Monster Kid Online Magazine #7
By Justin Humphreys
To say that Moebius Models’ reissue of six of Aurora’s notorious (and notoriously scarce) Monster Scenes kit line will be eagerly met by hordes of delighted kit collectors is akin to describing the welcome that the Occupied French gave their American liberators in 1944 as mildly cordial. Do I overstate my case? Hardly.
The story of Aurora Plastics’ Monster Scenes kits is the stuff of modelers’ folklore—how that gloriously politically incorrect follow-up series to Aurora’s enormously popular, groundbreaking classic movie monster kits were widely deemed anathema for having all of the socially redeeming value of Wednesday Addams’ headless Marie Antoinette doll or Dan Aykroyd’s classic “SNL” “Johnny Switchblade” action figure. The Monster Scenes were a kind of “Springtime for Hitler” in styrene, a giant hot button for protest groups. As many people have remarked, in the era of Grand Theft Auto’s utter barbarity, these kits now seem as offensive as Tinker Toys. Besides, the series darkly sent itself up with a wide streak of gallows humor, just as Vincent Price made light of his own horrific persona in cinemas, at that time. This black comic slant was exemplified by the Monster Scenes most unique accessory, a saber-toothed bunny rabbit.
First released in 1971, the Monster Scenes provided kids with a plastic “Victim”—a nubile young 70s hottie in torn halter top and cut-offs who looked like she stepped straight out of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Sweet Hitchhiker” or any rock group’s gaggle of groupies—to presumably be tortured or experimented upon in a snap-together torture chamber, handsomely decked out with immortal horror trappings like Edgar Allan Poe’s Pendulum, The Hanging Cage (replete with brazier of red hot coals and pokers), and the subtly-titled Pain Parlor playset. Presiding over this deviltry were the loathsome Dr. Deadly and, like a plastic dominatrix, the scantily-clad Vampirella kit, the most un-loathsome sight imaginable.
Further killing any pubescent boy’s hopes of getting these monstrosities for Christmas was the fact that both buxom female kits were molded in flesh-colored plastic, effectively giving boys the chance to “paint clothes on a naked woman,” as one writer put it. The coup de grace, though, was the Monster Scenes’ tagline: “Rated X- For Excitement!”—a bizarre reflection of the increasing media permissiveness ushered in by the MPAA’s movie ratings code during the interval between Aurora’s first monster kit in 1960 and this series’ release in 1971. The models drew heavy protests from feminist and parents’ groups, and were exorcised from hobby store shelves.
Now, finally, you need no longer pay prices for the Monster Scenes as horrifying as the kits themselves. The fine folks at Moebius Models are producing long-awaited, affordable, plastic reproductions of the elusive Monster Scenes, beginning with six kits, including Dr. Deadly, The Victim, Frankenstein, and The Hanging Cage. And this time around, these seldom-reissued little jewels aren’t being mis-marketed to kids, but to the most appreciative audience possible: adult modelers who have lusted after and/or hoarded the originals for decades.
If their mere re-release weren’t cause enough for celebration, one of Moebius’s initial six offerings is Aurora’s ultra-rare Giant Insect, a gloriously nutty hybrid of a dragonfly and scorpion, with a little stag beetle thrown in. The kit was only available in Canada and is now worth more money than a mad scientist would charge to concoct a full-sized, live one.
Without further ado, I will let Moebius’s Frank Winspur fill you in on these marvelous and welcome reissues:
JH: How long did it take you guys to get the Monster Scenes' line off the ground, from the initial idea of reissuing them to the actual announcement? What led you to rerelease them? Their rarity, popularity with kit collectors, and the fact that no decent plastic reproductions have been widely available seem like obvious reasons, but what others can you give me?
FW: Basically from day one of the company we have looked at it. We put the Giant Insect on display in Chicago last year to gauge reaction, and we pretty much received none. The hardcore hobby guys just didn’t know what to think of it. When it showed up online, we received plenty of e-mail on it. Other than the standard, “They’re rare”, “Everyone wants them” reasons, I wanted them myself! I can buy originals if I wanted, but it’s something we want everyone to have. Aurora is such a great memory to many of us in my age range, and everyone should be able to relive it without paying a fortune and worrying about destroying its value by opening it.
How difficult was the process of producing new molds from the old kits? Whatever happened to Aurora's original Monster Scenes molds?
Replicating an existing kit is much simpler than starting with a new sculpture. Simple process, if you’re an engineer! I’m not sure on the original tooling, I would think it was probably scrapped in Canada after their run there.
If these initial kits are successful, do you intend to reissue the entire series?
We intend to look into it. It would be great to release them all, but I have a feeling Vampirella would be out of the question.
Have you considered releasing some of the unreleased kits, such as The Animal Pit and The Dungeon?
We’d love to, but Monogram owns that tooling. It’s not complete, and I don’t think they would put the money into it to complete it and run them.
What are some special details and perks of these kits that you would especially like model-buyers to know? In other words, is there anything that isn't immediately apparent about them that you think is really worth telling modelers about?
Nothing out of the ordinary on the rereleases. We have improved them internally so fit is better, but externally they are the same. We’re using the Canadian box art to give the fans an alternate look at the set. We are doing a store display in limited numbers, offering it to retailers with an assorted case of kits.
What has the pre-release response to the kits been like so far?
Response has been great so far. Seems like the fans are ready for it!
Have you considered re-releasing Aurora's Monsters of the Movies kits, as well? Somebody desperately needs to reissue their amazing swimming Creature from the Black Lagoon kit! (Hint, hint.)
At some point possibly. We have a license for the Creature from Universal, but it’s not for a kit so small. I guess you never know what the future will bring!
If there's anything that I haven't asked you about so far that you would like to tell the public, let me know!
Thanks, Justin! Maybe just about the store display. It looks very cool, and will have a factory painted Deadly, Victim, and Insect on it.
© 2008 Justin Humphreys
Special thanks to Juliane and Matt Munson for their assistance with this article.