Alas, ultimately the Indiana Jones action figure line didn't make it very far into 2009 -- and then mostly as clearance merchandise. I think this is a genuine shame. There are four impressive movies out there, some better received then others, assorted ancillary stories, the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles -- all right -- it's not Star Wars. It's still a cool concept, and I think it deserved to fare better than it did. Certainly it had more going for it toywise than a lot of the stuff on the store shelves these days.
There were 3-3/4" figures, vehicles, playsets, and even 12" figures -- one of which caught my eye. And it wasn't Indy. And no, it wasn't Mutt Williams, either. It was the GERMAN OFFICER.
Two of the Indiana Jones movies -- RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE -- featured our irrepressible adventurer going up against Der Fuhrer's finest. In "Raiders", though, they didn't tend to look the part that much. I mean, let's face it, if you're hanging around in the deserts of Africa at some heat-blasted archaeological dig, the uniform code is going to go out the window pretty quickly. About the only way you could tell these guys were Nazis was they certainly didn't look native to the area, they spoke German, they carried rifles, and they had a tendency to shoot at the good guys with very little provocation.
"Last Crusade" was another matter, however. Indy and his rather alarmed and unaccustomed to being shot at father were harassed by Nazis all over the place -- most of which maintained a better sense of dress.
One of the more notable such locations in the movie was in a castle in Austria. Indy had tracked his father here, and found a whole nest of Nazis -- and of course wound up getting caught by them. Determined to escape, and during one such attempt, Indy and his father were faced by the abrupt entrance of a German military officer and a number of well-armed soldiers. Indy engaged them in a lively philosophical discussion about their beliefs and they ultimately saw the error of their ways and cheerfully let them go.
Well, no. Indy basically turned them into bullet-ridden corpses courtesy of a machine gun, shocking his father, who said, "Look what you did! I can't believe you did that!"
All credit to Sean Connery, who after playing James Bond for as long as he did, turned in a performance of a character who was basically caught up in his son's insane adventures and was almost totally out of his element as a result. This also resulted in some fantastic one-liners, such as when Dr. Jones Senior complains that all of the assorted gunfire and such is a "new experience" for him, and Indy replies, "Happens to me all the time." Probably the best one-liner in the movie comes when Connery's character exclaims with no small amount of exasperation, "You call this archeology!?"
So we come to the 12" German Officer action figure. And I have to say, it's an impressive effort for a character that had about ten seconds of screen time, most of which were of him being repeatedly shot. This isn't even one of the major Germans in the movie. The text on the package reads, "This officer was part of the German forces headquartered in Brunwald Castle in Austria, where the Germans had imprisoned Indy's father as they hatched plans to capture the Holy Grail. When Indy crashed through a window to rescue Henry Jones, this officer broke into the room with one goal in mind: recovering the lost Grail diary. Despite his efforts, Indy overpowered the officer, using his own machine gun to eliminate him and two of his men."
Now, one can assume that one of the main reasons Hasbro made this figure was to give the 12" Indiana Jones figure someone to fight. But it does seem that the 12" choice of enemies was a little peculiar. I mean, they did a 12" figure of the Cairo Swordsman, and all he did in the first movie was wave his sword around and get shot by Indy from twenty feet away. Okay, it was a funny moment, but did it warrant an entire 12" figure?
But I think Hasbro knew that this 12" German Officer would also appeal to a secondary group of toy collectors. I mean, it's a 12" action figure, with a cloth uniform, looking reasonably authentic -- heck, it's basically a 12" G.I. Joe figure of a World War II German Officer, that just happens to be packed into a box marked "Indiana Jones". I know it, you know it, I suspect any number of Indiana Jones and G.I. Joe fans know it, and I'm pretty sure that Hasbro knows it.
One of the first things I tried to do was track down some specifics about the particular German Division or whatever that this officer might represent, or at least be reasonably close to. If there were any actual efforts by the Nazis to track down the Holy Grail I am not aware of them, although it has been said that Hitler had a thing about stuff like that, although it was more occult than spiritual.
Now, there's not much way you're going to market an action figure of a Nazi these days unless you're very specifically marketing it as an adult collectible and keeping it out of the usual retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. There actually was a 12" G.I. Joe figure a number of years back of a World War II German, but it was similarly devoid of any specific Nazi-like markings. Indeed, there are no swastikas here, no Nazi eagle, although there are some stylized images that are close.
Trying to find a basic summary of what the Waffen-SS were in part:
The Waffen-SS (German for "Armed SS", literally "Weapons SS") was the combat arm of the Schutzstaffel ("Protective Squadron") or SS. In contrast to the Heer, Germany's regular army, the Waffen-SS was a group of combat units composed of volunteer troops, with its members partially having strong personal commitments to Nazi ideology and also partially selected on a racial basis. The Heer was itself often mistakenly referred to as the Wehrmacht, however the term Wehrmacht actually referred to the combined armed forces, including the Heer, Kriegsmarine (Navy), Luftwaffe (Air Force). The Waffen-SS was not an official part of the Wehrmacht.
It was founded in Germany in 1939 after the SS was split into two units but the title of Waffen-SS only became official on 2 March, 1940. Although nominally under the leadership of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, a political and internal security appointee, the Waffen-SS saw action throughout the Second World War under de facto operational control of the Wehrmacht. During the war it grew to 39 divisions, which served as elite combat troops alongside the regular army.
Which creates just a bit of a continuity conflict timewise, since "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is said to have taken place in 1938. But, let's assume that in Indy's world, they got an earlier start.
The closest uniform matches I could find are some service dress uniforms from 1939 and 1940, which would be about right time-wise, and some Eastern Front uniforms from 1944. One thing that was entirely correct -- there was no collar insignia that matched the one seen on this figure, which is also a match for the one shown on the photo of the character from the movie. This was clearly something made up for the film, which makes a fair measure of sense if you think about it.
So, let's look at some of the uniform particulars. The figure has the same, slightly oversized cap as the G.I. Joe 12" German from some years ago, with one distinct omission. The near-eagle on the cap has been removed. This is interesting seeing as how the photo of the German Officer from the movie clearly has the eagle on his cap. The mold for the toy's cap, made out of semi-rigid plastic, is otherwise identical, and the original cap did have a near-eagle sculpted onto it. Why it's been removed, I am not certain.
There is an insignia on the upper left sleeve that resembles the eagle insignia, and a stylized belt buckle, as well. Perhaps the most Germanic thing about the figure's uniform other than its overall appearance in the armband on the lower left arm. Very typical of certain German military divisions in World War II, it is black with a white border and white lettering in the ornate script common to Germany. It says, "Deutschland". This is, of course, German for Germany, and thus makes the figure a little more vague, since most such armbands were a little more location-specific than that. But it is a nice touch.
Despite the understandable lack of distinctly Nazi insignias, there's not much way anyone with even a moderate knowledge of history is going to see this figure as representing anything other than a German Officer from World War II. The headsculpt has blonde hair and blue eyes. It's fairly generic in appearance, and doesn't really resemble the German officer in the movie much at all. But it's a good design, nicely detailed, and entirely appropriate to the role. The face has a determined and somewhat grim expression on it, and a bit of a nasty look in his eyes.
The jacket is neatly made and a dark tan in color. It has snaps, but it also has little chrome buttons, non-functional, decorating the front and the pockets. The collar is black, and however imaginary the collar insignias may be, they're placed well.
The trousers are the same color as the coat, and stay in place with two snaps, although I did find it necessary to hike them up on the figure a bit. They're slightly flared at the sides, again not unusual for a German Officer's uniform for the time period.
The figure is also wearing high boots, made from flexible plastic. This boot mold has been used for everything from the G.I. Joe German figure a few years back to Imperial Officers in Hasbro's 12" Star Wars collection. Sort of makes you wonder what it is with these tyrannical sorts wanting to wear high boots all the time.
The hat is more than a bit outsized, but thanks to an inlay of foam rubber around the brim, at least it stays put reasonably well.
Let's talk articulation. You know, I'm not that ardent a 12" collector. There's no shortage of modern 12" G.I. Joes and Star Wars figures that I missed out on along the way. Nevertheless, when the heck did Hasbro develop a 12" body that was this well-articulated? It has "(C) 2007 LucasFilm" stamped on it, but I find it just a little hard to believe that they came up with it just for the Indiana Jones line. This figure has the sort of articulation that 12" G.I. Joe fans have been clamoring for since the Hall of Fame days. I wouldn't mind seeing some Clone Troopers like this, for that matter.
About the only complaint I have is that the figure has a little trouble supporting its own weight due to the extensive articulation. The torso is a little loose. When I pulled him out of his package, my first thought was, "What's wrong with this thing? I never had a 12" figure from Hasbro that was this loose at the waist!" Well, I never had a 12" figure from Hasbro that was articulated at the waist and the mid-torso, either.
Then I went to move the arm, and it didn't stop at the usual 90-degree angle. It kept moving. Had I broken this!? No, I hadn't. This figure is just that well-articulated. He's fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, double-jointed elbows (with an amazing range of motion), wrists, index fingers, other three fingers, mid-torso, waist, legs, double-jointed knees that are just as poseable as the arms, and ankles. You can, with all likelihood, pose this German Officer in just about any position a human being is capable of, within reason.
Now, I don't usually make a big deal about accessories, but the German Officer comes with two very impressive firearms that are definitely worthy of some commentary. His rifle is an MP-40 submachine gun and the pistol is an MP-38 Walther. Both were actually used by the Germans during World War II.
The submachine gun has an astounding number of moving parts. Long gone are the days when a weapon accessory was stamped just out of a single piece of plastic. The ammo clip is removable and snaps into place very distinctly. There's a visible bullet at the top of the clip, that has been painted copper. The bolt of the rifle is moveable, and it has a swing-back stock with a movable brace. Add to that an elastic cord attached by two metal rings, and it's an impressive piece of work in and of itself.
The pistol is small, but impressive, with a nicely painted hilt, and a removable ammo clip. It snaps in pretty snugly and does not extract all that easily. It's also small enough so that if you're not careful you can easily flip it out of your fingers and send it flying across the room -- which is precisely what I did. Fortunately I found it readily enough, which isn't always the case around here. It too has a painted bullet at the top, and the pistol fits into a holster on the German Officer's belt.
So, what's my final word here? Well, it's a shame that the Indiana Jones line as a whole didn't last longer. There's a lot more I would have liked to have seen from it, and I think any Indy fan would say the same. This German Officer isn't likely to be that easily found by the time you read this review. That doesn't make it impossible, though. There's always the secondary market, and who knows what stragglers might be out there someplace? Stranger things have happened.
Ultimately, though, whether you want this figure because he was part of the Indiana Jones collection, or because he'll work well in a G.I. Joe collection, or just because you want a 12" figure of a World War II German Officer in your collection, you really can't go wrong here. This figure is superbly well-made, the paint detailing on the head is excellently done, a trend I would like to see more of in many sizes and lines of toys, the articulation is astounding, the uniform is well-done, and even the accessories are impressive. The INDIANA JONES 12" GERMAN OFFICER definitely has my highest recommendation!