Some of horror’s best-ever action figures came from an unexpected source!
Part of a 1997 Burger King promotion, I hope some of you remember this quartet of positively kickass Universal Monsters figures. They deserve to be remembered!
Officially licensed (meaning, the figures weren’t simply meant to resemble the classic characters — they were them), I’m still not entirely sure how these figures came to be.
The late ‘90s did have that quiet Universal Monsters boom with the postage stamps and all, but considering the quality of these toys, and the fact that they seemingly weren’t made to promote anything, I guess it was just one of those blessed anomalies that boosted nationwide belief in holy spirits.
They’re great figures even by today’s standards, albeit not very important ones. It was much different in 1997! Funko’s ReAction line didn’t yet exist, and we hadn’t seen straight-up Universal Monsters figures in years. These toys seem like throwbacks when you look at them now, but they felt the same way back in ‘97!
Read on for a closer look at each of the four figures, and note how they were all retail-quality. I’m still so amazed that they lived and died as Burger King premiums!
My current favorite of the bunch is Dracula, and for a few reasons. While bearing a strong enough likeness to pass as Drac at his most classic, there’s something undeniably snakelike about his face. Couldn’t you see him morphing into an albino cobra? Is “snake” one of Dracula’s forms? He wants to ssssssuck your blood.
Then there’s the coffin. A small key lets you make Dracula rise from the grave in a manner not unlike the Undertaker’s zombie sit-up, but what really draws me to it is the fact that Dracula had his name engraved on the front. Well that and the fact that he picked a magenta coffin. Both of those things.
For a fast food toy, Frankenstein was absurdly high-tech. The lab table accessory has a tiny inbuilt light, which illuminates Frankenstein’s head to give the impression of mad scientist hijinks. (The battery on this one died years ago, so you’ll have to take my word on that.)
Even with a busted light, it remains an impressive figure. Giving Frankenstein the tone and tenets of Sparkle Crest toothpaste was a risk, but MAN did it pay off. Frankenstein normally appears kind of plodding and rudderless, but this one looks like something Lord Chaos and Master Order might’ve cooked up to kidnap Adam Warlock.
(Even if you weren’t particularly into the figure, that table accessory had so much play value. You could use it with any 3 ¾” scale action figure, and for many of us, this was our first chance to do all of the depraved Aurora model kit shit we’d only read about.)
I’ve never been too big on Wolf Man, but even I wouldn’t dare to call this guy the weak link. Despite the film-accuracy, Wolf Man has a bit of a “Scooby-Doo villain” vibe about him. Maybe it’s the too-pronounced hairline? He looks like a guy wearing a Ben Cooper Wolf Man costume, and that’s somehow even cooler.
Wolfman nests in a plastic wooden “room” — a title I struggled with in fear of sounding oxymoronic. Like Dracula, he too can pop up with the turn of a key, busting straight through his weird blue box with style and force. He’s not my favorite in the set, but he’s the only one who makes me wonder if Jason Voorhees’s real name was Jason Howard.
Dracula might be my favorite now, but in 1997, I was all about the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Like Boba Fett and Marvin the Martian, people were drawn to him even when they couldn’t care less about his parent property.
Such transcendent characters normally became that way through simple virtue of looking cool, but Gill-man did them one better. He looked cool AND he was a giant fish/guy.
Burger King was so confident in Gill-man’s popularity that they didn’t even bother to give him an accessory. On the upside, he did come with the ability to squirt water, after a quick dunk in a sink. Given that Gill-man was already the bulkiest of the four figures, I think his additional ability to spit faux acid made him the pack leader. Sorry, Wolfman.
Interested in these figures? They usually go for around six bucks a pop, assuming you want them in their original baggies. Many of you are loyal to Burger King’s Treehouse of Horror figures, but if you ask me, this is the best spooky thing they ever did.
(Besides the now-legendary Halloween Whopper, of course.)