Life In Plastic: RETRO TOY REVIEW: The Visitor (Stan Winston Creature Features)

TheVisitor02

If you’ve seen a monster in a movie at any point in the last thirty years, you’ve probably seen Stan Winston’s handiwork.  Really, he was the MAN!  You name it – Terminator, Predator, Monster Squad, and even Avatar – nobody could make animatronic monsters like him!  Sadly, Stan Winston died of cancer a few years ago, but his work remains a longstanding testament to how awesome monsters are.

Back in the early 2000s, the decision was made to remake a bunch of black and white B-movies, and give Stan Winston total creative control over the monsters (because STAN WINSTON is the man!). These were called Stan Winston’s Creature Features. NONE of them had anything in common with the original movies (The She-Creature, The Day The World Ended, Earth Vs. The Spider, I Was A Teenage Caveman, and How To Make A Monster). They aired on Cinemax (I think), and they were all… kind of stupid. I’ve seen Spider and How to Make A monster, and… ergh. The Day The World Ended is the best of those three, and it’s kind of mediocre. The original movie was about post-apocalytptic survivors in an irradiated landscape trying to survive a mutated monster and their own squabbles.  The remake, well…

…In a remote redneck town, a new school counselor moves in, only to find that there is one problem student – this little boy who’s a nice kid, but is always bullied because he was adopted. the boy also swears that his real father is an alien. Suddenly, people start getting killed all around the town, and the counselor gets accused – but this is dropped when people see the alien monster (the same as the figure), and realize that it’s SOME KIND OF MONSTER. The boy insists that it’s his father! So, after the monster kills some people and the boy starts showing minor psychic powers, it turns out that his mother had psychic power and apparently was half-alein or maybe her husband was an alien or something, the movie didn’t make it clear. But the man who adopted the boy killed the mother, you see. So there’s a confrontation in the farmhouse, and the alien shows up, kills the adopted bad-dad, but then is nice and friendly to the boy, and goes home. The school counselor is implied to have adopted him by the end.  The monster suit is cool (it IS designed by Stan Winston), but you barely get to see it. You only really get a good look at the Visitor at the climax of the movie, but the lighting is poor and you don’t get many clear, lingering shots of it. But I’ll say this! Its head-tentacles have teeth on them, and it uses them to tear off at least one person’s face! The special effects for that look hilariously bad, though.  Okay, enough about the movie!

The movies got an action figure line – Stan Winston Creature Features, with each monster receiving the plastic treatment.  However bad the movies may have been, they do look like cool monsters, and they come with surpisingly elaborate diorama bases.  I own The Visitor from The Day The World Ended, because it’s awesome.

Visitor-Packaging

PACKAGING: ***

The picture looks awful because the plastic packaging has yellowed.  The packaging has yellowed because it was improperly stored.  With that out of the way, the Visitor comes in a HUGE blister pack!  You don’t really understand the scale until you see it.  The blister is even partially held in place with little metal grommets!  The package shows off the figure in the front, the other ones in the line in the back, and overall is pretty snazzy.  The pieces are held in with tape and twisty-ties, and it’s got instructions explaining which parts are bendy… but nothing about assembling the monster’s base!  That’s about it, though you’d probably rather want to take this baby out to display it properly.

TheVisitorEmerges

SCULPT: ***1/2

The Visitor’s sculpt is great, BUT… well, I’ll get to that in a moment.

First off, it’s a big, cyclopean, tentacled, spider-legged, ropy-armed, medusa-like octopus monster.  The design doesn’t FEEL particularly original, but I can’t think of any other toy that shares its unique look – it’s sort of a tribute to many B-Movies past and present.  From its tiny eye to its toothy grin to the rows of spider legs on its chest, this monster is quite creepy – I mean, come on, imagine giving it a hug!  Those legs would latch onto you, and the hug would go on forever and ever and ever…

TheVisitor-Chase

The figure is either hard plastic or soft rubber depending on the part, and the texture overall feels slimy and octopoid, as it should.  The chest legs are especially soft, which means that they won’t break by accident!  It’s a pity that the Visitor is so pre-posed, as it never actually crouched like this in the movie.  But then, it only stood up straight in the film, so if you can only have one pose, might as well try something dynamic.  The body texture is a little soft, especially around the hands, and the sculpt suffers a little bit – the suit ojn screen looked much better and had a lot more detail, which could have been achieved in 2002 when this figure was made.  Compare it to something like one of the SIlent Screamers, and you’ll see what I mean.  That’s a little disappointing, but unless you really watch the movie, you won’t notice it.  But still… soft details and heavyt pre-posing cost this guy a star.  Other than that, he’s fantastic!

Visitor-LivingRoom

PAINT: ****

Muddy earth tones.  This whole thing is in muddy earth tones, and I like it!  It’s got several layers of brown, green, tan, and yellow, which combine to give the creature plenty of added realism.  It’s also got a few sharper details, especially around the face – the tentacles have a light tan underside, and its head and teeth are very well-painted.  The figure’s accessories also look incredible, but I’ll get to those later.

I really need to point out the great contrast between the Visitor’s muddy body and its clearly-defined face.  There is zero slop on this thing – and that’s not something you can really say anymore!  Where it needs to be muddy, it’s muddy.  Where it needs to be sharp, it’s absolutely sharp.  Even the teeth and gums are great, with no slop.  Compare it to just about anything Mattel or NECA puts out today, especially for this price point!

TheVisitor-Hanging

ARTICULATION: ***

This figure came out in the hieght of the McFarlane era, and thus it’s very, very pre-posed.  Really, it’s only got one “good” pose, though you can put it in a few.  So, why did I give this guy more than one or two stars?  Because of the bendy parts!

The Visitor has cut shins, hips, shoulders, one cut left elbow, and the head.  Its arms and head tentacles are also bendable!  I’m normally a little wary around bendy toys, but these seem fine.  The arms are surprisingly mobile, and the head tentacles are great!  Also, the arms pop out from the shoulders very easily, and it’s done in such a way that you don’t have to worry about stressing or breaking those joints no matter how much you play with the toy.  Unfortunately, one arm lacks an elbow, and all of its joints really only line up in a certain way – the cuts are very obvious everywhere, and it really only fits on its base in one way!  So the articulation is kind of a mixed bag, really.  You can give him a few poses, but you’ll probably stick with just one.

TheVisitor-FromAbove

ACCESSORIES: ****

The Visitor never used tools in the movie.  Or wore clothes.  Or gave any indication of intelligence whatsoever until it acted friendly to the boy and teleported away.  So, while most toy companies would be content to give this guy nothing or just a tiny base, this figure has one of the best bases I’ve seen!  You get a muddy, rocky piece of land with two big tree branches crisscrossing over it, and five loose sticks to arrange however you want.  Aside from the pegs for the Visitor’s hands and feet, they look realistic.  Too realistic.  So realistic that I didn’t want to bring those little twigs outside for the outdoor photos, because I couldn’t tell them apart from real ones!  Well, without touching them – they’re flexible plastic.  But WOW!  And of course, he can hold them.

TheVisitor-WieldingSticks

And since the whole thing is modular, you can take it apart and rearrange the pieces however you want for any other figures.  I am so going to use this when photographing toys!  The Visitor’s two feet plug into holes in the logs, and its right hand slips over the vertical branch (you might have to take off the arm first to slip it over right).  It’s firm enough that you can pick up the whole thing by the Visitor’s head!  It looks great, and I love this toy’s base!  It totally makes up for its pre-posed nature, and turns this thing into something that’s living-room worthy!

TheVisitor-Ambush

VALUE:  ***

It should cost you $20-$30 on-line, and the shipping might be a lot because the figure is big and heavy.  In 2002, this would have been highway robbery.  Nowadays, every toy costs that much.  Just do your best to find a good deal.

TheVisitor-Climbing

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

As with any bendy toy, be careful not to snap the wire or tear the rubber.  But other than that… every part of this figure that COULD be fragile is soft and pliable, and it’s just overall very sturdy.  I’d be careful not to lose those sticks, though.

TheVisitor-Face

OVERALL: ****

Sure, it’s pre-posed and kind of limited and has a softer sculpt than on-screen, and the movie itself kind of sucked, but… I can’t help it.  I love this dude!

Oh yeah, here’s a detail about the movie that I missed – the deaths!  It used its head tentacles to tear off one person’s face, shoved them into another man’s ears, and seemingly strangled/crushed the main bad guy.  So, yeah.  Watch out for those tendrils!  Stan Winston could have used some better tributes than this toy line, but now I’m interested in tracking down all of the figures, at LEAST for those bases!  The Teenage Caveman diorama alone would be great for my Fist of the North Star figures!

WHERE TO BUY:

Go look at eBay or Amazon, or maybe some online retailers.  Look, it’s an 11-year-old toy.  Them’s the breaks.

 TheVisitor01

4 responses to “Life In Plastic: RETRO TOY REVIEW: The Visitor (Stan Winston Creature Features)

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