He’s the Count of Counts, the Sultan of Suck, the King of the Vampires — he’s DRACULA and he’s been around. Despite a stake through the heart at the climax of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula simply cannot be stopped. He’s haunted live theater, the cinema, television, radio plays, as well as being featured in countless books, cartoons, and comics. He’s had a few toys as well. So gather up your crucifix and garlic, grab a torch and follow along, as we venture deep into the Ant Hill catacombs in search of — DRACULA!
We started off our last article with a peek at the Frankencycle, but now dig the Dracucycle! Made by the fine folks at IDEAL, it’s a friction-powered toy along the lines of the companies’ Evel Knievel vehicles. Attach the bike to its base, wind ‘er up and off it goes! A tiny gyroscope keeps it level, and, if you wind it just right, the cycle is capable some wicked stunts like popping a wheelie.
The coffin-seat is a wild design choice — a touch impractical and certainly uncomfortable — but still wild. Its purple coloration was a nice choice because black would have really muted the cool sculpt. All the little details are there, including the “quilted” coffin-lining. As a bonus, the seat actually glows an ominous green, which must have looked pretty sweet zipping down a dark hallway.
Drac himself has a look of steely determination on his face. Maybe he only has five minutes to make it to the blood bank? The little red splotches for eyes are basic but effective, amping up his fright factor. Unlike his riding-mate Frankenstein, Drac sticks with his classic costume. I guess a vampire in a leather jacket was something the 1970s just weren’t ready for.
Below is a pic of the two riders side-by-side: I gotta say, there’s something so cool about seeing these two titans of horror side-by-side. Drac is the peanut butter to Frank’s jelly, the Simon to his Garfunkel; they compliment each other perfectly. Sadly, they’ve haven’t recorded a new album together since BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER.
Next up, for those of you who thought the Frankenstein shampoo bottle was lame, I present the Dracula air freshener. You know, for when those unexpected guests drop by the crypt. I’m not a fan of “cute” monsters, but I gotta admit I think this little guy is pretty neat. I grok his design: the fangs are nice and exaggerated, giving Drac a little more “bite” than your average cartoonish representation. His squinched eyes and slight smile convey the sense he’s sleeping off a big meal. Also, he’s got a great head of hair for being several hundred years old – we should all look so good at that age!
So the $64 question is just what does a Dracula air freshener smell like? I wish I could say “something pleasant,” but, sadly, that’s not the case. It’s scent is a combination of a bus station urinal cake and a hobo clothes-fire, with just a hint of strawberry. For those of you who think that might prove tasty:
“Keep away from heat & sunlight.” Hilarious. But back to the odor — I truly wish I could share it with you, but the Internet just isn’t there yet; give it ten years. God help us.
There are loads of Dracula figures to choose from, so I decided to tackle a couple of the more obscure versions. First up is this take from Imperial.
For a crappy blow-molded toy he’s pretty cool. While not terribly articulated, he has presence and that “counts” quite a bit in my book. It’s not the greatest Lugosi likeness, but it is passable. Poor guy seems to be suffering from Big Hand Disease. How do you reckon he gets those things through his narrow jacket sleeves?
Imperial made the effort here and it shows, capturing important costume details like Drac’s medallion and signet ring. They even sculpted the pinstripes into his pants. Granted, the figure only moves at the shoulders, but it’s still a decent effort. He was a swell value, too; these toys were always super cheap and plentiful. Even if you couldn’t get your hands on a Mego Dracula, you could still probably score one of these at the supermarket to menace your other action figures.
And look — authentic grave dirt! Now THAT’S innovation!
Imperial made Drac a few pals as well. They feature the same minimal articulation but stand very well as a result.
Now here’s a happy fellow. He’s a weird combination of a jiggler and a beanbag. Jigbag? Hmmm, probably not. At any rate, there’s not a lot to say about him, other than he’s impossible to get to stand on his own. I propped him up with a Lego. Movin’ on…
This Jakks-Pacific effort from 2003 is just glad to be here.
I never even realized this guy existed until years after the fact; he just sort of showed up one day. It’s a good likeness but an odd choice, with Drac looking uncharacteristically pensive.
Also, Bela never sported fangs, so this is a bit of a curiosity. It’s not often that a licensed toy is so off model. The Lugosi estate can be pretty selective when it comes to merchandising, but I’m guessing backing a dump truck full of money up to their door can have a powerful effect.
The coffin is a great base/ accessory. With the flip of a switch the figure rises from his resting place to… well, just stand there, really, but still — Jakks made the effort. The first pic is a bit of a cheat since the figure shown is the carded version. The coffin originally came with a black-and-white version, but he was pretty beaten up, so I switched ’em.
While not specifically a toy, this vampire costume from 1974 certainly deserves a look.
Produced by Harco, the featured bloodsucker appears to have flown straight out of some Eerie Pubs cover. He has that visceral, edgy quality early 1970s-era monster products are known for. The two-tone face gives the mask a bit more dimensionality than the average elastic-string affair, and the moldering green coloration is set off very nicely by the blue “shadow.” Sadly, the vampire’s image is simply repeated on the costume. It’s a cool drawing, but it would have been nice to get something else. Ah well, it’s kinda hard to find fault with something 40+ years old that was made to be worn once… I’m just happy to have it in the collection.
To cap off the festivities, let’s pry open the lid of Pressman’s Revenge of Dracula game!
As you can see, the box is really something. The first question, obviously, is why the hell is Dracula’s coffin outside? Is that the vampire equivalent of your wife making you sleep on the couch? I mean, you can see his castle in the background. Even Drac seems surprised! Perhaps the other monsters in the frat stuck him out on the lawn as a joke? Also, where are the rest of his teeth? In a glass on the bathroom sink? His gummy mouth and heavily-tweezed eyebrows make for a truly disconcerting vampire, but those children aren’t half as afraid as I am. Guess you’d have to be pretty brave to wear that shirt, though, huh, Timmy?
Seriously, with their bulging eyes and manic grins it’s these two kids who come off as bloodthirsty, not the poor sap in the box. I feel sorry for the guy. Lastly, why are the bats nude?
Obviously, there’s no way the game itself can live up to the promise the box makes, but it was amusing enough after a few sips from my Frankenstein shampoo bottle. A simple dice and token game, it’s basically Candyland, but with a vampire.
The players start off running from Dracula’s tomb. When the moon comes up on the dice, the Count rises and chases you through the cemetery. Certain spaces on the board will cause you to loose a turn or, even worse, be sent back to Dracula’s tomb. It’s no Vampire: The Masquerade, but the tokens are cool. The players (“victims” according to the instructions) are molded in various colors and sculpted running with their heads looking back over their shoulders. Dracula himself is a bit bigger, and cast in black plastic. He seems more like his old self here, confidently smiling with arms raising his cape into bat-wings. Gotta keep your head in the game, Drac!
And that’s just for starters. DRACULA products have been manufactured almost constantly in one form or another for decades. There’s no way we can possibly look at them all, but hopefully this article will motivate a few of you to venture into the dusky catacombs in search of the Count! Happy Halloween!
Jason R.Mink is The Man In The Ant Hill – Oct. 22, 2012