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RS Prop Masters
Armour and Helmets


We thought the title for this review should be "Blurred Lines" - we'll explain why over the course of the review...
 

A few years back, a couple of guys from the north of England revealed what for many was the "Holy Grail" of replica prop collecting - that they had an original near-complete set of armour and helmet from Star Wars / A New Hope and having made casts from this original, would make replicas available. This is a very BIG deal for collectors since all amour up to this point had been cast from a Return of the Jedi set (and although ROTJ armour was derived from ANH, there's still a huge amount of significant differences). So the two guys, Simon and Rob went about making moulds straight from their near-complete original ANH Sandtrooper armour set. Fast forward a couple of years and what we're reviewing today is one of their first generation replicas created from their original A New Hope suit. A very big deal indeed!

First up one of our 360 degree rotating video's of the RS Prop ESB Stunt Helmet.....

..and a more regular front-on shot of the helmet - in this instance we're looking at their ESB version, specifically the Alan Harris Edition (Alan being one of the Stormtrooper actors in the movie), which we think is a nice touch for Star Wars aficionado's. As per the originals the ESB eyes were cut back a little more than they were in ANH, with the ESB also sporting a black frown and printed trapezoid, tear and side tube decals.

Over the last few years we've been spoiled as far as Stormtrooper helmets are concerned, since there are already a number of producers out there (all fan-made) who have had access to original helmet casts. However armour is a different matter, since up to this point there's never been a armour maker who has had access to an original ANH (and therefore ESB) set - until now. The original armour RS Prop Masters used was a Sandtrooper variation (so had been to Tunisia and back!) and so needed separate mouldings for the Ab Buttons, Sniper Knee Plate and shoulder strips (since they're not present on the Sandtrooper armour). Also on their original there were duplicate forearms, Shins and Biceps, so some work was needed adapting for the opposite side - but having done this they can fabricate the entire armour set.

Above a great studio-shot of 2 RSPM Stormtroopers (R2Dan and ObiHahn) and below a shot of RS Prop Master's armour literally straight out the box (minus the bubble wrap) - and wow does it look good. This is how RSPM's ready-assembled armour arrives if you go for the "fully loaded and assembled" version, along with the gloves and hand guards (also present but not pictured). It literally is a case of grab a black undersuit and a pair of Chelsea boots and you're good to go..

This geeky coolness extends further since RSPM assemble the armour just like the original ESB sets, so the torso parts (chest, abs, back and ass) are all fixed together in a "clam-shell" type arrangement with a single snap opening on the right side. If you look at the image below loaded back in 2009 (and kindly provided to us by Star Wars Costume Designer John Mollo from his personal 1979 diary detailing the ESB production and costumes) you can see that RS Prop Masters has followed this exact same assembly approach. Since these guys already had an original armour set in their possession you could be sure that these are put together just right.

Below a shot of the clam-shell style body section opened up. The elastic strip and pin approach used for the original suits allows good movement while still keeping all the constituent parts firmly secured together. The RS Prop Master guys have done a great job in emulating the original approach that Mollo and his team adopted for the originals -  and it means its an absolute joy to wear should you ever wish to. The arms have been assembled in the same way as the originals as well so rather than three separate shoulder, upper and forearm sections, they're all affixed together via thick black band of elasticated material - so it feels more like pulling a single sleeve on.

But ultimately the most important thing about any armour is it's accuracy compared to the originals. And this is where the RS Prop Masters armour and helmet really stand out. RSPM is the only armour maker who has ever cast an original ANH set so ultimately it's the only provider able to provide this level of armour accuracy. It's sharp where it needs to be, asymmetrically wobbly where required - and finished off in a slightly off-white ABS that looks like it walked straight off the 1976 set. It's also great to be able to say that they haven't cleaned up their armour moulds - so everything on both the helmet and armour is as close to an exact copy of the ANH/ESB original that we're probably going to get.

Above and below a couple of shots that hopefully show off some of the detail present on this armour. Notice in the photo below the small screw holes under the lip of the chest piece- these are connected to the strip and pin connection strips we mentioned above - and again are present on original armour suits. This also allows the armour to move and accommodate different body shames and sizes.

The other interesting thing about RS Prop Masters is that although we're classing them as a fan-made provider, its clear that they're positioning themselves in much the same way as you'd expect an officially licensed company to operate. At an initial level, that approach is reinforced by the "RS Prop Masters" web site which is very open and professional - with the kind of order pages and purchase baskets we've come to expect from major brands rather than fan-made sellers. This level of professionalism is extended in to the order handling process through shipping to delivery. Our set was extremely well packaged and was accompanied by a slick owners pack including two metal plaques (for helmet and armour) and professionally printed material, COA, car stickers etc.  In this review we've steered away  from Licensing issues, but clearly the years of UK Court/High Court/Lords legal cases have left the UK/EU Licensed Prop market in a position where fan-made producers are prepared to adopt a more professional and legitimate approach to replica prop production.

Below with ESB helmet it really does look an incredibly impressive replica. RSPM sells a number of different helmet and armour versions, including Stormtrooper, Sandtrooper, ANH, ESB, Shiny ABS, painted etc. so you can pair your armour with your helmet of choice. In our case we're reviewing the standard ABS armour and "Alan Harris" Limited Edition ESB helmet.

Armour is available in a number of different materials and configurations, hence if you're happy doing the assembly work yourself there's a cheaper UKŁ800 option including Armour and Helmet - with the cost rising appropriate to the amount of work RSPM needs to do in putting your armour set together. Top price being UKŁ1,100 for the "fully loaded" fully assembled pack with strapping just like the originals. That's not out of line with other armour makers out there and certainly seems a "reasonable" price to us.

Concentrating on the helmet for now, as you can see from the following photos it looks absolutely incredible. Certainly the sharpest helmet we've ever come across, the hollows at the base of the tears are clearly present - as are the oval tracks inside them. We've seen details like this added to other casts, whereas on the RSPM helmets they're clearly the remnants of the original helmet they're cast from.

When the light catches the top of the helmet you can see all the lines, bumps and wrinkles of the original underlying helmet, which we absolutely love. However its good to hear that they also produce a more sanitised "wrinkle free" version for those who prefer a more idealised look  - and presumably unlike the rest of us haven't freeze-framed their blu-rays to marvel at just how knocked-off the original costumes were!

As per the original ESB helmets, these are effectively ANH helmets with a few minor alterations - most obviously the all-black frown and decals replacing the hand-painted detailing of the ANH's. Again the RS excels and the decals look to be spot-on replicas of the 1979 designs used for ESB.

Below we went a bit OTT on the photo filter, but really like this shot. The helmet comes with all the details we've come to expect from quality replicas now including authentic rubber underside "S" and brow trims and accurate Hovi Mix "mic-tip" castings. They have also matched the level of accuracy on this inside with correct 1970′s yellow foam petal liner, green Acetate "lens" lighting gel along with correct screws/bolts and elastic chin strap and clips. Everything that should be there, is there.

Below of the rear right quarter, showing a decent amount of undercut at the back - this presumably  determined by the amount of undercut present on the original helmet RS Prop Masters used as the basis for their mould. RS Prop Masters go to pains to point out that absolutely no details have been intentionally removed or lost in the process of creating their master mould (or “buck”). Similarly their helmets are assembled in exactly the same way as the originals. If you opt for the ANH helmet then its hand-painted - just like the originals.  

As mentioned earlier, RP Prop Masters helmets Helmets are available in a choice of plastics to complement the different armour options.  We would certainly be interested in taking a look at their painted HDPE ANH helmet, since for any manufacturer that's the base material that would provide the most accurate to the original screen-used ANH/ESB Stunt helmets. Hmmmmmmmm!

Below one last shot of the helmet and armour together in all their glory - it's hard not to be impressed!

Parting thoughts: What RS Prop Masters has done is massive. Making prop replicas cast from an original "New Hope" Helmet AND Armour set has never been done before, so it already places them in a different league from any other armour makers out there, whether Fan Made or Licensed. Secondly they've upped their game to the point that they're positioning themselves like a "normal" retailer - i.e. a decent website with online ordering, pro/tracked shipping, collectors materials, display stands etc. It's getting to the point where the difference between "officially licensed" and "fan-made" is not so clear - hence the "Blurred Lines" review title.

So we're not sure what this means to the market, but it most certainly does lay down one hell of a hefty gauntlet to companies like EFX who are currently looking at producing something similar. A few years back Museum Replicas acquired the license from Lucasfilm to produce armour - and found it a lot more complex than they had originally thought. More recently EFX threw its hat in the ring and teased an original ANH Hero helmet and suit - which if it happens will be fantastic. But producing and selling full armour is exponentially more difficult than just a helmet on its own. In many ways the manufacturing process is the easy part, its all the other things that stand between those vac-formed bits of plastic and you the buyer that cause the problems. Quite simply we're wondering just how any licensed producer will be able to match, let alone better the package that RS Prop Masters has here - at a price that's anywhere near comparable. Especially as a Licensed company has far higher admin, cost of sales, overheads, license fees etc. than a smaller "Fan-Made" company will ever have.   However, perhaps EFX doesn't feel it needs to compete and with their fully licensed armour will be addressing a slightly different niche?

Either way lets not move away from what RS Prop Masters has achieved. They've made what we are confident is the very best, most accessible and importantly, the most accurate ANH/ESB Stormtrooper Armour and Helmets ever produced. And they have done all this at a very realistic and reasonable price point. Now that really is impressive. Form an orderly queue here!