Friday, October 20, 2006


It’s a real shame that the action figure licensing for two of the biggest franchises of the 60s, namely James Bond and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., was given over to Gilbert. Although they produced some nice toys, their 1/6th scale action figures were horrible. The standard body was a blow molded affair with the only movement at the shoulders and hips where the arms and legs attached. Literally, these figures were like cheap baby dolls you would buy at the drug store.

The head sculpts were not much better. The James Bond figure had a head sculpt that looked like a very jowly Sean Connery. Even the Sean Connery of today is not as jowly as this funny looking figure. The likeness of David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin was not too bad, but he had a slightly childlike appearance. The Robert Vaughn/Napoleon Solo head sculpt was way off.

The only redeeming feature of these figures, along with all the other Gilbert action figures, was the accessory sets. The guns, scuba gear, etc., that were sold separately for these figures were nicely detailed. Gilbert put out a version of the Thrush rifle that was spot on. Still, really nice accessories for really junky figures seems like child abuse, to me.

These guys weren’t cheap either. In 1964, Sears offered an exclusive version of the James Bond figure in a basic suit, with a gun that went inside a small briefcase. And this bonanza could be had for only $6.99. $6.99!! This is 1964 money we’re talking about! You could feed a family of four for a week on $6.99 back then. For the same price, they offered an OddJob figure that was rigged to throw his bowler hat like he did in the movie. Problem was, the figure was permanently in a crouched position with his right arm cocked at a funny angle. If he wasn’t throwing the bowler, he simply looked like he had a back problem.

I never owned any of these figures as a kid, an
d I haven’t actively pursued collecting them as an adult, mainly because of the cost. For Christmas a few years back, my wonderful wife thoughtfully got me an Illya Kuryakin figure. I was thrilled, but I really wanted the head on a more useable body, so I decapitated a generic figure that I had purchased at a warehouse store (they came five to a box for $14.99). I then set about creating a gun that looked like the one they used on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I used left over bits from accessories I stockpiled from other action figure purchases. He turned out pretty good.

Later, I discovered that a man by the name of Dale Van Slyke makes and sells action figure heads made out of resin (he has a store on eBay called Diver4’s Treasure Chest). He makes heads of Illya Kuryakin, Napoleon Solo, Sean Connery as James Bond, and OddJob. I purchased a Napoleon Solo head, painted it, and
mounted the head on yet another decapitated action figure.

This picture shows my Man from U.N.C.L.E. figures: one with the Gilbert Illya Kuryakin head and one with Dale’s Napoleon Solo head:

I also have a picture of an Illya Kuryakin I made for a friend using Dale’s resin head:

Dale Van Slyke has an amazing collection of resin heads for 1/6th scale figures. The heads resemble a wide range of favorite actors like John Wayne, Tom Hanks, Steve McQueen, and Al Pacino, just to name a few. It’s well worth checking out his eBay store if you are into making custom action figures.

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