stood pride of place on my shelf for almost 20 years now. Sadly, Bride of Frankenstein is the exception that proves the rule, and it counts as a rare misfire for this collection. One for die-hard Bride fans — or collection completists — only, I’m afraid.