Monday, 16 September 2013

Shanghai Surprise

Second only to the original Star Wars trilogy in my cinematic affections, the Indiana Jones films and characters have remained close to my heart for more than 3 decades now. Although it was Set 10188 Death Star that dragged me back into the LEGO fold after a lengthy hiatus, the availability of LEGO Indiana Jones sets at that time undoubtedly fuelled the fire, and I made getting hold of all of the sets an early priority.

Truth be told, LEGO had previously made Indiana Jones sets in all but name anyway - many sets within the LEGO Adventurers theme, which ran from 1998 until 2003, seem to have been blatantly inspired by the Indiana Jones stories, settings and characters, and hero Johnny Thunder (below) was Indy right down to the battered fedora, apart maybe from his dodgy 'tache....
Johnny, not Indiana....

Having recently watched 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for the umpteenth time, it occurred to me that it had been a good while since I'd last built any of my LEGO Indiana Jones sets; it felt like a good time to revisit them, and even perhaps to crack open one that I hadn't previously got around to building. I plumped for Set 7682 Shanghai Chase, which recreates the scene at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when Indy, Willie and Short Round escape from a showdown with crime boss Lao Che and his goons at Club Obi Wan.

You can see the front of the box above (click to enlarge); it's still sealed, but sadly far from mint thanks to unsympathetic handling at some point along the supply chain. My copy was bought from UK retailer Argos back in 2009; my records indicate that I paid £16.32 for the set which is 38% off the RRP of £26.45, so damaged box or not at least I got a discount I suppose.... In common with other sets in the theme, Indy gazes out from the top right corner of the box; other elements of the branding include Indy's trademark whip and a section of an antique map. There's a boxout in the bottom right corner highlighting the five minifigures contained within the set, and the rest of the space is filled with a large image of the models contained within the set, complete with some Photoshopped motion blur and a cobbled road surface. The back of the box (below - click to enlarge) features a close-up of the models, some action shots of the minifigures, and an illustration of the set's play features, all which seemingly involve minifigures jumping into the vehicles. 

The box was sealed with thumb tabs which as usual I ignored in favour of a sharp craft knife under the left end flap. The box contained an instruction booklet and two large bags (numbered 1 and 2), each of which contained a smaller unmarked bag. Bag 2 also contained a white cardboard envelope which I correctly assumed would contain the fabric roof for one of the vehicles. There's no DSS. You can see the front cover of the instruction booklet below (click to enlarge) which recreates the imagery from the front of the box.

The instruction booklet is 48 pages from cover to cover and close to A4-sized. In addition to 38 pages of actual building instructions, the booklet also contains some surprisingly tasteful advertising for other sets in the theme (examples below), plus a one-page inventory of parts, a reminder of the set's play features, and the obligatory pages shouting about the LEGO Club and LEGO survey.

A selection of some of the more unusual and/or uncommon elements to be found in the set can be seen below (click to enlarge). Although there's not exactly an enormous amount here to excite fans of the rare and the exotic, there are a couple of elements which are unique to this set, namely the tan arch 1 x 3 x 2 with curved top and the dark tan fabric vehicle roof. The tan trapezoid flag has only ever appeared in 3 sets including this one, the black 1 x 2 x 2 window can only be found in 4 sets, and none of the elements shown in the picture below including the black and tan vehicle bases have graced more than 8 sets in these particular colours.

The set contains a total of 5 minifigures. First we have Indiana Jones himself, resplendent in a white tuxedo and bow tie. Although every set in the theme contains an Indy minifigure, Shanghai Chase is the only set to contain this particular variant, and the torso is unique to this minifig. The front of the torso is nicely detailed, right down to the red carnation on Indy's lapel, but there's no back-print. The legs are also lacking in any printing, and he doesn't have an alternate expression.

On the upside, in addition to Indy's unfeasibly neat hair we're also we're provided with his trademark fedora (below - click to enlarge). It's a welcome addition - Indy without his fedora just doesn't bear thinking about. OK, so it doesn't really go with his tux, but who cares ?

Any disappointment over the faintly lacklustre Indy minifig is quickly dispelled when you see how much effort has been lavished on night club singer Wilhelmina "Willie" Scott (below). LEGO have produced two versions of Willie, and each is unique to its respective set. In this version, she has a red torso which is printed front and back with an intricate pattern of gold, dark red and black, and the pattern extends down the front of her legs. Both the torso and legs are unique to this set, as somewhat surprisingly is her blonde hair which is nicely topped off with a trans-red tiara.

My abiding memory of Willie in the Temple of Doom movie is of all the screaming she does.... I'm clearly not alone in making that association as LEGO Indiana Jones software developer Traveller's Tales actually utilised Willie's scream as a weapon in the LEGO Indiana Jones games ! Appropriately enough, therefore, Willie has a suitably histrionic alternate expression (below - click to enlarge). You can also see her detailed torso backprint in the picture below.

Having scrutinised the pictures above you can now take a look at the movie still below of Indy and Willie at Club Obi Wan and judge for yourselves whether or not LEGO have done a good job of translating Harrison Ford and Kate Capshaw into their minifigure equivalents. Not bad at all, in my humble opinion.

Next up for scrutiny is Indy's wise-cracking sidekick Short Round (below - click to enlarge). This minifigure, which is the only version of Short Round that LEGO have ever produced, appears in the Shanghai Chase set and one other. The tan torso is unique to the figure, as is the head. Unfortunately, there's no back print on the torso, no alternate expression and no printing on the legs.

The final two minifigures are Lao Che's henchmen. These guys are both unique to the Shanghai Chase set and differ only on the basis of their wonderfully expressive head prints. As well as the minfigs as a whole being exclusive to this set, their heads and smart but simple torsos don't appear anywhere else either. On the downside, neither the heads nor the torso feature any back printing, and the legs are generic and unprinted. Even so, these guys make perfect villains, although thinking back to the movie I think the guy with the maniacal grin should probably have come complete with a machine gun rather than the revolver he's actually provided with in this set.

And so on to the cars. Some rudimentary internet research suggests that the gangsters are chasing after Indy and his companions in a 1931 Reo Flying Cloud, and you can see the LEGO rendition below (pics click to enlarge). Most of the pictures that I've found online of the actual vehicle show it with a side-mounted spare wheel, but otherwise the model seems acceptably faithful to the subject matter. The build is quick and straightforward, making juducious use of hinge plates and a latticed window for the front mudguards and engine grille respectively. The vehicle base is wide enough to allow the two gangsters to sit side by side, and the roof comes off easily to allow access to the rear compartment.

Our heroes are making their escape in an Auburn 851 "Boat-tail Speedster". A reasonable attempt has been made to capture the essence of this curvaceous beauty in LEGO bricks (below - click pictures to enlarge) although it inevitably falls short at this scale. The fabric roof works pretty well, right down to the fact that it's higher at the back than the front like the real thing, and there's even a sunroof for when Indy decides to poke his head out and take a few pot-shots at his pursuers.

You can see both cars together below (click to enlarge); neither are perfect renditions of the real thing by any means, but they're pretty respectable nevertheless; when I compare models like these with the kind of vehicles that LEGO was producing when I was a child in the 1970's it's quite unbelievable how things have moved on.

It all comes together as you can see below (click to enlarge) - everything you need to stage your own Shanghai Chase.... The cars look pretty good, and the minifigures are plentiful for a set of this size. Most of the minifigs are also exclusive to the set, with the Willie Scott minifig being the undoubted highlight from my perspective.

Set 7682 Shanghai Chase was released in 2009 and is now retired. A quick search demonstrates that it's readily available on the secondary market, however, although given the enduring popularity of the Indiana Jones franchise you're likely to have to pay more than the original £26.45 / US$29.99 retail price for it, even used. Thankfully, prices aren't exactly stratospheric as yet, so the set is still within reach - Bricklink prices start at around £40 + shipping for an unboxed example, although you'll pay at least a tenner more if you want it new and sealed; as ever you may find it cheaper on eBay.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my reintroduction to the LEGO Indiana Jones theme and may dip back in again before too long, so don't be surprised to see another Indiana Jones review at some point.

They're a girl's best friend, darling....


  1. Anonymous17/9/13

    Dr. Dave,

    I bed to differ with your opinion regarding Indy's choice of dress. I think the Fedora goes exceedingly well with the tux, and complements it quite nicely. If only the Fedora were dark gray or black, but that's another discussion for another time.

    Long time reader (if a year counts as a long time), first time commenter here. Nice work with the blog. I look forward to your roughly weekly updates.


  2. Cheers, Arthur - thanks for sticking with it for a whole year, and I hope I can keep you coming back for another 12 months....

    "Roughly weekly updates" is probably optimistic, though !

  3. I just LOVED the Lego Indiana Jones theme and still do. I was really disappointed when I found out it was discontinued. They were really well designed with great playability. They were awesome!

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