THROWBACK THURSDAY REVIEW: Knockturn Alley

Set 4720 – Knockturn Alley

It’s no secret that I love Diagon Alley. Luckily there have been several LEGO sets released covering it over the years. I will here review one of the older ones, Knockturn Alley (Set 4720). Surely, it is dated with today’s eyes, and not without deficiencies in design either. But it has a few positives aspects too that you sometimes would hope more modern sets had as well.

The early years with LEGO Harry Potter sets, gave us a few Diagon Alley buildings, with Gringott’s bank (Set 4714) released in 2002 followed in 2003 by both Quality Quidditch Supplies (Set 4719) and of course Knockturn Alley (Set 4720), which is the topic of this review.

Knockturn Alley is the darker cousin to Diagon Alley, a narrow side-alley where you can find all things related to dark magic. The shop in this set represents Borgin and Burkes, the shop Harry accidentally arrived at in the Chamber of Secrets having mispronounced Diagon Alley when traveling by flo powder for the first time.

And the sight that met him shocked him:

…nothing in here was ever likely to be on a Hogwarts school list. A glass case nearby held a withered hand on a cushion, a blood-stained pack of cards, and a staring glass eye. Evil-looking masks stared down from the walls, an assortment of human bones lay upon the counter, and rusty, spiked instruments hung from the ceiling.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Sounds creepy? Let’s have a look at the set to see if they have nailed it.

The set

The set comes with 209 parts, 2 minifigures and one instructions booklet.

The box art and instructions booklet as shown below. It does look a bit dated seen with today’s eyes, but the brick wall border was a consistent theme for several years back then.

And please note – the set didn’t include a sticker sheet. It is all printed parts, and quite a few of them, something you often wish for these days.

The set includes numerous printed parts

Some of these printed parts are rare, with the “brain” printed on the transparent minifigure head piece only being included in one other set, and the “hand of glory” tile being exclusive to this set.

Minifigures

The set include Lucius Malfoy and Harry Potter, a good choice for the set as they both voluntary (Lucius) and involuntary (Harry) have been in the store.

This set is from the last year LEGO was still using yellow heads for minifigures in licenced themes like Harry Potter. Considering their time, these can be considered good figures, with reasonable detailed printing of torsos and heads. But compared with minifigures today, you realise how much better print quality has become – and there are so many more hair pieces available to better customise the figures to the actual characters they are to represent.

Similarly, the minifigures in the set do not feature dual head prints, printed legs or printing of the torso backs, as we often otherwise see today.

Front view of included minifigures

Looking at the figures, in particular you would wish for a better hair piece for Lucius Malfoy.

Back view of included minifigures

It should be noted that both figures are exclusive to this set. Of course, Harry is a common as minifigure, but only appears with this torso in this set. Lucius Malfoy, which today is seen as a rare figure, back then would had been quite common too, as it had been released the previous year in the small Dobby’s Release (Set 4731), though with a different dress.

The build

The building is made up of two key components – the shopfront and the fireplace. They can be rearrange for play and how you want to display it.

Both use a colour scheme combining sand blue, dark grey and black. The colours work really well together and fits the “dark magic” theme nicely. And sand blue is a rare colour, so it is great to see it used for a building.

The shop

The shop itself is dominated by a large bay window and a doorway bordered by a couple of stone owls and flame pieces.

One side of the shop is made up of shelves with mysterious magic objects and potions.

From the back, you get a better view to the magical objects for sale in Borgin and Burkes. In particular, I love the “hand of glory” and the brain in a jar.

There are many spooky things for sale in the shop

Here is a better overview of the full interior.

Lucius Malfoy goes shopping. He might be looking for an old diary to give away…

The hinge visible at the bottom allows the shop to swing open as we shall see later. Another hinge in the window allow a “scary” face to appear in the window when you tip up the table with the green glass (that glass is also exclusive to this set).

The fireplace

The fireplace is fairly tall and can be positioned next to the building as extension, as using the same colour scheme, and includes a “roof plate” that broadly matches that from the shopfront.

Obviously, it is included to allow Harry to appear in the shop after his erroneous pronunciation of Diagon Alley. Lifting the “roof”, you can place Harry in the top of the chimney and opening the trap door, Harry falls down into the shop.

I tried it a few times and it didn’t work that well. I’m probably also way to old to find it fun, but I am not even sure kids would find it entertaining for long. It could have been done simpler, and as effective, with less parts.

Combining the two

Here is the final product.

I would probably have preferred a single build that included the fireplace, but as previously mentioned, the two sections can be re-organised in different ways by swinging open the store and/or moving the fireplace around. This adds flexibility when playing or how to display it, and as such that works really well too.

Conclusion

Firstly, I must say I really like the 2002-2003 era concept of small, cheaper sets with individual stores to collect. Maybe something for LEGO to consider for Hogsmeade! (I think they have Diagon Alley sorted for now…)

As for the minifigures, it is a good, relevant selection for the set. They were reasonable for their time, and even exclusive to the set, but clearly dated by today’s standard.

I like the colour scheme of the shop overall, and in particular like the spooky interior. To some extent I find this aspect preferable over the Borgin and Burkes included in the bigger Diagon Alley (set 10217) from 2011.

Looking at the front, I would have been great with a sign for the shop, and baby dragons would have looked better than the owls in front.

My main complaint is the fireplace though, which is very part intensive and not that much fun. Is it really worth a third of the bricks in the set to include? I would have preferred more bricks used for the shop, and a much simplified fireplace with flo-network functionality.

Having now reviewed two of the older Diagon Alley related sets, it may be appropriate to contrast them with the newer Diagon Alley (set 10217) from 2011. It may take a while to get there, as I have plenty of new 2020 sets to review first. So be patient…

Till then, Build the Magic!

Borgin and Burkes here positioned next to Quality Quidditch Supplies

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