Indiana Jones Collectors Review: Dr. Henry Jones, Sr.
Sideshow Exclusive Edition
Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498)
Review Date: February 8, 2010
§ Holy Grail
§ Henry’s Grail Diary (opened version)
§ Umbrella (closed version)
§ Broken Grail Tablet – Sideshow Exclusive Accessory
§ Display stand with Indiana Jones logo
The path to what you seek most is a perilous road beset with obstacles and setbacks, but perseverance and faith will ultimately carry you to your destination.
That theme is prevalent in the Grail Quest of The Last Crusade. In a less intense and more generalized sense, it can also apply to Sideshow Collectibles’ 1:6 scale Indiana Jones product line. The inaugural figure—Raiders of the Lost Ark Indy—filled collectors with exhilaration and hope, but it proved to be disastrous due to the excessively floppy Prometheus base body. German Soldier Indy was an unnecessary and unwanted entry this early in the line, and Toht’s glasses and exclusive Ark of the Covenant failed to fully deliver on expectations. By the time Henry Jones Sr. was announced, collectors were disillusioned with the series, and many of the figures languished on Second Chance. In fact, only Henry and Raiders Indy are sold out. German Soldier Indy and both versions of Belloq are available as is the exclusive edition of Toht. When the temporarily-sold out Crystal Skull Indy starts shipping, the exclusive is bound to go on Second Chance due to the $175 MSRP.
But for those collectors who endured and held out hope for a truly great entry in the line, their faith has been rewarded, and Dr. Henry Jones Sr. has become the shining star of this struggling line.
Sideshow’s track record with likenesses over the past several years has been occasionally sketchy, but there has been one constant: they really know how to sculpt the old guys! Both Ben Kenobi and Chancellor Palpatine are so spot-on accurate that they look like miniaturized versions of the actors. Sideshow can now add Henry Jones to that elite group, and this is probably their best 1:6 scale work yet.
Since pictures and the obvious comment that “This IS Sean Connery” pretty much covers the sculpting (save for some specific commentary later), let’s move straight to the paint applications. The skin tone is very natural with some intermixed subtle shades of red which flushes the face with a sense of life. The stern and piercing eyes are the most realistic ones this reviewer has ever seen on a Sideshow figure, and their quality rivals that of Hot Toys. The artists did an exceptional job blending and applying the gray and white of Henry’s moustache and beard, but the hairline does get splotchy and lacks smooth transitions at times.
This is an amazing portrait, and it would be near-perfection if it were two years ago. However, a particular development in the 1:6 scale realm keeps this stunning Sean Connery portrait from being “top gun”. That something is Hot Toys’ hyper-realistic painting and sculpting techniques. Seeing the uncanny texture and lifelike skin on currently-available figures such as Don Vito Corleone, the Joker, and Tony Stark proves that, with the right tools, talent, and dedication, this portrait could indeed have the rough and aged texture that Connery’s face had in the movie. Instead, the skin remains too smooth and therefore younger in appearance.
Of course, Hot Toys regularly charges $150 per figure whereas Henry costs $90, so it would be unrealistic to expect the same level of quality. For all practical purposes, Sideshow truly outdid themselves this time.
The elder Jones’ suit is drab, old-fashioned, and simple—the dressings of a man unconcerned with social extravagance. Furthermore, he is the intellectual and academic Jones, so his clothing is far from the rugged utilitarian garments worn by his son. These notions would lead one to believe there is very little to discuss. Ordinarily, that would be the case.
Fortunately, Sideshow crafted what is probably one of their best 1:6 scale outfits yet, and that gives us quite a bit to discuss.
Unlike figures such as Admiral Piett, Sideshow opted to only include a sculpted plastic hat rather than provide both plastic and cloth versions. This was a gamble because sculpted hats can be very tricky to create in this scale because they lack the fabric’s flexibility. Thankfully, Sideshow was more than up to the challenge. The sculpting not only conveys an accurate overall shape, but it also effectively simulates both the waviness of the brim and the crosshatched texture of the screen costume’s woolen cloth. Most important of all, it fits so well on the figure’s head that it remains snug and looks completely natural at the same time—unlike the recent Medicom figure whose hat looks like an overturned flower pot.
For the suit, Sideshow selected a fabric that scaled down wonderfully and is an excellent approximation of the screen costume. Such a combination is often difficult because many fabrics tend to reveal their true scale despite the tailors’ best efforts. The clothing fits comfortably on the figure and is neither restrictive nor baggy. The bottoms of the trousers hang naturally at the feet, and the shoes have exceptional detail and weathering. The stitching is noticeable but not overly intrusive. Most impressive of all though is that—with one exception—the outfit did not require any futzing. This review’s pictures show the outfit as it was right out of the box, which is a very rare occurrence.
Sideshow did a phenomenal job on Henry’s vest as well. In addition to being well-tailored to the base body, the hook clasps keeping it closed are not intrusive at all. Too many times, the hooks become grossly visible due to issues with placement and/or creased fabric. That did not happen here. In fact, the only reason they are slightly visible in the picture below is because Henry’s arms were clasped behind him, stretching out the vest in the process. Another interesting component is the leather band that looks to be holding the vest together. It’s not. It’s an illusion. They are actually two separate pieces designed to line up and appear as one continuous strip.
Now we come to the aforementioned “no futzing required” exception. The collar on this sample got folded and pinned underneath Henry’s bowtie, resulting in a severe crease. This occurred because the bowtie is made of hard plastic as opposed to fabric like the Medicom version. While a cloth version would certainly have been possible, the plastic approach guarantees that the tie will never accidentally come undone. Also, it doesn’t really stand out all that much, so it’s not aesthetically detrimental.
Amidst all the accolades regarding the costume, there exists one minor negative issue, and it involves the suit jacket. The jacket looks to be roughly a quarter inch too short. On its own, it isn’t quite so noticeable. When compared against the screen costume, it becomes noticeable. How this tailoring error slipped past Sideshow and made it all the way to production is anybody’s guess.
Saving the best for last, we now come to the most impressive component of the entire costume—Henry’s glasses.
Honestly, many collectors were dreading these. The preview image of Major Arnold Toht showed glasses that were rather impressive due to the small scale. When the final product surfaced, they looked no better than welding goggles because the frames were so thick. The glasses single-handedly ruined the portrait. What would Henry’s glasses look like? His are more delicate and intricate than Toht’s eyewear. Just how bad was it going to be?
In a surprising turn of events, Sideshow pulled off a proverbial miracle and produced glasses that were equal to the prototype in every way. The ear pieces hook smoothly around Henry’s ears and sit flush on his face. The lenses are free of any major defects, and there is only the slightest bleeding of gold paint onto the lenses. To the naked eye, those runs are virtually undetectable. Whereas Toht’s glasses showed how not to craft 1:6 scale glasses, Henry’s spectacles set a new benchmark for Sideshow and other companies.
Other than their expected extreme fragility, the only negative aspect is the lenses are slightly undersized—specifically they are not wide enough. It is something that is impossible to discern just from looking at the figure. When compared against an image from the movie though, it is more noticeable. However, the final product is so overwhelmingly spectacular that such a flaw is easily ignored.
Sideshow’s work on this outfit surpasses even Hot Toys in many regards. It also raises the standard against which their future endeavors can be measured.
Design and Durability: Above Average
By now, the 1:6 scale collecting community is all too familiar with the unmitigated disaster that was Raiders of the Lost Ark Indiana Jones. The chronic and crippling floppiness of the inaugural Prometheus body dropped the Indiana Jones line squarely behind the 8-ball, and the only thing worse than the noodle-like figure was the backlash it spawned against Sideshow Collectibles.
Time, however, became a healing force, and subsequent Sideshow figures such as Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander, and Toht steadily eliminated the severe flaws in the original Pro bodies. The result: “Jones Senior” is the figure that “Jones Junior” should have been, and collectors can finally appreciate all the inherent strengths of the Prometheus design.
Based on this particular sample, the refined Prometheus body proves to be a definite improvement over the older Buck body, but it still has a few issues. The body hangs naturally and realistically, and the range of motion easily surpasses the Buck and stands toe-to-toe with the Truetype body (Hot Toys). Case in point: Henry can casually hook his thumbs in his pants pockets without looking awkward. The Pro also has a leg up on the Truetype because it is more durable. The best indicators here are the wrist pegs. They fit firmly in the sockets, but the hands can be swapped with little fear of breakage. Of course, it’s not much of an issue here because there really isn’t any use for the alternate clenched fists.
Now there have been some rumblings over the Prometheus being in a slightly smaller scale, and there is merit to this dissatisfaction. Sean Connery is an inch taller than Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), yet Sideshow’s Anakin Skywalker figure is nearly an inch taller than Henry. At full scale, that’s a half-foot difference! For collectors who are sensitive to such matters of scale, this could be a deal breaker. For this reviewer, the issue is not as severe, but it would be nice if Sideshow could bring the Pro’s scale in line with the Buck.
Instead, the more pressing issue is that the body fails to fill out the clothing as good as the Buck did—specifically the backs of the thighs. The gaps are so large that Henry’s trousers can cave into them, impeding the natural look of some poses. This is one area where Hot Toys trumps Sideshow—the Truetype’s legs are more anatomically accurate.
Holy Grail: Below Average
Sideshow seems to have lousy luck thus far with their 1:6 scale MacGuffins of the Indiana Jones films. The Ark of the Covenant has issues such as an inappropriate matte finish and inaccurate ornamentation. With the Holy Grail, the glaring problem is the poor paint application. Sideshow attempted to replicate the prop’s flaking paint appearance, but the result turned out to be a cross between a giraffe’s spots and a camouflage pattern. The prototype Grail has a more accurate deco and what appears to be a rougher texture, so it’s a shame the production piece failed to meet expectations. Even worse, the prototype is still the version featured on the official product page, which is extremely misleading. The Grail does succeed in terms of scale, shape, and durability, but all that comes in a distant second to how poor it looks.
Here’s to hoping the Crystal Skull fares better.
Henry’s Grail Diary: Excellent
While the Holy Grail represents a fumble, the Grail Diary is a bona fide touchdown. Only an opened version of the diary comes with the figure (a regrettable oversight by Sideshow), and it contains the pages related to the Roman numeral markers in the Venetian library. The diary contains a tremendous amount of simulated detail such as aged yellowed pages and nicked “leather”. As for the two visible pages, Sideshow must have scanned the original prop and used it to “print” these scaled pages because they are an exact match—right down to the punctuation and positioning of every text blurb and graphic. This astonishing dedication to authenticity is what makes for truly great accessories and helps justify the cost for collectors.
Umbrella and Suitcase: Excellent
Next are Henry’s most iconic props—his trusty umbrella and suitcase.
As with the Grail Diary, only one version of the umbrella is included. This time, Sideshow provided the closed version of the accessory. While a disappointment to some collectors, this was the best choice between the two. A closed umbrella is much more versatile. Henry can rest it casually on his shoulder, draw it back as a club, or slide it through the leather straps of his suitcase. Besides, he only opened the umbrella for one scene anyway. As for the artistry, it is impeccable. Sideshow used matte paints for every part except the silver (“metal”) parts, and the sculptors did a phenomenal job conveying the illusion of nylon wound tightly around the core.
The suitcase is yet another outstanding addition to Henry’s accessories. Its most surprising aspect is how heavy it is. Sideshow cast the case in solid plastic, making the case weigh at least several ounces. It’s heavy enough that one needs to shift the figure’s center of gravity to compensate for the suitcase’s pull. The leather straps are highly authentic as they are attached via loops and working buckles. This allows collectors to produce enough extra slack to accommodate the umbrella and imitate how Henry carried it in the movie. The case itself has a worn texture to it, and the excellent blending of browns and blacks add to its aged appearance. All of this is topped off with gold and yellow weathering around the edges, giving the accessory a more lived-in appearance.
Broken Grail Tablet (Exclusive Accessory): Excellent (Bordering on Above Average)
Henry’s exclusive accessory is the sandstone Grail Tablet featured in Donovan’s apartment. The scale looks accurate enough, and one look is enough to see that Sideshow’s team went to great lengths making this piece. The shape and weathered edges are nearly identical to the prop. A spot check of the writing is even more surprising because there are sections of text which perfectly match the writing on the prop. The number of lines between the bottom of the cross and the bottom of the tablet are in sync as well (seven lines of text). The overall replication is so close that it would not be a surprise to learn a laser scan was taken of the actual prop in the Lucasfilm Archives and was used as a base for this scaled-down version.
There is a single drawback to the tablet: Sideshow cast the accessory in lightweight hollow plastic. The result is that, while having an authentic look, the tablet has a distinctly cheap feel to it. The choice to use hollow plastic is a puzzling one considering the suitcase’s unexpected mass. Additionally, Sideshow incorporated polystone into the exclusive accessories for Toht and Crystal Skull Indy, so it’s surprising they didn’t use polystone for the tablet and charge an extra $10.
The Grail Table was also an odd choice for the exclusive accessory. In terms of the story, it is a vital component of the Jones’ quest and is just as important as the Grail Diary. Therefore, it should have been a standard component of the figure. For those wondering what other exclusive accessory Sideshow could have used, the fake vase Henry smashes on Indy’s head would have been the perfect choice!
One final comment on the Grail Tablet:
In the film, Indy uses the Crusader’s shield to complete a rubbing of the Grail Tablet which Henry made off-screen. The writing on the 1:6 scale version is just deep enough that it is possible to create your own rubbing of the tablet. It’s far from perfect, and the writing is certainly not as legible as the on-screen copy. However, the cross comes through quite clearly. With a healthy dose of patience and delicateness, collectors can create their own 1:6 scale Grail Tablet rubbing accessory.
Overall Rating: Excellent
For all these reasons, Dr. Henry Jones, Sr. is the Indiana Jones line’s own hero. It is everything collectors could expect from Sideshow in this era of hyper-realism spearheaded by the master artisans and engineers at Hot Toys. The exquisite tailoring sets a new bar for 1:6 scale clothing, and the eyeglasses are undoubtedly one of this scale’s most impressive accessories. Henry’s Prometheus body is the piece of fine engineering that should have started with Indy himself. Even the weakest accessory (i.e. – the Holy Grail) becomes a non-issue in the bigger picture.
But this savior may have come too late.
According to Sideshow Collectibles, the Indiana Jones line is taking a “pause”, which is most likely its death knell. The company has a long history of abruptly abandoning lines—Highlander and Lord of the Rings immediately come to mind. The insinuation is that there is a lack of collector interest. However, in this reviewer’s opinion, the interest is there. It is the product quality and/or character choices that have been lacking thus far. In prosperous times, $90 for a figure is an expensive purchase. These are not prosperous times, and $90 feels like $180 to many people right now.
Sideshow, bring your “A”-game to the table here!
Tackle popular core characters, get the prices of the Exclusive Editions under control (no more $85 extra for an exclusive refrigerator), put the same amount of care and attention into them that you did with Henry Senior, and interest will most likely rebound. A good 1:6 scale Mola Ram or Temple of Doom Indy with a base body similar to the recent Hot Toys’ Wolverine would sell through very quickly—especially since collectors have been screaming for these two characters.
Fellow collectors, if this is indeed the unceremonious and unjustified end to the line, then do your best to grab Henry from your nearest and most reliable e-tailer. At least you will have the pinnacle of the Indiana Jones 1:6 scale line and a worthy addition to your collection.
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