Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Happy Halloween 2023: The Masque of the Red Death from Figure Obscura by Four Horsemen Studios


   Happy Halloween! Before we delve into today's spooky review, let me thank everyone who has dropped by Action Figure Barbecue for this year's installment of 31 Days of Toy Terror. I know that now most folks are into posting collecting stuff to sites like Instagram and Facebook and doing video reviews on Youtube, but I still love the traditional website and blog format. If you stopped here this year, thank you so much! Your comments, emails, and using me as a reference at any point is what keeps me going. Also a huge thank you to cryptkeepers Michelle and Dex at Countdown to Halloween who have kept the excellent Halloween Countdown running. Your efforts are truly appreciated!

  Now, onto the October 31st review: The Masque of the Red Death from the Four Horsemen Studios' Figure Obscura line. This was a huge surprise dropped by the Four Horsemen at the end of last month and it really delivers up a cool horror legend for fans of horror literature and 19th century Gothic spookiness. Last year the Four Horsemen gave us the Headless Horseman, so its pretty incredible to see them taking on another literary classic. Based on Edgar Allen Poe's 1842 short story "The Masque of the Red Death" (originally published as "The Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy"), this figure depicts the Red Death, a supernatural personification of the story's titular plague who pays a visit to the masquerade ball held by Prince Prospero. The masquerade (or masque) is intended to be a sort of quarantine, keeping the prince and 1,000 other nobles away from the common folk afflicted with the disease. It's not a long story though it's definitely worth a read if you're not familiar with it. In fact, the figure actually includes a small, illustrated book of the story. Ready to check out the Red Death? Then join me after the break...

The Facts:


Articulation: Double swivel hinge ankles, swivel/hinge knees, swivel thighs, H-hinged hips, balljointed waist, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel forearms, swivel/hinge wrists, and a balljointed head .

Accessories: Mask, 8 swappable hands, under robe, wrap with hood, dagger, clock, raven decoration, clock front, blood pool, and display background.

Non-Scalper Price: $60

The Packaging:

*  Like with most packaging from Four Horseman studios, the art is by Nate Baertsch. It's in shades of red and black with images of the Red Death, the abbey where the masquerade takes place, and a plague mask wearing cart driver toting bodies. very atmospheric and spooky.  The part on the right is a wrap around piece that doubles as a backdrop and snaps onto the box on the left via magnets. I'll get to the backdrop again in a moment.

The Positives:

* So... what is the Red Death supposed to look like? Poe describes the fiend as "tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat." Here's a 1935 depiction by Arthur Rackham and here's Greg Hildebrandt's illustration from 1986. The Phantom of the Opera also dressed like the Red Death in the film.  This figure definitely comes with robes, but I took them off to show the base figure first. He has a thin, emaciated appearance. The body is simply black, so you can assume he's either shadowy and supernatural or you're just not supposed to see it since it's under the robes. He does have a cool loincloth wrapped around his midsection for modesty, that way you don't have to look at his raven poking out.

* Here's the Mask of the Red Death worn by the Red Death in Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" and the head that it's worn on! The portrait definitely expands on Poe's limited description of the Red Death, adding a very Four Horseman embellished mask. It's really cool with a very bloody feel to it, like a melting face. It's clearly a mask, though, covered with ornate decorations. It's all red, but there are a few different colors of red which gives the mask an incredible appearance. It's quite spooky!

* The mask is removable, revealing a cavernous corpse head. There's just nothing left. No face or upper jaw; just the lower jaw and bits of chipped skull. The back of the skull cavity just looks black and empty, like a gaping maw capable of swallowing the living, or a black hole sucking all life and warmth from the world. Ooooh!!!

* Here's a closer look at the Red Death's corpse-like feet and thin, leathery legs. 

Just for fun here's another illustration: Harry Clarke's from 1919!

* OK, now that we've looked at the Red Death's body, let's check out the robes. They are nice. Very luxurious and made from a few different pieces. It's a very complex outfit and the quality is impressive. I love how there are different colors of red used here, too. It just makes the figure more visually interesting. The robe and the mask are the most important parts of the figure as in the story, they're all that really exists of the Red Death. When the robe is removed, there's nothing underneath.

* The hood fits perfectly and rests on the Red Death's head quite naturally. The hood and plenty other parts of the robe are wired, so they can be posed and draped appropriately. Well tailored 1/12th scale clothing is difficult but it's impressive when done right.

* Here's a look at the back of the robes. There's a coarse red robe underneath that the Red Death is wearing and then there is the darker red robe or toga-like wrap that drape across the figure. That piece is stitched to the hood and it's drapes which run down the back and off to the sides.

* If you're familiar with Mythic Legions or Cosmic Legions, you probably know what to expect here when it comes to articulation as the bodies and parts across those lines are used in Figure Obscura. While the robes do impair the the movement of the legs a bit, it's not more than you'd expect an actual robe to impair one's movement. The figure moves great and feels very durable. He takes menacing and eerie poses with ease, especially with his expressive arms and hands.

* Speaking of hands, the Red Death comes with four sets of hands. They swap easily and have long, creepy fingers to menace the nobility in your action figure collection. The Red Death has a bloody right hand with only a little blood on the tips of his left hand and there is a set of grasping hands, two pairs of gripping hands (one set with vertical hinged and one set with horizontal hinges), and a pair of open palm gesturing hands. 

* Just in case the partygoers are wearing masks, the Red Death also comes with a simple dagger as this Halloween he's bringing the pain directly! Oh, wait. It's not his. The dagger in the story is wielded by Prince Prospero when everyone starts getting suspicious and decides to kill the mysterious stranger who crashes the ball. Giving the figure the dagger is a pretty cool nod to the story and makes for a more dramatic display. I think the Red Death looks pretty cool wielding a dagger.

* The exterior of the box unfolds into a very cool (and sturdy) backdrop that shows the nobles (perhaps the guy in the center is Prince Prospero) wearing some really cool masks based on the seven deadly sins. From left to right it looks like sloth, lust, envy, wrath, gluttony, greed, and pride. The colors from the windows also match the colors from the different rooms of the abbey where the masquerade is held.

* The most impressive accessory included in the Masque of the Red Death set is the grandfather clock that sits in the black room with red light. It's a really cool piece that just looks impressive and is one of those neat accessories to own in the 1/12th scale. It's just a really nice piece with lots of cool details and a removable front case. It might be a bit smaller than you'd think from the way it's described in the story, but I think it works considering it's an included accessory.

* The top of the clock has a really cool raven detail as a nod to Edgar Allen Poe. It is removable, so if you don't want to have it on there you don't have to add it if you're planning to use this piece with another collection or in a diorama. I love the eerie red eyes on this little guy, though. 

* The weights, pendulum, and the cables and pulleys are all present behind the "glass" on the clock, though they don't move or anything. They're just sculpted elements.

* The front of the clock does come off, though I imagine this is more of a necessity from manufacturing the piece and assembly rather than truly a feature. It does let you appreciate the details a bit more, however, and I'm sure there are some fun things you can think to do with this. 

* Check out the detail on the clock! It's an ornate face that's set at midnight, the time when the Red Death appears. There is also a moon dial which shows a bloody red moon with a skeletal face rising up. What a great detail! It's one I missed out on initially when checking out the figure.

* There is a pool of flowing blood that the clock can stand on. It kind of looks like the blood is flowing from the clock itself, or maybe flowing from the Red Death himself. Or perhaps it's the blood of Prince Prospero and his 1,000 nobles? I just hope this is not Chris' blood. 

* Last up is a small illustrated copy of "The Masque of the Red Death" which features the artwork of Nate Baertsch that you see on the box. It's just a fun little inclusion, particularly if you don't have a copy of Poe's work. I have a really cool old hardcopy of the complete works of Poe that belonged to my paternal grandmother. I've had it since I was in second grade, when she passed, and I remember my dad reading "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Black Cat" to me when I was young. "The Black Cat" messed me up. I feel like "The Masque of the Red Death" is definitely lighter material than "The Black Cat." I just watched the Karloff & Lugosi film The Black Cat recently, but it has next to nothing to do with the Poe tale. I'm rambling again. Too many Kit-Kats, probably.

   The Four Horsemen always put out some really impressive action figures and it's clear they put some real time and attention into what they do. They really are doing some creative things with Figure Obscura and I love these out of left field choices. This is a Great and a 1/2 figure with some fantastic accessories and some of the best fabric garments I've seen. He makes for a perfect display setup right out of the box, though I'm sure you could work him in to multiple other collections with a little creativity. I think he's a fitting end to this year's 31 Days of Toy Terror. Have a Happy Halloween!

If you're looking for more of the Red Death I've also reviewed the Mythos Expansion 2: Edgar Allan Poe & Red Death and the Super7 Universal Monsters ReAction The Phantom of the Opera as The Masque of The Red Death.

For more Figure Obscura check out the following:
Headless Horseman


  1. Happy Halloween! And thank you for another fun and informative review!

  2. Great figure! Makes me want to go watch the Vincent Price classic....

    Happy Halloween!

    1. Not a bad a bad way to spend an evening at all! Happy belated Halloween!

  3. Amazingly cool figure and display. These things have gone a long way from toys to art!

    🎃👻🦇 Happy Halloween! 🎃👻🦇


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