Be they the size of a building or smaller than the eye can fathom, fear of monsters has long been a part of our collective psyche and boy has Hollywood cashed in on that fact!
As early as the 1930s, Hollywood created classic characters that make our skin crawl and cause us to dive under the covers. In recent years, FunKo POP! has taken those characters and created a number of figures that are both faithful and strangely adorable. Here are my 10 favorite FunKo POP! classic movie monsters with links to collect them at CompleteSet.
No examination of classic monsters can start without paying homage to the original Lord of the Vampires: Dracula. Bela Lugosi embodied Bram Stoker’s vampire count so effectively and memorably in the 1931 Universal film that comparisons are still made between his performance and that of anyone who dares to don the cape wither even today. The Funko POP! figure is dressed in the classic attire from the film as he wears a black tuxedo with a white vest and tie. A red ribbon holds a golden medallion at his chest and his long black cape is lined with a brilliant red inside. His arms are outstretched and beckoning his prey forward. Unlike most Funko POP! figures, Dracula has a mouth. It shows his fangs but is also curled, unusually so, into a smile.
Named for the book and the 1931 film, this figure portrays the Monster of Frankenstein (although he is commonly referred to as simply Frankenstein) in all his green-skinned Boris Karloff embodied glory. The monster is a departure from the character described in the original Mary Shelley novel. The film version has become the pop-culturally accepted version, but few have tried to recreate the amazing visuals of the early film. The classic figure has the head scar, electrical head plate and bolts in the neck of his flattened head. His eyes are half closed and his arms are out stretched.
The Wolf Man holds a special distinction among his fellow monsters as he is the only transformed creature in the group. As we learned in the 1941 movie of the same name, Larry Talbot is bitten by the son of a gypsy fortuneteller. Talbot transforms into the Wolf Man and terrorizes the village. The Wolf Man figure also means to be scary but simply comes across as adorable. His hands, feet, and face are covered in sculpted and seemingly perfectly combed hair. He is bearing his bottom teeth and has a wrinkled wolf nose. His clawed hands are reaching out to you but his perfectly ironed clothes and slightly closed eyes make him less menacing and more huggable.
Once again embodied by the phenomenal Boris Karloff, The Mummy is Imhotep, the ancient Egyptian priest who was mummified alive for attempting to resurrect his love. This mummy was resurrected by archeologists who naively read from the Scroll of Thoth. He attempts to find the reincarnation of his lost love that he might bind her original spirit to the current body.
What draws me to this figure above all the others is the fact that the figure is completely in shades of grey. He isn’t in white bandages or flesh colored he is quite literally in black and white… just like we saw him in the original film! The face is uncovered, wrinkled, gaunt and drawn in, especially at the mouth. The rest of the body is covered in a perfect and symmetrically wrapped suit of grey bandages with a single, perfect, dangling arm bandage.
The Creature, or the Gill-Man as the character is sometimes called, is a perfect miniature representation of his 1954 film design. That film follows an expedition to the Amazon which is hunting a believed link between land and sea animals. A group of scientists head to the Amazon with a skeletal webbed hand as their potential proof. That very hybrid, the Creature stalks and briefly kidnaps the group’s sole female member. In the inevitable hail of bullets, the Creature is killed and falls back into his lagoon. But worry not, he returns many times and even goes on to meet the classic comedy duo, Abbott and Costello. In his figure, as in the original suit, the scales are layered in a perfect symmetrical order, popping out from the chest. Extra details like the scalloped gills at the cheeks, the intricately lined face, the small fins at the elbows and the perfectly clawed and webbed hands and feet make this a character worthy of shelf space.
The only female monster on our list, The Bride of Frankenstein is a departure in many ways, beginning with her 1935 film. The film finds Mary Shelley telling the story of the Frankenstein film to her husband Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. She continues to tell a tale that brings us into the next film. Both Henry Frankenstein and the Monster survived the encounter with the angry, torch-wielding villagers. Henry returns to his beloved Elizabeth but their bliss is ruined by the arrival of Henry’s former mentor Dr. Pretorius, himself an aficionado of reanimating the dead and discovering the secrets of immortality. Henry refuses but Pretorius has the Monster kidnap Elizabeth to ensure Henry’s involvement as the Monster demands a mate. Henry complies and creates the Bride but she screams and rejects the monster that rampages through the laboratory. He allows Henry and Elizabeth to leave but destroys the lab, The Bride and Pretorius.
The figure is gorgeous in its simplicity. The shock of lightning white hair flows perfectly along her otherwise quaffed hairdo. Her dress is perfectly pressed and her lovely thin arms are wrapped to similar perfection. That said, I do think Funko POP! missed a great opportunity with this figure. The iconic visual where Elsa Lanchester’s Bride extends her hand and hisses and screams at the Monster would have made a better figure.
Moving away from the human-sized monsters, we have to look up (in his case very far up) to Godzilla. First stomping his way through Tokyo in 1954 and released as an Americanized version two years later as Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, Godzilla has become practically synonymous with Japanese culture, Godzilla has graced 31 films over the years, including an ill-conceived 1998 Americanized version and a much better received 2014 version. Awoken by a nuclear incident, Godzilla destroys much of the city and several naval vessels. Through much cunning by civilian scientists and naval forces, Godzilla is “destroyed” but of course comes back, many times. Funko POP! did an unprecedented five versions of the figure (so far) with different coloring but all have this great sculpt that once again tries to look menacing but just looks adorable. With his clawed, out-stretched hands and a toothy almost comical grin, he wins you over. The coloring that I love here is the realistic green and the first film’s true black and white version.
After the Russians launched Sputnik, the Atomic Age and the Space Race began in earnest. People stopped looking under their beds for monsters and instead started looking to the sky. Not attached to any particular story or narrative, the idea of an alien with a large head with large black eyes and an impossibly thin body and limbs began to find its way into the public consciences and became the star of many an abduction story. This X-Files inspired version of the character perfectly embodies the image down to his blunted nose and outstretched fingers.
Taking the idea of the alien to its nightmarish extreme, the Alien (later called Xenomorph) is every bit the monster for a new age. The Xenomorph’s HR Geiger design and perchance to emerge from seemingly every dark corner made the first film an instant classic. In the Alien’s first and best outing, it decimates the crew of the Nostromo one by one except for the plucky Warrant Officer Ripley who manages to blow the Alien out of the airlock to die in the void of space. The Alien Funko Pop! figure is unlike the others on this list because even though it is typically small, it is still an unsettling creature. Its huge eye-less head, dual mouth and over-all bio-metalic design still makes it a miniature bit of nightmare fuel and it’s completely understandable that its story continues to be revisited even today.
Born of African and Haitian traditions and popularized in American culture by the great George A. Romero, Zombies are the go-to monster of the 21st Century. The creature’s origin story varies from biological outbreak to failed government experiment but almost every story follows a single group of survivors and how they come to deal with the sudden shock of the outbreak. The personality clashes between the survivors and how they come to build a community around themselves as they struggle to continue life as human beings is an iconic part of this narractive.
Zombies have gone full circle from the slow shamblers to the fast, athletic of House of the Dead, the comedic take of Shaun of the Dead, the rom-com of Warm Bodies and back to the semi-fast semi-shambling zombies of the uber-popular TV series The Walking Dead. For my favorite Zombie Funko POP!, it would be too easy to pick something from the Walking Dead so I find myself drawn to Mrs. Featherstone from the recent film (and novel) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I find something endlessly appealing about a proper English woman in the Jane Austin tradition, complete with her beautiful gown and hand fan, who is also a decaying, brain craving zombie.
Start to finish, Funko POP! has done an amazing job capturing the essence of each of these classic monsters. They have also taken things that are tinged in horror and meant to scare and have made them somewhat adorable and desirable as collectible pieces. They have done this, in part, because they are so darn cute but they have also touched that ephemeral quality that takes something from good to great and from simply watchable to memorable. These deserve a place on the shelf of anyone who call themselves not only a fan of monsters but a fan of the art of film.