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REVIEW:
INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE GERMAN SOLDIER WITH MOTORCYCLE
By Thomas Wheeler


For the most part, the first wave or so of Indiana Jones action figures was focused on the newest movie, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, as one would expect it to, as well as the original movie, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. It is perhaps no great surprise that the second movie, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, has not received any toy attention -- yet. However, there hasn't been a whole lot from INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE as yet, either. With one notable exception.

In the first and third Indiana Jones movies, Indy goes up against -- Nazis. This is not inappropriate. The movies take place in the mid to late 1930's, technically before America was at war with Germany, but we certainly knew the sort of probable threat the Nazis posed to the world.

It could well be argued, though, that in this day of excessive caution and political correctness, it would be virtually impossible to release Nazi action figures in the general market. Unless, of course, you didn't use the word "Nazi", and worked them into an action figure line like Indiana Jones.

And so we have, among the deluxe action figure sets currently available, a GERMAN SOLDIER WITH MOTORCYCLE. How does this fit into the movie? I'm glad you asked.

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy's father, played by Sean Connery, has been kidnapped by Nazis, who are looking for the Holy Grail, allegedly the cup which caught the blood of Christ. Indy's father has been obsessed with finding it for most of his life.

Indy learns that his father was hired by a wealthy businessman named Walter Donovan, who informs him that Indy's father vanished while searching for a clue to the location of the Holy Grail, using an incomplete stone tablet as his guide. Indy receives a special package that turns out to be his father's Grail diary in which he recorded all his findings and clues towards the Holy Grail. Understanding that his father would not have sent the Grail Diary, his father's life's work, to him unless he was in trouble, Indiana and longtime family friend (and dean of the school where Indy teaches) Marcus Brody travel to Venice. There they meet the beautiful and mysterious Dr. Elsa Schneider who had been working with Indiana's father.

Over the course of their adventure, Indiana finds his father, but they are betrayed by Elsa and Donovan, who worked with the Nazis to stage Henry's kidnapping, so that Indiana would solve the mystery of the Grail for them.

Indiana and Henry are tied up, but escape and travel to Berlin to retrieve Henry's diary, which contains the clues to evade three booby traps guarding the Grail.

The Joneses, Indy's longtime friend Sallah, and Brody reach the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, the site of the temple housing the Grail. The Nazis capture them in the temple, and Donovan shoots Henry, forcing Indiana to retrieve the Grail, so as to heal his father's fatal wounds. Guided by the diary, Indiana circumvents the deadly booby traps, reaching a room where a knight of the First Crusade, kept alive by the power of the Grail, has hidden it among many false cups, while Donovan and Elsa follow. The knight informs them that, if they wish for the Grail, they must choose wisely for it, for while drinking from the true Grail will bring them everlasting life, a false Grail will take it from them. Elsa identifies a golden, bejeweled cup as the Grail, and Donovan impatiently drinks from it. Realizing the Grail is false, Donovan dies, aging rapidly into dust.

Indiana picks out the true Grail, a plain cup with a gold interior, and drinks from it, whereupon the knight advises him that he has chosen "wisely". Indiana fills the Grail with water and uses it to heal Henry.

So -- where does a German motorcycle fit into all of that? Well, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is filled with an astonishing number of close calls, cliffhangers, and assorted escapes, arguably more than the other movies. One such, as described on the back of the package to this toy, proceeds thusly: Speeding full-force on his army-issued motorcycle, this soldier chases down Indy and his father, Henry Jones, as they attempt to escape from a German intelligence base located just outside of Salzburg. Aided by his knowledge of the terrain, the soldier intercepts Indy at a German border checkpoint. Indy sends him careening from his bike, using an Austrian flagpole as a weapon.

It was really quite a spectacular scene in the movie, seeing that motorcycle go flying. Interestingly enough, this scene was a late addition. After viewing a rough cut of the movie, Spielberg added the scene, which was shot at Mount Tamalpais, near Lucas Valley.

I was still surprised that this was made into a toy, however. The German Soldier figures that have been made a part of this line that hail from Raiders of the Lost Ark, having been based around the archaeological dig in the Egyptian desert that was seeking to uncover the Ark of the Covenant, were not especially Nazi-looking. You're not going to go on a desert expedition wearing your fanciest uniform.

This motorcycle soldier, however, operated a lot closer to home, and looked the part. So it's a little surprising to me that Hasbro would take a mild risk and make a figure of him. Of course, the real surprise was seeing that 12" German Officer, also from Last Crusade, in the larger-scale figures. Maybe I'm the one who's being paranoid about the potential reaction from the politically-correct here.

So, what have we got here with this German Soldier and his Motorcycle? Regardless of how he ended up -- or up-ended -- the toy is extremely impressive, and while it might not stand up yo an exacting study for historical accuracy, it certainly comes close enough as far as I'm concerned, and I've watched enough History Channel in recent years to know what a German Soldier of the time period dressed like, at least on a basic level.

The figure is dressed in a dark, grey-green uniform, and is wearing a long coat. This aspect of his uniform was neatly accomplished, especially since the figure has to plausibly sit down on the motorcycle, by making the coat below the waist out of fabric. I'm sure this was an instance where trying to make it out of a more flexible plastic simply would not have been sufficient given the range of motion needed.

While I normally feel that actual fabric pieces on a figure in this size range doesn't always work that well, it works very well here, since the fabric coat portion doesn't have to bunch up around sleeves or anything. It's just the long portion of the coat. I do find myself wondering how difficult it was to match the colors, however, between the fabric and the plastic or the paint or whatever. In any case, Hasbro did a magnificent job.

The coat portion is neatly hemmed, and has two pockets neatly sewn onto its sides. The overall look of the figure is VERY German, complete with collar insignias and everything else. No swastikas, obviously. The molded plastic sleeves of the coat have huge cuffs. The trousers underneath the coat are of the same dark grey-green color, and the figure has black gloves and high black boots.

The German Soldier is wearing a helmet with goggles, and is wearing them in the package, and alas, here is where we come to the one problem plaguing the Indiana Jones line. The headsculpt is superb, and looks VERY Germanic somehow. Something about the facial structure and the hairstyle. And it's not a head that was used for any of the German Soldiers from the Raiders of the Lost Ark branch. It's an entirely distinctive headsculpt, and an excellent one. However...

The line seems to be having a little trouble painting eyes accurately. It's not impossible to find figures with well-painted eyes. Neither is it always easy. Now, I can understand that it is extremely difficult to accurately paint eyes on such small figures, especially when you're going all-out and painting the whites of the eyes, colored irises, black pupils, and a line above the eyes to represent eyelashes. That's as many as four painting steps on a mass-produced figure in a pretty small space. And I DO have to compliment the level of painted detail on the figures overall. Snaps, buttons, buckles, all very well done. Granted, these are easier than eyes. But it can be a little disconcerting to see somewhat sloppy eyes on a fair percentage of these figures. I'd almost sooner see sloppy shirt buttons, but what I'd really like to see is consistent accuracy across the board.

Unfortunately, since there wasn't much way to SEE the eyes on this figure, with the helmet and the opaque goggles, I had to take my chances. And alas, -- well, I suspect it could well have been worse, but it could've been better, too. One eye looks larger than the other, and the smaller one seems to be missive a fair portion of the "top line". I might be able to fix it, but that's not something everyone can say, and honestly, I really feel I shouldn't have to. I realize that toy companies still regard their products as being marketed to kids, and most kids wouldn't care (although I have encountered a few who do) about this sort of thing, and I also realize that sometimes the toy companies are often as much at the mercy of the factories as the eventual purchaser of the product. I understand all of this. And I am pleased to have this German Soldier figure, don't get me wrong. He's extremely impressive.

The figure is otherwise very neatly painted, including the eyebrows and the hair, and the details on the uniform, which include collar insignias, the collar itself, coat buttons, and more. And he is also very well-articulated, poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. In order to properly sit on the motorcycle, his legs are spread apart a little bit, but he still looks fine standing straight up. The coat covers the fact that his legs are spread out a little, and they're honestly not THAT spread out. "Moderate action stance" would be my best definition for it.

Accessories for the German Soldier include a rifle on a strap, and a small pistol that will fit into a holster on the Soldier's belt.

Now, let's discuss the Motorcycle. I asked a friend of mine, a military expert, how militarily accurate it was. His reply: "Yeah, if Germany used Harleys in WW2 instead of Zundapp motorcycles. The one featured is VERY loosely based on a 350CC DKW German motorcycle."

Okay, it's still a cool motorcycle, and as far as the toy is concerned, Hasbro really went all out with this. The overall detail level is really superb. It's got a decent amount of weight to it, fantastic detail including cables running from the handlebars to the front wheel and to the engine, painted headlight and tail-light, and frankly, enough equipment hanging off of the front and back of this thing, mostly sculpted bound-up bundles of who-knows-what, that it looks like this guy is packed and ready for a three-day campout in some German forest somewhere. Of course the wheels turn, and the front one is steerable. The tires are actually made from a rubbery plastic and attached separately during the toy's assembly.

The painted detailing is superb. I probably could have done without the scrapes and dirt sprayed onto it, but the painted detailing that's been put on the various motor parts, exhaust pipe, buckles, straps, and everything else is nothing short of astounding. This motorcycle has been given a level of detail that is way beyond usual for a mass market toy. Seriously, this motorcycle is really a masterwork of toy engineering AND detailing. It's really excellent.

And, the German Soldier looks good riding it. What more could you ask for?

Now, when it comes to Hasbro making 3-3/4" military figures, there's going to be one inevitable comparison. How do they stack up to G.I. Joe? And really, it's not a fair comparison. Structurally, these figures aren't really that close to any established version of the Real American Hero. If anything, they're more like Star Wars figures in their structural design.

However, when you start to deal with vehicles, that's another matter entirely. 3-3/4" scale is 3-3/4" scale. And this Motorcycle is hardly the only vehicle in the line, nor is it even the only military vehicle in the line. And there is little doubt in my mind that G.I. Joe fans are going to be making use of Indiana Jones vehicles within their own personal "Joe-verse", and certainly this truly superb Motorcycle would be a logical contender.

So what's my final word here? I'm impressed. This Indiana Jones action figure line has a lot of potential, and so far, it's living up to it very nicely. The figures are well-made, well-detailed, well-articulated, and generally well-painted. There's four movies at the very least to work from, and it is my sincere hope that the line continues and grows well after "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is out of the theaters and on most people's DVD shelf.

And as for this German Soldier with Motorcycle, it's a particular impressive item in the line. The German Soldier certainly LOOKS like a German Soldier. Whatever problem I may have with his his eyes were painted, the headsculpt in general is excellent, and the uniform design and execution superb. And the Motorcycle is a truly excellent piece of work. It's a prime example of just how really cool and really impressive an action figure vehicle can be when full attention is paid to the details and turning out the best possible product. No wonder it's been rather hard to find...!

The INDIANA JONES GERMAN SOLDIER WITH MOTORCYCLE most definitely gets my highest recommendation!