by: Jim Rae [ ]
Inspiration can take many forms and, inevitably come from many sources. The 'source' for this set of figures is an interesting one , the movie Sahara. Not the well-known Bogart one of 1943, but the 1980s remake.
Now putting aside all thoughts of historical/movie tie-ins for a moment (no Michael Wittman lunchboxes - PLEASE!), the reasoning for this set, is historically very sound. Although they'd be unlikely to be seen together,(outside a movie set), all the figures represented in this set would have been in the North African Theater - albeit in different geographical locations...
The New set from Masterbox
Once again, a set of figures within Masterbox Ltd's Desert Battle Series and, once again, 5, 1/35th Scale figures. The set, MB3594 - Allied Forces WWII Era, contains 67 parts on a single sand-colored sprue and packed within the company's usual side-opening box, the first thing that strikes you is the impressive Box-Art. On the reverse, photos of the figures and numbers referring to the part numbers are the instructions. The other part of the box shows the sprue with all the part numbers listed. Not elaborate, but more than adequate.
The set contains five figures. These are:
1) British Rifleman
2) Free-French Soldier
3) Senegalese Infantryman
4) Australian Bren-Gunner
5) U.S. AFV Crewman
There's little point in repeating what is clearly on the Box-Art, so I'll limit my comments to a qualitative look at the Figures, Uniforms and Equipment...
Now, it can strongly be argued that Masterbox have been the great innovators in dynamic poses. No-one else had previously attempted more than a few running figures. This set though, although not static, (and not including ANY pointing figures) is quite a relaxed set. The poses are good, not dramatic, just five standing figures. All the poses are pretty natural.
In general terms, areas such as creasing, collars, webbing etc. are nicely done. All figures with the exception of #5 are wearing shorts & socks with gaiters where appropriate. #3 is wearing puttees which are well cast and defined. Figure #5 is wearing a two-piece tanker's denim AFV Crew suit (the jacket is off and hung over his shoulder. This is one of the first T-Shirted figures I've seen in styrene and, hopefully, it won't be the last...
The British Infantryman is supplied with a MK.II Helmet and the Australian the typical 'Bush' hat.In the case of the Frenchman, he's given a choice of bare head or the typical 'Kepi'. the Senegalese Infantryman has a kind of cut-down fez on his head. All the headgear looks right and is well-detailed and molded.
All the 'standard' gear is there - Web pouches, water bottles etc. All is done convincingly enough and, in the case of the pouches designed to fit into the contours of the body rather than being large rectangular objects stuck on. The French soldier is wearing leather webbing with large cartridge pouches. In addition, he's provided with a convincing-looking haversack slung over one shoulder. All this is familiar territory for Masterbox, so no disagreeable surprises.
Once again, a pretty standard load of weapons - two SMLE No. 1 Mk. IIIs, a well-rendered Bren LMG with a choice of open or closed bipods and a short French rifle/carbine, of which, I've no idea of its designation.
All are good (for styrene), I particularly liked the bearded option for the French Soldier. A total of 7 heads are provided allowing a bit of variation although other heads and variants in headgear from resin replacements could be used equally effectively.
Inevitably there are a few mold-lines - none of which will take much effort in removing. Molding is VERY clean and sharp. The plastic is quite dense which helps, IMO, to hold detail better and is easier to clean-up. Good definition where it matters and detail is subtle rather than overstated.
Unless you're doing a scene from the movie (don't forget the M3!), you'll be unlikely to put all the figures together. However, individually, or in pairs, they'll fit in well with other situations and they will be VERY useful. For me, i'd like to see the 'French-Theme' extended with a dedicated set of Free-French Infantry, commercially though, it's pretty unlikely.
There is a need to add bits and pieces from the spares box (or scratch) particularly notable would be bandoliers for the Bren and SMLEs, a Thomson (with the drum magazine) for Mr. Belushi and perhaps more water bottles.
It's a set people will buy for individual figures and end up using all of them. I must admit to the not being a great fan of these 'mixed' sets and do prefer all figures to conform to one nationality, but I can see the sense in this one. The 'Movie Tie-In' gives a nice additional interest although from what I can gather the Bogart original was much better.
Once again, a highly-original and extremely well-executed set from Masterbox who never stop surprising!