Life In Plastic: Retro Review: Knock Renfield The Madman (Silent Screamers)

KnockBehindBars

Welcome to Part One of NOSFERATU WEEK at Life In Plastic!  Today and Friday will be dedicated to toys based on the greatest vampire movie ever made, Nosferatu!  Of course, since there are like three toys out there if you don’t count model kits, and I don’t own anything by Sideshow Collectibles… this means Silent Screamers.

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror) is a 1922 film directed by F. W. Murnau.  He had originally wanted to adapt Dracula to film, but couldn’t secure licensing rights from Bram Stoker’s estate… so he just ripped it off.  Dracula became Orlok, Jonathan Harker became Thomas Hutter, Mina became Ellen, Renfield became Knock, and so on.  Even the title, “Nosferatu,” came from a word in Dracula – a Romanian loan-word from  the Greek essentially meaning “plague-bearer” – and was almost the title of the original novel. Predictably, this resulted in a lawsuit, which Murnau lost, and every copy of the film was destroyed except for the print that had been sent to the United States.  Eventually Dracula came under public domain, and then Nosferatu itself, and it’s very easy to view this film in its full glory.  Nosferatu was not just the first Dracula movie, it was the first vampire movie – and the first anything to show sunlight as lethal to vampires.  Ever.  Dracula was just mildly inconvenienced by the sun, but it vaporized Orlok!  This is huge, on par with the full moon and silver bullet entering werewolf legends in the Lon Chaney Jr. movie!

Okay, back to the real world.  In the early 2000s, Aztech Toyz released Silent Screamers, a toy line of silent horror movie tributes – two characters from Nosferatu, two from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the Golem, the robot from Metropolis, and Edison’s Frankenstein.  This was an amazing way to sneak some culture into Toys R Us, and we were just in it for the monsters!  Knock Renfield The Madman is a poorly-named version of Knock, the Renfield character from Nosferatu.  His name was Knock, not Knock Renfield, or Renfield.  Mr. Knock, the realtor.

Knock-ScreenCapture

“There is also the real estate agent Knock.  May rumours were circulated about him. 

Only one thing was certain, he paid his people well.”

-Intertitle Card

In Nosferatu, Knock owns the real estate agency that employs Thomas Hutter.  He seems like a nice and fair boss, until he receives a letter from Romania, covered in illegible, occult symbols.  It immediately drives Knock mad, leaving him with just enough sanity to send Hutter on his ill-fated journey to the castle of Count Orlok.  Knock is soon after imprisoned in a sanitarium, and develops a strange obsession with eating living creatures (just like Renfield), asking, “Cannot man become a vampire, too?”  When Orlok arrives in Germany, his attacks are blamed on the plague – which in turn is blamed on Knock for some reason.  Knock kills a sanitarium guard and escapes, ultimately fleeing a pursuing mob in a field.  He stays free until the very end of the movie, when the police arrest him and return him to a sanitarium.  The very last scene in the movie is of Knock lamenting the death of his master Orlok, and closing his eyes.  Some people interpret that as his death, others as despair, and still others as his return to sanity.  Who knows!

Looking at Knock as a character, it’s easy to see why Aztech wanted to make a figure of him, if they had to make two from Nosferatu – he’s the only other creepy one, unless you count the doomed ship’s captain or the creepy Romanian coach driver (who may have been Orlok in disguise).  So, let’s discuss this figure!

Knock-Packaged

PACKAGING: ****

Like all Silent Screamers, Knock comes in a surprisingly durable blister pack – the cardboard is thick, the plastic is sturdy, and it’s actually bolted in with little metal grommets.  it’s absolutely covered with photos, art, and little filmstrip collages showing the figure… but nothing from the original movie, but there’s probably a reason for that. I like it a lot – it stands out nicely on the shelf, and everything is arranged so nicely in the blister that you can see pretty much everything that comes with Knock – another bonus!

 KnockRenfield-TheMadman

SCULPT: ***1/2

This looks nothing like Knock.  The fat little “Simian” man (as described by Ebert) of the original seems have been replaced with a wild, deranged Mr. Hyde.  The hair doesn’t even match – coincidentally, it’s a lot closer to the ship captain from the middle of the film, and I wonder if Aztech had been using the wrong reference material.  The captain at least had cartoonishly long sideburns, if nothing else.  The likeness is stylized and grotesque – that’s to be expected – but it really holds a poor reesemblance to the original movie, more than any other Silent Screamer.  So I have to remove a star for that.  But then his sculpt is so good that I have to give that star back!

Knock is deranged.  Absolutely insane in every sense of the word.  His face is twisted in a lopsided snarl, his hair sticks out like a howler monkey mane.  His body is contorted in a coiled hunch, like he’s ready to strike.  His hands are gnarled and veiny, his nails extra-long and rotted, his clothes torn and infested, and he’s even missing a finger – presumably he bit it off.  He actually did not lose a finger in the movie, but we’re gonna forgive that for now, because it’s horrifyingly disgusting.  You can see the bone!  I swear, looking at Knock makes me feel just a little more insane.

Knock still wears his old street clothes, although now they’re wrinkled, rumbled, and beginning to tear in places.  His coattails are really long and skinny, and sculpted from soft rubber – this keeps them from getting too much in the way when you try to stand him up, though they might still bother you a little bit.  Knock’s shoes look extra-heavy, like he’s trying for a Frankenstein impression… but he’s a little too tiny for that.  The dude is barely five inches tall in a line where everybody else is in the seven-to-eight inch range – he’s a little person!  They made up for this small size in his accessories, but that’s another category.

Knock is very much a pre-posed figure, and actually lacks all leg articulation.  I don’t know what to say about this, as he can have some trouble standing firmly even though his feet look anchored.  Their pose is good enough for what he needs to do, though, and he is an artifact of his time.  This was the McFarlane era, after all.  So seriously, he’s not at four stars because he’s oddly inaccurate and pre-posed, but he’s really good overall.

Knock-Orlok

PAINT: ****

But what is a good sculpt without paint?  Don’t ask me, I love MUSCLEs!  But seriously ask me, I know good paint when I see it.  And Knock has good paint.  The fact that he’s an artifact of his time isn’t just negative – Knock is also from a time when paint budgets weren’t such an issue!  his skin tone is incredible!  pale and sickly, uneven and blotchy, but not sloppy in any way.  His nails and gums are even painted in more than one color – the people at Aztech weren’t content to just highlight something with a flat glob of paint, they treated this as a work of art!  And art it is.

Knock’s severed finger is appropriately glossy, but more than that his blood is in the correct shade of red.  It creeps me out just looking at it – darker where it’s pooled, lighter where it’s thinner!  His clothes have paint to highlight the texturing, and the bugs crawling on his body are cleanly-painted, highlighted, and in sync with the bug accessories.  Those maggots on Knock’s pants also make my skin crawl oh so much.  Oh so terribly much.

And of course, those eyes are red-rimmed.  Knock hasn’t been getting much sleep…

Knock-InBed

ARTICULATION: **

Eh… this is the McFarlane era.  But you know, Knock is not as well-articulated as Orlok from the same line.  He has a swivel neck joint, ball-jointed shoulders, hinge elbows, and swivel wrists.  The arms have a decent range of motion but are really locked in a few poses, and his lack of leg articulation – any leg articulation – gets in the way sometimes.  He’s stuck standing (or lying) in a certain way, and has a higher chance of just toppling over because of it.  The head’s swivel adds a little more personality to the guy, but that’s about it.  It’s kind of a blemish in an otherwise good figure.

Knock-Accessories

ACCESSORIES: ****

WOW.

I wish I didn’t limit myself to a pre-defined system of one to four stars, because it’s very hard to quantify just how awesome Knock’s accessories are!  See, he’s kind of a small figure, so they just piled in the extra plastic to make him worth your dollar.  I’ll start with the biggie.

Knock Renfield The Madman comes with 2/3 of his holding cell.  It’s missing a wall, but that wall is supplied with Orlok… and you’ll be hearing about that one… on FRIDAY!  MUAHAHAHAHA!  Anyway, you can see which wall is missing in the photo above, whereas the one below shows you the full cell assembled.  Knock comes with a floor, a cell wall, shackles, a metal restraining mask, and ten little creepy crawlies for him to ostensibly eat.

Knock-EmptyCell

The back wall of his cell is really something amazing, and includes a bench/cot – the bed swings down on a hinge, and is held up with rust-colored metal chains!  About the only improvement I could think of on this awesome, awesome feature would be making it removable, but why worry?  The cell wall is incredibly detailed – dilapidated, worn, and covered in graffiti.  Knock’s cell had a lot of Graffiti in the movie, though I don’t think the designs match here – two cartoonish faces, some ticks listing the passage of time, and a huge “FLI WAS HERE!!”  Who’s Fli?  Are those faces some of the people who made this toy?  The world may never know!  When you add the last wall, it becomes an awesomely closed-in room, and is pretty much the best diorama I’ve seen come with a toy.  Even without Orlok’s wall, it’s awesome… but I’d advise you to get Orlok first. The backside of the wall is unpainted and undetailed, but… I am surprisingly not bothered by it.  Come on, guys, you got his cell.

The shackles are also something special.  A rust-colored metal chain (of course!) and plastic for the shackles themselves, BUT – but they actually latch and unlatch!  Usually toy shackles are big enough to slip over a figure’s wrists or ankles, but not these!  They have a little latch that you can twist, open them, and then put them over Knock’s ankles (or wrists if you feel like it).  That’s incredible!  It doesn’t feel very flimsy, and I’m utterly impressed by this.

Knock-Mask

The mask is funny.  It’s this crazy spiky riveted metal Silence of the Lambs rig, just flexible enough to comfortably fit around Knock’s face.  No, he never wore it in the movie, don’t be silly.  And yet… it’s fun.  Even though it makes no sense, it’s fun on his face or in his hands or just lying around the cell!

And finally, we have the Creepy Crawlies.  Five spiders and five centipedes for you to scatter around his cell at will.  And holy crap, they are tiny.  Tiny, tiny, tiny.  They fit on my pinky fingernail.  Two centipedes to a pinky nail.  I just want to point out, though, that unless you take Drastic Measures, you are going to lose them.  I almost lost a few just from the unboxing!  My solution was to grab a vending machine toy and keep the capsule – it’s behind the cell walls on my shelf, and any time I have to move Knock or his cell for any reason, I put the bugs in the capsule.  Anyway, you can put them on the floor, on the cot, in Knock’s hand, sticking out of his mouth, wherever – they’re a nice touch!  Just so hilariously tiny.

So yes, what Knock lacks in size and articulation he makes up for in sheer number of accessories.

Knock-Restrained

VALUE: ****

You can find Knock online for about $15-$30.  Expect $20.  Nowadays, expect to spend $20 for an 8-inch scale figure (os a small figure in that line) with so-so paint, and maybe one accessory.  This guy has an insanely good paint job and enough accessories to fill a bucket.  I think that’s a good value for your dollar.

KnockEatsBugs

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

A few, actually.  Try not to lose the bugs, watch the latch on those shackles, and check the joints to make sure they aren’t stuck – my Knock’s neck was stuck, but I managed to fix it.

KnockEscapes

WHERE TO BUY:

Since this is an old-ish toy, go for online retailers – Amazon or eBay, or just do a Google search.  It shouldn’t be that hard, life is full of hard knocks (hahaha).

Knock-Tantrum

OVERALL:  ****

Sure, Knock looks nothing like himself from the movie, but just look at him!  An amazingly-detailed deranged madman who comes with his own padded cell!  I didn’t buy Knock until recently because I don’t usually go for the Hannibal Lecter type of toy, but I really have zero regrets about this purchase.  But don’t forget that he and his cell are incomplete without a certain other figure… which you may be seeing soon

…Just wait until Friday!

KnockOrlok-Reach

4 responses to “Life In Plastic: Retro Review: Knock Renfield The Madman (Silent Screamers)

  1. Awesome review of one of my favorite toylines ever! The only one I’m lacking is Maria from Metropolis.I so wish this line had gotten one more series!

  2. Pingback: Life In Plastic: Retro Review: Graf Orlok (Silent Screamers) | Nerditis·

  3. Pingback: Life In Plastic HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: HORROR Classics Mystery Minis! (Funko) | Nerditis·

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