Monday, June 11, 2018

The Return of The Plastic Monster Kits!

By - Stephen Mezo

Aurora Monster Model Kits

What, again?

I know that was the first thought in your head, but I'll save you the whole retelling of the history of these models because it has been covered by a lot of people that have done a ton of research and there's even a DVD" AURORA Monsters: The Model Craze That Gripped The World" by The Witches Dungeon Classic Movie Museum and hosted by Zacherley The Cool Ghoul Himself.

Nope this is me putting The Storage Unit of Terror on reset and going back to what made me start typing six years ago in the first place. And that is my experiences with all of the great Monster stuff that I love that put me on the path to doing a lot of wild things in the world of  monster entertainment. 

Seriously writing for a monster/horror site can really kick your brain's ass. You try to keep it relevant and interesting but you can wind up having some Willie E. Coyote moments too... Just like with your favorite band doing albums you love but then putting out a concept album or a complete change of style that makes people yell "WTF?" So I'm owing up to a couple of them myself. Like trying to add some humor but wound up adding too much and scared off a couple of interviews with some very interesting people.
Then there was the time where I threw my hands up and walked away for a while. I just said to myself "How many times can a person read about the same new horror movie?!" I mean yeah it's my own thoughts about it, but then I started thinking "Who the f**k really cares?!"

So I'm back and just going back to typing about what different monster stuff means to me, and tales from my entertainment past as well as projects I'm working on now as well as getting the word out about the works of others.

And I decided to start with AURORA Monster Model Kits. I think my very first one was Godzilla with the glow parts "Frightening Lightning" series. I glued it together no problem but didn't feel the need to paint it since he was green already with the glow parts. But then I moved onto the mainstay go to of Frankenstein and with the influence of older cousins I painted the kit. I hadn't discovered shading or acrylic paints yet. But for using enamels I did pretty good at making him the colors according to the instructions. 

Years later I moved onto the Luminators series of the kits, but sold them off to cover some bills and that pretty much ended my time with the kits.

   These were assembled and photographed by Bill Jones 

Until one day my wife and I had seen an original complete assembled 1962 Dracula kit in a antique store and we bought it for $30.00 the woman there thanked us for buying it because she said it creeped her out. And it was wild that we have no intention of painting him because it just doesn't feel right.
 Don't worry he was surrounded by more of his plastic monster family a year later. 

My wife and I had a little vacation fund saved (more like a staycation fund) and decided to use it to buy re-releases of the monster kits that October. After we did we had fun just building them that week and giving them their own shelf space with Dracula. Then after we were done building them we kind of liked leaving them unpainted too.

I did build and paint the MPC Strange Change Vampire kit a couple of months before and for the cost of this guy I could have built fifty of them back in the 70's

Then about two years later I had joined a Facebook group for AURORA monster model builders and the artist there eventually had my wife and I painting and detailing our builds. And my first thought was "How should I paint them?" I mean I know the mechanics but what style should I do? There are so many talented artist in the group and their styles ranged everywhere from detailed descriptions provided by interviews in Famous Monsters with the costumers and actors to dead on box art renditions including Frightening Lightning styles. So it became a really big deal to me to do the right thing.

Thankfully I went with the spirit of the kits which is they're a mish mosh of movie stills and stuff that all of us Monster Kids love. Like when Bill Lemon sculpted the Frankenstein kit he didn't mull over what was screen accurate he just copied the MARX mechanical Frankensteins already being sold in stores and kids loved it.

I guess instead of going crazy trying to think of an intricate base Bill just went with the grave mound and tombstone we all know. And James Bama used this publicity photo of Glenn Strange's pose as a model for his painting that is the box art.
Photo from Universal Monster Army

The mechanical MARX Frankenstein was based on Boris from "Bride of Frankenstein" which became Bill Lemon's design for the kit. And influenced my decision to paint my kit close to his look after climbing out of the wreckage of the windmill.

I know his shirt was black in "Bride of Frankenstein" and the MARX version is gray but I thought that brown would give a little more contrast and a nod to "Son of Frankenstein". Then there is the whole debate over "Green or not" and I like my Frankenstein's green. As far as him stepping off of the tombstone one of the group members cracked me up by saying "He might be the Ghost of Frankenstein and just walked through it."

Another one that I had taken off of the shelf and painted was The Wolfman. I didn't want to have him in blue pants like most builders do, so I went with tan pants like he had in Abbot and "Costello Meet Frankenstein."

And once again we were in for a mish mosh of Oliver Reed in Curse of The Werewolf on the box by James Bama because someone told him "You need to paint a Werewolf." and had gotten a movie still from Curse of The Werewolf and mixed Lon Chaney's Wolfman face from another still with it. 

But Bill Lemon had given us a sculpture of Lon Chaney Jr. with a super hero build, a rope belt, a victim's skull and a couple of rats.

The next up was "The Forgotten Prisoner of Castle Mare" which is a huge favorite of Monster Kids everywhere. I don't know if it's because of our love of skeletons or because of it just looking so cool in it's Famous Monsters ad in the magazine but it's pretty much the one you have to own if your worth your weight in plastic collecting these kits.  

The ad is cool because it brings back so many memories but it also marked the end of the line for AURORA Monster Model kits back then. It was even given it's own back story in an issue of CREEPY magazine because Bill Warren (who published Famous Monsters too and made the deal with AURORA for cross promotion) was tired of being asked about who the Forgotten Prisoner was.

Steven Thompson had posted about the CREEPY Magazine issue and the actual pages on his blog "BOOKSTEVE'S LIBRARY"
The only thing that irks me about the illustrations of the comic drawn for the Forgotten Prisoner's story was the outfit in the story looks absolutely nothing like outfit worn by by him in the James Bama painting. But hey I guess a meh' story is better than none at all. And Ray Meyers really had some creative freedom with the design since it wasn't based on anything established.

Then in the two thousands the MONARCH model company had made "The Ghost of Castle Mare" as a followup to The Forgotten Prisoner of Castle Mare. And it was fun matching the paint of their outfits and figuring out how the upper and lower masonry work would look between the dungeon and the turret stairs. Then after a lot of online searches I liked a blue glow the best and I think I used eight shades of blue for the effect and detailing. The funniest thing is I sweated out the torch detailing the most.

The next one I had done was The Creature and I held this one off the longest so far because of all of the back and forth I did over what color to make him. Yeah I know green is the obvious color but the devil is definitely in the details with this one. I mean you have the screen accurate renditions and there are three to go with. Ben Chapman had told me the colors that he remembers himself, Ricou Browning had a yellow underwater suit and Revenge of The Creature's was a darker green. Then there is the color shots from TIME Magazine that are still being debated. 

So I finally decided on "Hey it's on my shelf so I'm going to paint him up the way I want to". Besides Bill didn't care that wasn't a giant lizard in any of the three movies so why should I have to worry about on screen accuracy for the Creature's coloring? And I thought it would be cool to do some realistic coloring and I hit the internet for some inspirations for the lizard monster and snake.

I went with sand base because I had seen it done on another version or two on the internet and did my own take on it along with the miniature version of the cave from some promotion shots behind him.

When it came down to painting the Creature himself I had done eight different shades of green on him and subconsciously wound up painting him like the painting used to make the two hundred piece puzzle and box graphic. Now as far as the gaps and seems go I thought it would be cool to do these as a tribute to my own history with these models when I was a kid and wasn't concerned with putty and sanding. But at the same time using the techniques I had learned over the years. And I know that I could have gone with a matte sealer for the paint but went with gloss to give tribute to my friend Daniel White's Uncle Richard who had used the original enamels that were out back then when these kits were first released. Richard White was a professional artist that had painted the designs for BALLY Pinball machines and Daniel's father Alan White did the screen printing of the score boards and pinball tables with Richard's designs. 

You can see more of Uncle Richard's models by clicking on the picture here.

My wife loves King Kong and Godzilla as much as I do and had and detailed her own AURORA model kits in a style to really make them her own. 
Larry Ehling had sculpted the King Kong kit for AURORA and even though I love it and still have to paint the second that my wife had built, but the whole scale throws me off that he used for the kit. I understand him being taller than the trees but Fay Wray is taller than the trees too. And the Giant Lizards (One of which Kong is stomping on) is smaller than her as well. Then I was trying to figure out which movie still Larry had used for his sculpture and I think this one is it. And all I could think is "Why couldn't have this been the kit?!"
  "Bon Ogle" from The Facebook AURORA Monster Model Kits Group is currently building a custom of this movie still using the AURORA King Kong and Pteranodon Dinosaur kits! I can't wait to the share the photo of it when it's completed.

My wife wanted to make these kits truly her own and used different types of glitter to detail it in a Christopher Radko inspired style. And she really blew me away with how she was able to use that medium and (excuse the pun) make them shine. And most of the AURORA Monster group members really liked them, others said it wasn't something they would do but did respect her skill with it by doing details.

I think James Bama was given both kits to paint from directly this time around for both box covers art because they are really close to the actual kits. And it looks like Ray Meyers had used a movie still from Godzilla VS. King Kong for his sculpt. This is one of my favorite versions of him, but man it can start some pretty heated debates in Fan Groups.

I have other built kits to paint yet and as soon as I'm done with those I will post "The Return of The Plastic Monster Kits Part 2". At first I was dreading painting them (except for 1962 Dracula he is staying as is) because I realized I had to take them apart partially to do it. But thanks to the encouragement of the members of the Facebook AURORA Monster Model Kits club I carefully perform some plastic surgery with my trusty Exacto kit get the painting done and glue them back together. Next up will be The Mummy, The Phantom of The Opera, The Munsters, my version of King Kong and the MOEIBUS Bob Burns as KOGAR/TRACY kit.

And I want to thank the members of the FB AURORA Monster Model Group Mats Peterson, Paul Seiler (Motor City Toy Mafia) and Rick Evans for helping me out with some very important info.