It’s hard to remember nowadays, since they only do Halo and sports stuff anymore, but McFarlane Toys was a real trailblazer back in the day. You’ve seen a lot already in my retro reviews, but now we’re taking a look way back – before even the Spawn Movie stuff!
McFarlane Monsters was an awesome experiment – license-free horror stuff. They first made two series of small-scale play sets before graduating to 6″ figures. The larger toys soon departed from the original concept, resulting in things like Horrific Wizard of Oz, Twisted Christmas, and historical people. But we’re looking way back at the beginning now.
The Mummy play set is exactly what it sounds like – original toys based on the classic monster. And I know, a mummy doesn’t seem very intimidating – they’re just slower, dried zombies, right? Well, if you saw the original Universal movie, you’d remember that The Mummy was really a resurrected sorcerer. Before the movie, the vague concept of an Egyptian curse was there, but not much more. So, does this set reflect the monster’s more arcane origins? Let’s see!
The Mummy play set, like the others in its line, comes in a HUGE blister pack! And it looks awesome, with themed design and artwork, and text advertising every single thing about the set and showing how it’s supposed to look, but I have one big complaint. Because of the nature of the blister, the plastic bubble can barely hold its own weight, and age is sure to make it fall apart. Considering that this toy came out in 1997, I’d say that’s a pretty fair concern.
For its time, everything in here is awesome. And by modern standards… it still is! I’ll discuss the two “main” figures and the basic terrain here, and leave the sarcophagus, snake, jars, scepter, and staff for the accessories section.
The Mummy figure is the set’s centerpiece, and it shows. Its sculpt is extremely detailed, as a dried corpse with the loose, tattered remnants of his wrappings still hanging on. Only one remnant of his original priestly trappings remains – an ornate belt adorned with the Eye of Horus. His right arm is ramrod-straight while his left is bent at the elbow, giving him a nicely asymmetrical look, and the hunch in his back adds the perfect lurch to his posture. The Mummy’s jaw is half-hanging off, just adding to his slanted, uneven appearance. His sculpt is mostly hard plastic, with rubber used for the wrappings and head – this is nice, as it lets the figure look great but still have decent poseability. Innovation like that is what McFarlane used to be known for, before the whole company went insane.
The Anubis statue is an entirely different beast, with a soft, weathered, pitted sculpt. The details are smoother, making it look worn by millennia of dust and age. It wears an ornate headdress, but the only sharp details on the sculpt are where the stone has cracked, chipped, or broken. The softness was an intentional move, and I like the effect – it really lends a feeling of age to the whole design, and helps the statue blend in with the background when it is locked in place against the wall. Its arms are posed to hold its weapon, which does make it look awkward when left empty-handed.
The set itself is basically divided into two rooms – the snake pit, and the statue chamber. The snake pit is two-tiered, with a recess for the sarcophagus on the top floor, and a retractable wooden platform separating the pit itself. The snake pit’s floor is sandy and messy, littered with bones, and the back wall has a hole to slide the snake itself through. The recess up top has ample room for the Mummy’s sarcophagus, though it can overbalance if you’re not careful. The statue chamber provides the biggest amount of floor space, and also has a few small shelves for the jars, a relief of Ra in the background, and a special recess for the statue. The play set seems to lack floor space, though it makes up for it by being pretty wide and vertical.
With the Mummy play set, the designers had the difficult task of using mostly bland earth tones, but still making the set exciting. And, just like the sculptural aspects, the paint really holds up even by today’s standards. The set is mostly the light beige color of sand, with certain details in blue or gray, and some extra detailing for dirt, rocks, or bones. The Anubis statue matches the terrain – as it should – and some other things, such as the sarcophagus, are painted appropriately differently. The Mummy itself is painted in a totally different color scheme – muddy corpse-gray for his skin, lighter, dingy off-white for the bandages, gold and blue for his belt, and bright green for his eyes. The effect works very well with surprisingly little slop, contrasting the aged, weathered appearance of his body with that eerie, intelligent light in his eyes.
ARTICULATION: The Mummy: ***, Anubis: **1/2, Misc. Stuff: ***1/2
The Mummy moves at the Big Five, and nowhere else – swivel head, shoulders, and hips. At the time this toy came out, that was the standard. It’s a little sad that we didn’t get anything more, but this was a different time. It’s also more than McFarlane would have given it a few years later, so there’s that.
The Anubis Statue only moves at its shoulders and waist. It is very stiff, and can really only take one or two poses – the packaging calls its swivel waist an “action feature.” Although it doesn’t really need to move more, this does feel somewhat lacking. It also takes some work to position its arms right to hold that staff, and swivel wrists would have gone a long way.
As for the rest of the set, the retractable platform slides easily but feels secure. The sarcophagus has a surprisingly complex double hinge, which allows for a lot of good open and half-open poses, as well as helping it balance, and works pretty well for what it needs to be. The snake is bendy, but feels kind of stiff, and you will probably leave yours fairly straight. Overall, the set is roughly what you could expect from the time period, though probably a little better than it sounds on paper.
Okay, it’s time to discuss the miscellany! The sarcophagus is the set’s biggest accessory, taking up more floor space than either figure! The sculptors (I believe it was the Four Horsemen) didn’t skimp on the details, and it is painted and sculpted both inside and out. The exterior is pretty standard for an Egyptian sarcophagus, which is exactly what’s needed, while the inside is decorated with hieroglyphics, or a scene out of the Book of the Dead, or something that I don’t really know. But it looks genuine! It’s also big enough to hold the Mummy, both with and without his scepter. The sarcophagus does have a tendency to overbalance and fall over when opened, but you can position the lid to keep it steady.
The Mummy’s scepter is a traditional shepherd’s crook – Pharaoh traditionally held one of those as well as a threshing flail, symbolizing that he was lord over agriculture as well as the city. Random trivia: That threshing flail? The same type of tool that later became nunchaku in Japan! Anyway, it fits in the Mummy’s right hand easily, and he can hold it however. It’s not too exciting, but it looks good and does what it needs to do. The Anubis statue’s staff is huge, weathered, and ornate, and also fits in its hands well enough. I like its pseudo-Ankh design, and I think it fits in with the rest of the set.
The play set also comes with two tiny jars, likely where the Mummy’s organs are kept. They are made of hard rubber, look good, and fit nicely on two little shelves in the set. Again, this isn’t anything special, but they are exactly what the set needed.
And finally, there is the snake pit’s two-headed snake. Something about the sculpt and paint seem awkward and off, somehow, out of place next to the rest of the set. It’s bad, it’s just not as good as any of the other pieces.
This set will run you anywhere from $10-$30. Obviously, it’s a better deal on the lower end of the spectrum, but I can’t complain too much either way. $30 does feel a little harsh, though this is one of the better play sets I’ve seen. It’s certainly one of McFarlane’s best.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
This set is old, so watch the moving joints, beware the bendy snake, and generally make sure that everything is in working order.
WHERE TO BUY:
All of my minor nitpicks are due to this thing’s age – or rather, when it came out. For 1997, this set is incredible. By today’s standards, it’s still a pretty big bang for your buck. Nowadays, with the rising costs of plastic, you would be lucky to get one figure and half the terrain for the price, and the paint wouldn’t be nearly as good. I can live with diminished articulation and a misshapen snake in exchange for a really, really awesome Mummy diorama. And what’s more, McFarlane managed to keep the Mummy’s magical origins, avoiding the trap of making it just another zombie. Cheers, and Happy Halloween!