- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Diamond Select Toys pays tribute to some legendary ghouls and creatures with its Universal Monsters Select line of deluxe action figures. These almost 8-inch-tall gems tap into the rich history of the famed Hollywood studio’s movie library of iconic horror stars.

Besides earlier releases tied to representations of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Claude Rains as the Invisible Man, the latest lineup includes the Metaluna Mutant from the 1955 sci-fi film “This Island Earth,” and an ode to the star of the 1925 film that brought author Gaston Leroux’s famed phantom to life through the immortal work of actor Lon Chaney.

Figure profile: (Paraphrased from the box) The Paris opera house is haunted. A shadowy figure watches every show from Box 5, and angry letters from the Phantom demand that understudy Christine be given the lead role. If his demands are not met, the season will end … in death.

Accessories: Dubbed the “Man of a Thousand Faces” for his prowess with make-up, Chaney’s portrayal of the disfigured Erik shocked movie audiences. He is fondly remembered with this frightening fiend that boasts 16 points of articulation.

Except for a white shirt, the Phantom wears all black highlighted by a soft plastic morning coat with tails and cravat. His notable facial sculpt bears a slight resemblance to Chaney, but it is more exaggerated and cartoony for my tastes.

He gets an extra hand to grip a book, a simple grated stone floor stand, the sheet music to his unfinished opera and a large organ prop with no backing.

The organ certainly adds a level of role-play fun for the fan, but where’s the bench for the Phantom to sit on or a removable mask to cover his gruesome face?

An epic scene from the movie finds Erik seated and playing away as Christine sneaks up behind him to pull off his mask. It would have been nice to set up a way to relive the moment with the Universal Select Phantom.

Price: $19.99

Read all about it: Let’s turn the way-back machine to 1988 and remember Eternity Comics one-shot color issue of “The Phantom of the Opera” (starting at $1.99 in excellent condition) based on Leroux’s written work. Interested collectors will need their best negotiating and sleuthing powers to scour eBay and comic book shops to find a copy featuring an eerie cover displaying the star as more zombie-looking than resembling his movie counterpart.

What’s it worth: It’s great that Diamond Select Toys offers a new generation of fans the chance to appreciate awesome cinema legends such as “The Phantom of the Opera.”

For quality comparison’s sake, veteran collectors will remember the 7-inch Phantom of the Opera Classic edition with more realistic facial features put out by the fledgling action-figure-maker-turned-collectibles-distributor Sideshow Toys back in 1999 that included a simple base and mask.

Either figure makes for a great memory of the days when Universal Studios’ monsters ruled the box office.

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