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RTM Presents

London After Midnight action figure - Lon Chaney Sr

Why Make an Action Figure from a Film that No Longer Exists?

London After MidnightLondon After Midnight is a film no one will ever see. Not in the sense of it being a bad film, however: 1927's London After Midnight has been lost to history. 1955 was the last time MGM checked on the print of the film. In 1967, there was a fire in the vault in which it was stored. No copies of the print are known to exist, thus no one will ever again see this film.

LAM was a dual-role for Lon Chaney, Sr., who played both a Scotland Yard Inspector and a vampire. (Read more about the plot.)

Sideshow Toy logoSideshow Toy enters the LAM story in 2001, when they produced a 12-inch action figure of Chaney as the Vampire, in a limited edition of 5,000. Bad jokes about Battlefield Earth aside, why would a toy company make an action figure from a film no one will ever see again?

RTM was so curious about this point that we had to ask Sideshow Toy to find out. Senior Product Designer Tom Gilliland was kind enough to satisfy our curiousity.

Raving Toy Maniac (RTM): How did Sideshow come to the decision to make this figure? Was it a suggestion of the Chaney estate, or did Sideshow suggest it?

Tom Gilliland (TG): It was definitely our decision. Most of the Sideshow Toys Staff are devoted Monster fans to one degree or another. We have been aware of the London After Midnight character for as long as many of us remember monsters. While there is no film to see, many photos and paintings of the Lon Chaney 'Vampire' have been printed in magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland which many have read since they were children. It has always been a very striking make-up and has added mystique since the original film source no longer exsists.

RTM: Was there any doubt about fan interest in it?

TG: Our Universal Monster toys fans are very loyal and have given us a lot of positive reaction over the years. We knew they would really love this one, especially since it had never been handled in toy form before. So to answer your question: No, there was no doubt in our minds at all.

RTM: How quickly did it sell out on the Sideshow Toy site?

TG: Faster than we could have imagined. I do not think it lasted longer than three weeks. It is very difficult to gauge what the public will bite into. Even with hard core fans. We really thought it might take a bit longer which explains the smaller run. Also, although we are sold out on our site, the product is available at www.lonchaney.com as well as websites, specialty and collector shops nationwide.

RTM: How was the edition size (5,000) decided?

TG: Basically we had to make our best prediction at an amount that would make economic sence for us. No company can afford to stock a huge inventory of products for long. Thus we had to place a number on the edition that we felt would cover the fan interest and sell through in a timely manner. In this case we were off, fan interest and product sell through exceeded our best predictions.

RTM: Were there any difficulties in explaining to people (press, collectors, retailers) why this figure is unique - that the movie is lost? A friend pointed out that most people probably just think that they haven't seen the film, not that they can no longer see it at all.

TG: Actually Monster fans are pretty savvy, they had no problems identifying and accepting the character. In fact, they did it with open arms. While it is fun to create product of the Monsters from film, it is a little extra rewarding when you can offer something that everyone has always wished would be done. The Lon Chaney London After Midnight character is a perfect example.

Lon Chaney action figure from London After Midnight

In 2002, Sideshow plans a "Silver Screen Edition" of this figure, which will also be limited. (The SSE version will be in gray tones, to recreate the black and white of the film.)

For more details on the loss of London After Midnight, please see Mike's London After Midnight Myths page. (This page has a rather interesting introductory section.)

Jim McCaslin contributed to this article.

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