Saturday, 26 April 2014

Creature from the Black Lagoon -- Diamond Select

Company: Diamond Select

Release: 2010/2012

Price: See below
Scale: 7”

The Background
Diamond Select has been producing action figures based on the Universal Monsters for a number of years now, with largely positive results. Their detailed sculpting is impressive, their paint jobs high-quality and their prices reasonable.

Having recently (finally!) watched the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon earlier this year, I liked the idea of getting my hands on their version of the Creature (aka Gillman).  One of the few classic Universal Monsters not based on a pre-existing folk tale or novel, the Creature burst onto cinema screens in 1954, spawning two sequels, as well as an appearance on The Munsters and in The Monster Squad. Though he’s not as ubiquitous as Dracula or the Wolfman, he’s undeniably left an impact on pop culture, even totally not turning up in Lego form a couple of years ago.

Sculpt and Articulation
I had my first experience with Diamond Select earlier this year, when I picked up their Silver Surfer. He was a pretty cool toy, though he had a couple of minor articulation issues. So I was reasonably confident when I ordered this guy. The box looked great, and I had looked at a few positive reviews some months earlier…but long enough ago that I’d forgotten a few key details.

Namely, articulation. “Action figure” is something of a misnomer here. The entire Universal Monsters range has very minimal articulation. In the Creature’s case, only his shoulders, elbows, wrists and ankles are articulated, and they’re all pretty restricted.

Here’s what he’s got:

*shoulders (balljoint?)

*elbows (hinged)
*wrists (cut)

*ankles (cut)
The shoulders can only really move in a hinged fashion – due to the sculpt of the torso, they can’t really swivel out to the side or anything. In the case of the wrists, they’re quite tight, initially, but they've loosened up now. As for the ankles, this is fairly redundant without accompanying leg and hip articulation, but it can be handy for getting him to stand on the base.

The sculpt gives a good overall impression of the creature, though the face is not quite as inhuman as the original mask – I’ve thought about it for a while, and I think it’s due to the difference in the eyes and giving him a closed mouth. While it now looks more like a “real” creature, these choices have had the (likely unintentional) effect of making him look rather ticked off and irritable – as opposed to being a terrifying prehistoric beast, fighting to defend his home against invaders.  He’s been standing in a queue for too long and is pretty darn annoyed about it!


Aside from this, I can’t pretend I’m an expert on screen accuracy, but it looks more or less right to me. One interesting feature which I saw pointed out in another review is that his shins are untextured – this is accurate to the film’s costume, but something that's apprently often overlooked.
The main problem is that he's probably a little too tall. Gillman is probably bigger than a normal human -- but not as big as a Predator. He's almost big enough to class him in 8" scale, rather than 7". However, though I'd read this online, I didn't really notice it until I lined him up next to the other guys in the photo above.
Just as a side note, going off reviews at and, this figure seems to have first been released in 2010, but this particular version is indicated on the box (and stamped on his foot) as ©2012. However, it doesn’t look to have been changed since this original release – maybe the paint has been altered slightly? I can’t spot any differences myself.

The creature comes with two accessories – a sandy, rocky diorama base and Kay Lawrence, who was the object of Gillman’s affection in the movie (played by Julie Adams).

The base is a little plain, but the upside is that it’s generic enough that you could use it for almost everything. There are rocks, sure, but it doesn’t look scale-specific. This could be fine for anything from Lego through to 7-8” figures.
Actually, calling Kay Lawrence an accessory is doing her something of a disservice. She’s a figure in her own right really, with plenty of attention to detail on the sculpting. She’s not really articulated, which is a shame – but her head is a separate piece, so you can turn it on the neck. She doesn’t sit quite flat on the base, but you don’t really notice most of the time.
I don’t think the likeness to Julie Adams is all that great, though. I agree with MWC's review that the set looks more or less based on this photo (far left) -- the hair isn't quite right and neither is the face. I suspect the likeness rights may have been tricky to get hold of – this was apparently the case with Diamond Select’s Dracula figure, which is a great vampire, but definitely not Bela Lugosi. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad sculpt. It looks like a very attractive young woman, in somewhat of a pin-up style.

Gillman wasn’t really an accessorised guy, so getting anything at all is a nice bonus. There’s no cause for complaint with what’s included, but it might have been nice to get the fossilised Gillman hand, which is found at the beginning of the film and sets off the whole chain of events that follow.

The Creature seems to be cast in black, with everything else painted over the top. For the most paint, the paint job is great, with the dominant colour being a metallic green. The finny attachments dotted around his body are a little sloppy, but nothing that distracts from the figure as a whole. However, the paint on his neck is one flat colour, and it seems to be a little thick. I think a subtle dark green wash here would have made it gel better with the rest of the body. Similarly, the pink of his lips contrasts just a little too strongly with his green flesh.   

Aside from these minor quibbles, the only real issue were small patches of unpainted skin on the right and left shoulders. It looks like some of the paint may have scraped off, but given that it’s an area completely concealed when the arm is hanging by his side, it’s not a major issue.  
The paint job on Kay Lawrence is very impressive, too. Apparently cast in skin-coloured plastic, her swimsuit, hair and face have all been picked out incredibly well, with no trace of slop. In a particularly impressive touch, even her fingernails and toenails have been painted with "nail polish".

Availability and pricing
This guy isn’t too hard to track down on eBay and he’s not particularly expensive either. I paid around $AUD25 for him – but I also paid close to that again for him in postage! Such is the case when you ship things from the US to Australia though, and I’m learning to just suck it up.

I understand that most of the Universal Monsters figures have been released in two different versions – typically a Diamond Select version, and a Toys R Us version. The Toys R Us version will have fewer accessories, but it will generally have a different paint job, and/or a slightly different head sculpt.
In Gillman’s case, he has a non-metallic paint job (and no pink lips) and a different, more detailed base. However, going from my eBay searches, the reviewed version looks to be the easiest to track down.  

This would have been an amazing toy in 2002-2004, alongside the relatively unarticulated toys NECA and McFarlane were offering at the time, but it was a little out of date by 2010 – and more so by 2012, I tend to think. Strange as it may sound, I don’t think this range of Universal Monsters has really been designed for toy collectors as such – rather, I think it’s been designed for movie fans. There can be a lot of overlap, granted, but this figure seems more geared towards being a movie memorabilia display piece, rather than a “proper” toy.

So I’m pleased, but not quite thrilled with this figure. Personally, I will take a good sculpt over articulation, but I was still a little disappointed that the arms were as restricted as they were. Additionally, the combined cost of figure and shipping made this purchase close to $AUD50, which isn’t great value for money – I think if I’d paid between $25-$35 total I would have been more satisfied.

If you’re considering the purchase, I might suggest that you wait for the new Diamond Select version later this year. He looks to be better articulated and has a cooler base – though doesn’t look to include Kay Lawrence. Had I known about it, I might have waited, but I don’t think I’ll double-dip – it’s just too soon.    

1 comment:

  1. Good review.
    I think the creature's spookiness comes from his non-specificity -- you know that Drac drinks blood, but all you know about the gilled wonder is that he is a "creature" (i.e. non-human) and he lives in the spookily-described "Black Lagoon". Just the name is brilliant scriptwriting. And he could possibly do anything, including taking you underwater in a deathroll (like a crocodile), or rip the flesh off your back with his claws, or just reach up over your boat and steal your bait unnoticed, if he were feeling peckish.
    For this reason, you are right in thinking of his appearance as mildly irritated, rather than rampant and ready to rip anything in his path. -- Seymour Knutts