16 November 2012
Mike Pigott remembers the little-known range of Robocop mode ...
It’s very easy to write off Robocop as just another violent action film. However, it is regarded by many critics as one of the best films of the 1980s. Made in 1987, it was directed by the great Dutch director, Paul Verhoeven. Although it is an extremely violent film, it also has an intellectual, sometimes sarcastic bite to it.
The film is set in an unspecified future Detroit, where a multi-national corporation, Omni Consumer Products, owns the whole city – including the local government and the police force. On his first day on the force, young cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is ambushed by a gang of drugs dealers and shot to pieces. An OCP executive takes what is left of Murphy’s body, and has him remade into a robot cyber-cop, with an armoured body and a new computer brain – the first of a planned series of super-assassins. However, bits of Murphy’s memory and personality start to seep through…
The toys were not based on the films, but on the first TV series from 1994, which starred Richard Eden as Robocop. Released in 1995, there were three models in the series. They were made by a company you’ve probably never heard of: Toy Island. I certainly hadn’t heard of them, but I later found out that they are a Hong Kong-based company that mainly makes action figures based on Japanese manga comic books and cartoon shows, along the lines of Pokemon and Power Rangers, plus toys based on video games like Sonic. This Robocop line seems to be their only venture into diecast vehicles.
On first impressions, this range seems to be of the quality of pound-store junk toys. They are about 1/38 scale, they have plastic bases, pull-back motors, opening doors… as I said, just like junk toys. However, it is the great presentation that sets them apart. Each vehicle comes beautifully packaged with a miniature Robocop figure, a magnifying glass, several plastic accessories and a cardboard diorama. The dioramas are pre-creased and come with plastic supports that plug into pre-punched holes on the backdrops to make them stand upright.
They are intricately drawn dioramas, showing a crime in progress through the storefront windows, and various ‘clues’ left on the sidewalk. These are in the form of printed notes and documents, supposedly dropped by the crooks, which can be read using the enclosed magnifying glass. The little Robocop figure was in steel blue, with his lower face touched in with pink paint, and had moving arms and legs. Unfortunately, he was not articulated at the knees, so you couldn’t actually fit him behind the wheel of the vehicles. All three vehicles came complete with a lamp post and double parking meter, plus other accessories unique to the individual cars. Let’s have a look at them now.
This car is quite clearly based on a Ford Mustang, although not marked as one – possibly to avoid paying royalties to Ford, but more likely because the cars on the TV show were stripped of badging to make them look less familiar (it was a pretty low-budget show). As a scale model, it’s not particularly crash hot; on the other hand, as a toy car it’s quite good. The casting is fairly accurate, the lights and other details are touched in with coloured paints, and the doors open and close solidly.
It is painted a dull grey with black trim, ‘police’ signs are printed on and the light bar is excellent. On the minus side, the rear window is left solid (to hide the motor) and the interior is extremely basic. It came with the accessories mentioned above, plus three assorted rifles. The backdrop card showed police apprehending a masked suspect at a bullet-ridden Ace Sporting Goods shop. Using your magnifying glass, you could track the other villain’s escape route down a manhole, plus locate a dropped wallet belonging to Tony Pagani.
This was a fairly realistic casting of a Hummer, again in flat grey with markings for Detroit Police Tactical Command. It was an open back, pick-up style Hummer, although the rear bed was not very deep due to the pull-back motor underneath it. It had a red and blue light bar on the roof. The doors could open revealing a rather weak interior.
The special accessory this time was a box with an opening lid, which was probably meant to be full of gold or currency. The diorama card showed the First National Bank, with a robbery in progress and a woman being held hostage. If you looked closely, you could find a suitcase dropped by someone called Jack Spivak.
This used the same casting as the previous model, with a few modifications. The roof was flat, as was the pick-up bed, and there was now a metal canopy over the back, with an opening rear door. The ambulance was, naturally, white with a red cross on the roof and marked as a ‘Detroit Police Tactical Field Ambulance’. The extra piece was an injured man on a stretcher.
The backdrop was a shopfront for Allen Fine Jewellery, with its windows ransacked and full of bullet holes. The ambulance was definitely needed, as there is a chalk outline of one of the perpetrators on the footpath. A dropped briefcase reveals a note to Tony from Jack, so presumably those dirty rats Pagani and Spivak are behind this job as well. But all this magnifying glass work is a lot more like Sherlock Holmes than Robocop, who would more than likely blow the crooks away first and ask questions later!
THIS IS AN EXTRACT FROM A FEATURE THAT APPEARED IN THE DECEMBER 2011 ISSUE OF DIECAST COLLECTOR. YOU CAN STILL ORDER A DIGITAL VERSION OF THIS MAGAZINE FROM THE POCKETMAGS WEBSITE.