In the bad old days, before there seemed to be a new set of 1/72 scale soft plastic figures every week, you had to make do with what there was, and that wasn't much. In the 1970s Airfix were developing their range and slowly improving quality, and later on Atlantic and then Matchbox joined in, but for the most part the selection was sets containing a fairly small number of hard plastic figures, usually requiring some sort of assembly - sets such as this from Esci.
The first thing to say is yes, these figures DO look a lot like the Airfix 1/32 scale figures made around the same time. However most of these have separate arms or other parts, and the result of this extra work is rather less than those from Airfix in our opinion. Of course much will depend on the skill of the modeller, and the full sprue can be seen here, but we found some of the poses awkward to put together convincingly. In particular it was difficult to properly seat the weapon in the hands and still maintain a reasonable posture. However as ideas the poses are a reasonable bunch, with a particularly nice officer and a good radio man operating the separate set in a more realistic way than usually modelled.
The men are all wearing the classic outfit of Denison smock and paratroop helmet, apart from the two wearing their berets. Their kit is a bit more hit and miss, with some only having one of the long ammunition pouches that were usually worn in pairs. They tend to be a bit light on other items too, although such things might well be put aside during a battle such as Arnhem. One good feature is that all are provided with separate packs, so these can be worn or left off as desired - naturally photos of these men in action suggest the packs were put aside where possible. The weapons consist of rifles, Sten guns, Bren guns and a PIAT, and several of the figures can be made to carry any of the good range of separate weapons. All are reasonably sculpted, although the PIAT has a solid muzzle where the mould could not reach properly. Both officer and radio man have revolvers, which is correct, but so does one of the privates, which may have been unofficial but seems to have happened in reality.
The detail on these figures is reasonably good but they do suffer from some very intrusive mould marks round the back which certainly damages them. However we found no flash on any of them, and thanks to their multi-part nature they have no excess plastic to remove. For anyone wanting to see the Airfix 1/32 Paras produced in the smaller scale, and there are many, this is about as close as you are going to get. Although the set had long disappeared from production, it has recently (as of 2014) resurfaced in an Italeri plane kit (1356), so it seems the mould still exists and there is life in these old figures yet!