Life In Plastic: Retro Review: Graf Orlok (Silent Screamers)

Orlok-Knock

Welcome to Part Two of NOSFERATU WEEK at Life In Plastic!  Wednesday and today have been 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.  Last time, I wrote about Knock, the realtor-turned bug-eating crazyman.  And for today, well… there’s only one option!

Lunchtime

Nosferatu is an oppressively dark movie, and in a way that hasn’t quite been recaptured even today.  And now I’m gonna editorialize.  In a modern movie, the horrible monster scares the audience by rushing up to the camera and shaking its head wildly, making scary “Raargh!” faces while the soundtrack blasts out feedback  Those are the scariest scenes.  In Nosferatu, the scariest scenes are when the monster stands far back at the end of the hallway, staring.  When he slowly rises from his coffin.  And when all you can see is his creeping shadow against the wall.  But the movie’s tone is one of hopelessness.  Sure, the vampire is destroyed by the bright happy sunlight, but at what price?  The victims are dead, the plague rats are still around, Knock is still mad, and Ellen Hutter is dead.   The only way for Orlok to be destroyed was if sweet, kind, virtuous Ellen gave her life to allow him to drink her blood, and delay him until the morning sun trapped him.  That…that has some disturbingly dark implications.  The last shot of the movie is of Orlok’s castle – is that positive, because he’s been destroyed?  Or negative, because his castle, and thus evil, still stands?  Considering that the last you see of the characters is when they are crying, I kind of lean toward the latter.  Anyway, back to the movie.

DeathOfAVampire01

Orlok may be based on Dracula (and his story follows many of the same events as that novel), but he is an entirely different creature.  Max Schreck portrayed him as twisted, distorted, and deformed, resembling nothing more than a mutated rat.  The theme extends as rats infest his coffin and swarm around him. It goes even further when his attacks on the people of Wisborg, Germany, and it’s blamed on the plague.  Nosferatu comes from a word that means “Plague bearer,” and Orlok is more than a vampire, he is disease itself.  He infests first the ship headed to Germany with the plague (and the effects of his own attacks), and then the town of i, itself.  Although he is barely seen in the second half of the movie, his presence leads others to panic and riot.  The ship’s first mate hacks into his coffins (revealing first a torrent of rats and then Orlok rising from his coffin in one of the film’s most iconic scenes), and in town the people form a mob to lynch Knock, whom they blame for disease.  Yet despite this, and despite his hideous appearance, Orlok seems quite friendly and genial when we first see him (and he’s wearing a cool hat!).  He is pleasant and hospitable to Thomas Hutter (just like Dracula), and even calls him “friend,” expressing excitement at getting to move into the house just across from Hutter’s.

nosferatu-screen

“Should we not spend a little time together, my very dear friend? 

Sunrise is far away and during the day I have to sleep my friend, I will be in a very deep sleep indeed.”

-Orlok

The facade drops when Hutter begins finding bite marks on his throat in the morning, and then late one night he ventures a glimpse outside of his room, only to see Orlok at the end of the hallway… staring. To say nothing of how he stares at Ellen through their respective windows near the end of the movie – also a creepy parallel of his earlier friendly overtures to Thomas, enthusiastic about how “I will be living just across the street from you, my friend!”  Really, Orlok is creepy.  And now that I’ve prattled on and on and on and on about the movie, let’s talk about THE TOY.

Aztech Toys released their Silent Screamers figures in the early 2000s.  As I said last time, they made two from Nosferatu.  Orlok was available in two color schemes – “color” and “black and white.”  This is somewhat of a misnomer, since he’s nearly monochromatic in both, and the B&W version is actually sepia.  I have the regular one.  Supposedly, Orlok’s appearance is based on an old model kit, which might mean that he was the first figure designed for this line.  Or maybe not, I have no idea.  But his stylized look dictated how the other figures in this line turned out, so that’s pretty significant.

OrlokKnock-Displayed

PACKAGING: ****

Sorry about the lack of a packaged photo, I got this toy a long time ago, and the box no longer exists.

Orlock’s packaging is typical for Silent Screamers – a sturdy blister pack with stiff plastic and thick cardboard, held together by little metal grommets.  The front shows a lot of photos and pictures of the figure, mostly in a film strip, and the back fills in a lot of info about the character and figure.  Notably, it calls him “Graf Orlok,” when his first name is not Graf – “Graf” is German for “Count.”  He’s Count Orlok.  This isn’t as weird as “Knock Renfield The Madman,” but it’s worth keeping in mind.  Makes it easy to search for the toy on google, though.

OrlokFace

SCULPT: ****

Orlok is stylized.  He does not look exactly the way he does in the movie.  If you want that, go for the Sideshow Toys figure.  In a way, it’s too bad, as Max Schreck made the movie.  Instead, this version of Orlok takes all the concepts of the. original, and exaggerates them.  Whereas before Orlok was vaguely reminiscent of a rat, now his face is stretched, narrow, his fangs pointed inward, his eyes black and beady, and his pointed ears dropping just a tiny little bit.  Schrek’s Orlok was inhumanly skinny, his arms and legs seeming too long for his body.  With this version, he seems almost stretched.  And yet it’s not too extreme – he isn’t changed so badly that it looks ludicrous.  It’s actually great, the way that I could imagine him looking in a modern movie.

Orlok-Sun01

Orlok’s skin is stretched and wrinkled, seemingly paper-thin as it covers his bones.  The wrinkles on his forehead and hands are all distinct, as are the veins on the backs of his hands.  His nails are long and unkempt, fitting his decrepit, diseased appearance.  His clothing is expertly textured, with wrinkles, folds, and tears in all the right places.  His face is interesting – depending on the angle, it can look menacing or sad, which is perfect in case you want to pose him dying in the sunlight, or heaven forbid, make him sympathetic.

If I have to complain about anything, it’s Orlok’s knees.  His legs are posed really oddly in mid-stagger, and it’s very hard to position him so he stands straight up without looking horribly knock-kneed.  But once you find one of his few good poses, it works, and the issue is more of articulation than sculpting.

Orlok-Sun03

PAINT: ****

For Orlok’s base skin tone, Aztech used colored plastic (like NECA’s recent human and Predator figures), which helps diminish the “toy” appearance of painted-on skin.  The reason for this is actually because of his action feature – when you take Orlok out into sunlight, he turns purple!  Though I’ve got to apologize – it’s really easy to see in person and it’s kind of dramatic, but I can’t capture it on film!  The purple doesn’t show at all on my digital camera, and it barely shows up when I use my phone.  That’s… strange, and I can’t figure it out for the life of me.  What is this, gypsy vampire magic?  Anyway…

As for the rest of Orlok, he’s got a faint dark wash on his skin to bring out the wrinkles, blue veins, two tones on his rotting fingernails, black eyes, and a great combination of black, gray, blue, brown, and white for his clothing.  It’s a really good combo, and it makes the plastic look like cloth.  All of the applications are clean, except for the darker brown on his nails… but that’s supposed to be sloppy, so well played, Aztech.  Well played.

OrlokDance

ARTICULATION: **1/2

Unfortunately, Orlok’s articulation isn’t the greatest thing in the world.  Hey, it was the early ’00s, McFarlane was pretty big, and everybody made statues!  Orlok has a swivel head, ball-and-socket shoulders, hinge elbows, swivel wrists, and swivel thighs.  Thighs because the articulation is just above his knees (his overlong shirt covers his legs a little).  It’s also the one problem – Orlok’s feet are really awkward, and almost impossible to keep flat on the ground without forcing Orlok to lean like he’s in a V-8 commercial.  There are ways to keep him standing up without making him hilariously knock-kneed, but good luck with that.  Really, his legs are so frustrating that they are the source for every point taken off his rating!

But the arms are great.  Orlok can pretty much take any creepy pose he had in the movie, plus a few others.  He can stand stock-still like he’s rising from his grave, he can stretch out his talons after a victim, and he can even walk like an Egyptian!  Sure, a modern figure would have better ball joints in the shoulders so he could maybe cross his arms, but this was pretty good for the time.  And yes, you can stretch his arms and twist his legs into a crucifixion pose.  But why?

Orlok-Normal

ACCESSORIES: ****

Orlok isn’t quite as generously-supplied as Knock, but he’s still awesome!  Orlok comes with a rat-covered base, a portion of Knock’s cell wall, and six loose rats.  Those loose rats have a particular use aside from just as companion pack-ins – his base has two sets of foot pegs spaced in such a way that you can pose him in about six different directions, and the spare rats can cover the unused pegs!  This is genius!  of course, he can hold and try to eat them, too.

RatsInTheWalls

The wall has been a fixture in my toy photography for over a year, and I can’t even count how many times I’ve used it.  It’s a dilapidated concrete wall, stripped enough for some of the inner bricks to show through.  It’s also got a barred window, which fits a lot of potential scenarios.  The reverse side, which goes inside Knock’s cell, is also decorated with some of his infamous graffiti.

Orlok-Rats

Could Orlok have come with more?  Probably, though I think a coffin would have been over budget.  Maybe he could have had that hat he wore at the beginning of the movie, but that’s just quibbling.  Even though he isn’t as gifted as Knock, I love the stuff he came with.  Remember when toys used to come with big diorama stands?  I do.

ComeHither02

  VALUE: ***1/2

Orlok should run you anywhere from $15-$30, usually skewing in the $25 range.  This isn’t quite as awesome as landing Knock for $20, but it’s also not shabby at all.  Aside from his funky legs, Orlok’s got great quality, and his sculpt and paint really do hold up by today’ standards.  Aside from that, he comes with a great little diorama, and actually has posing options!  He’s best when he’s with Knock, though he doesn’t suffer as much on his own as the madman does.

Orlok-Girl

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

Those knees are the only problem I can think of.  If the figure’s legs are warped, you will never get him to stand – but it’s nothing that a blow dryer couldn’t fix!  Orlok is pretty sturdy overall.

Orlok-Servant

WHERE TO BUY:

Same as his companion, Orlok is a pretty old figure, so you might as well take the eBay or Amazon plunge.

OrlokVsDracula

OVERALL:  ****

Before  the smooth, aristocratic Lord Ruthven in 1816, vampires were ugly, deformed living corpses, combining everybody’s fear of death with their fear of those ugly, hunched, stinking peasants.  I can’t say that Orlok is a peasant, but he’s certainly closer to the pre-Ruthven Romanian vampire concept.  He’s a terrifying nightmare, just inhuman enough to run afoul of the uncanny valley, and his action figure reflects and enhances those qualities.  Even though this is an early-2000s nearly-unposable figure, I really like Orlok.  He’s great on display, fun to fiddle around with, and his accessories have been nothing but helpful in my toy photography.  This figure is one of those obscure oddballs that really should be a must-have for any collector who likes scary things.  And if you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  Try to find a version that doesn’t substitute all the names with original Dracula names, though – that’s just wrong somehow.  Nosferatu was not only the first Dracula movie, it was the very first vampire movie.  It also introduced the idea of sunlight as a vampire-killer, and that amount of influence is incredible!  So find a decent version and watch it alone at midnight with the lights out.  You won’t regret it!

Or maybe you will.  Maybe you will regret everything…

OrlokShadow

2 responses to “Life In Plastic: Retro Review: Graf Orlok (Silent Screamers)

  1. Pingback: Life In Plastic: Why Retro Reviews? | Nerditis·

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

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