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Winchester Two-Pack

Cult Classics
by yo go re

NECA takes a smart approach to the movie licenses they pick up. Rather than flooding the market all at once (any more), they'll release one figure under the Cult Classics banner and see how it sells, then release more if the popularity warrants it. For instance, they gave fans Shaun Riley in Cult Classics 4, and now a year later, they've put out more Shaun of the Dead figures, with the long-awaited Winchester Two-Pack.

You know what we should do tomorrow? A Bloody Mary first thing, a bite at the King's Head, couple at The Little Princess, stagger back here and bang... back at the bar for shots. How's that for a slice of fried gold?

--Ed

The Winchester Two-Pack isn't actually a box set, so don't look for that when you go to stores - this is just two figures on a doublewide clamshell.

While the CC4 Shaun was taken from the beginning of the film, and was therefore relatively pristine, this set is nearer the end, when everything has started to go wrong, so it's a much different figure. Both Shauns share the same legs, but above the waist we get 100% new sculpt, which is surprising. If nothing else, NECA probably could have gotten away with using the same shirt and sleeves, just giving us a new head and arms, but they didn't cut those corners. Considering that most companies treat box sets like red-headed stepchildren (particularly apt in Shaun's case), this level of commitment is doubly surprising.

"Winchester Shaun" continues the trend set by his predecessor with an "almost but not quite" sculpt of Simon Pegg's likeness. This one's head seems a little flat, for some reason - maybe it's just that his hair isn't sticking up quite as high after a day on the run. His mouth is open slightly to reveal tiny teeth, and he's got his necktie wrapped around his head. Another unexpected sculptural flourish? The striped pattern on the tie is sculpted on, not just painted. Wow!

Despite the new sculpt, new Shaun still moves at all the same places as old Shaun: head, shoulders, sleeves and left wrist. Why only the left wrist? Because he's wearing a watch, so you don't notice the joint. The figure is obviously designed for just one pose, but he looks good in it. In a new step, his arms are balljoints where they emerge from his sleeves. It's not a huge range of motion (because that would be silly), but it does give you just enough wiggle room to make sure everything gets aligned properly. It's nice.

Z-Day hasn't been a clean and easy affair, so Shaun is positively covered with blood and grime. The paint is done very nicely, with large bloodstains - both fresh and dried - complemented by a fine spray everywhere else. He's bleeding from the forehead, and has smeared blood on his arms. There's even a smudge of dirt on his right elbow. The pants are painted criply, but somehow blood-free. The blood isn't exactly duplicated from one figure to the next, so you might want to compare samples to get the one you like most, but it isn't necessary.

Shaun has one accessory, the Winchester model 73 that gives this set its name. Okay, to be fair, the name comes from the bar where they holed up, but the name of the bar comes from the gun, so transference says the set's named after the gun. The accessory is a nice 7"-scale version of the real firearm, and Shaun is designed to hold it perfectly. No moving parts or anything, but still a nice piece.

After Shaun of the Dead came out, several different Winchester Pubs tried to claim they were the inspiration for the one in the film, but the "real" Winchester was actually the Shepherds in Highgate - Simon Pegg and Nick Frost stopped going there after it was converted to a theme bar. The name was invented for the film (and to put the bullets in Chekhov's gun), but the feeling came from the Shepherd's.

Shaun's partner in this set is his best friend, Ed. Roused out of his sedentary lifestyle by, you know, a zombie apocalypse, he proved himself to be more than a videogame-addicted slacker - not much more, but more nonetheless. If you were faced with the end of the world, would your friends freak out or hold it together and be the perfect sidekick in your time of need?

Ed dresses like a normal human being - T-shirt and shorts - so the sculpt doesn't have to re-create a lot of complex detail. It's still very good, just not covered in tons of tiny details. The wrinkles are realistic, and you can tell he's got a body under there. He's got stuff in his pockets - a can of tennis balls and a paperback book, by the looks of things - and his Nikes are fully detailed.

The Nick Frost likeness is spot-on, though he's conveying more "anger" than "sloth" - someone got their deadly sins mixed up again. Still, nice detailing. Check out that sculpted stubble. If you turn him round and look behind his right ear, you'll see a weird little bald spot back there. What's that about? Is it some weird cock-up by the sculptor? No, it's from the movie: Frost actually shaved a small patch on the back of his head, figuring that Ed is the type to pass out at parties and have stuff done to him. Stuff like getting a patch of hair shaved off.

The articulation is surprisingly good. Ed has a balljointed neck, balljointed shoulders, balljointed arms, peg wrists, a balljointed waist, and peg shins. A balljointed waist? Really? Wow, nice. The shirt hides it perfectly. And he's got balljoints where his arms emerge from his sleeves? How odd! The original plan for this set was to include a removeable head and second set of arms to turn Ed into a zombie, but the studio nixed that idea - now Zombie Ed is going to be packaged by himself in the Cult Classics Hall of Fame line.

Ed's paint is just as good as Shaun's, though there isn't quite as much grue on him: just two sprays on his chest. He's got some very nice shadows on his back, though, and his shoes are crisp and clean. There's a brown wash on his stubble, and the bald spot is pink. Of course, the charmingly family-friendly declaration "I Got Wood" is emblazoned on his chest. Originally the shirt was going to say "I Love Pussy," but that was considered too distracting.

When it comes to accessories, Ed gets the lion's share. Probably because he's never had a figure before, while Shaun has. It's not like the Winchester Two-Pack needed a cricket bat, you know? We do get Ed's weapon of choice, though: his trusty blue shovel. There's also a molotov cocktail (clear green bottle with a white rag and translucent orange flames) and an extra hand designed to hold it. And finally, a game controller, so Ed can play Timesplitters 2. It's obviously supposed to be a Playstation 2 controller, the greatest game controller ever made. With work, you can even get him to hold it semi-realistically in both hands.

The bottle is a nice piece, but yet again NECA uses decals where paint would be preferable. The front and back labels are loaded with in-jokes (Romario Savini Brandy, La Necrofashia de Muerte, Bottled and Distributed by Agento Distilleries Limited), but they just don't want to stick to the rounded bottle. It's not that stickers are a bad idea - they save money and allow for smaller clear details - NECA just needs to invest in some better glue for the back of 'em.

The set includes a large display base for the figures, a section of the Winchester's floor. There are shattered bottles all over the place, shell casings, a bloody corkscrew and assorted trash on the ground; in other words, a typical night at any bar anywhere. There's also a bag of the most vile foodstuff known to man (Hog Lumps - Hairy Pork Rinds) and a coaster lying on the boards. In the film, the coaster - or "beer mat" if you will - was from Guinness Extra Cold and had a quote from Bertrand Russell: "the only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation." The quote's still there, but now it's under the logo for Skinless, another little zombie-style easter egg.

Until you see it and really check things out, the Winchester Two-Pack may seem like a rehash of an existing figure, it's really not. If you're a Shaun of the Dead fan, then this set's a must-buy. Not only is Ed entirely new, but Shaun himself is much more than a simple repaint with a new head. The accessories are top-notch, and the base is cool. Really, there's nothing to not recommend this set. Grab it yourself, and spend another quality night at the pub.

-- 10/25/07


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