By - Stephen Mezo
Don't worry I'll save you the history lesson of Aurora Monster Models, there are way more sites that have the complete history of them than I can count and "The Aurora Monsters The Model Craze That Gripped The World" DVD by Cortland Hull, Bill Diamond and Dennis Vincent covers it too. It's hosted by The Cool Ghoul himself "ZACHERLEY" and has some excellent initerviews. And you can get it on Amazon.com
I had built and loved these kids when I was a kid, but over the years they were destroyed by falls from shelves or sold off to cover grown up expenses. Later on I had got into collecting monster toys and that led to me joining a few Face Book monster toy collecting groups. A few of the members that became friends had the monster toys in their collections and I was like "I had those a while ago..." but nothing really clicked with my wanting to have them again until a trip to a antique store with my wife Jackie. Where we had seen a complete, assembled, unpainted 1962 Aurora Dracula model.
We had asked the lady that owned the booth how much the model kit was and after seeing different original 1960's kit prices we were ready to hear that it would be a lot. But she told us "You can have it for thirty dollars because he really creeps me out" and I think that was the fastest transaction we had ever done in an antique store ever.
After having him for about a year my wife and I had an October vacation/staycation coming up and she had a great idea of buying the re releases of the monster model kits and we could put them together while we watched monster movies. And it was like it was meant to be because we were able to get every kit we wanted for really low prices at that time. They all arrived a day before our staycation and we got to putting them together.
We really love how Dracula looked unpainted and did the rest of our kits the same way with no intention of painting them until a year later.
I had joined a Aurora monster model group then and was really blown away by the work a lot of the builders had done and that had inspired my wife and I to start painting our re releases (Except for original Dracula he is always staying just the way he is. But I did assemble and paint the Revell re release with the newer head design because they couldn't use Bela's likeness from the Aurora original.
And some people had told me that the replacement head may have been sculpted to resemble this version of Dracula portrayed by Howard Vernon in "Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein" so I painted it from the photo.
I did enjoy being part of the first monster model group I was part of, but the only thing I felt a little limited with was they were all about Aurora monster models only (Not that there is anything wrong with that) but a lot of the members were sticklers for what I would call Factory Painting. Where whatever colors the instructions said or the James Bamma box art should only be used. Or to make it screen accurate without question.
Now if the Aurora kits were screen accurate that would be one thing, but the kit sculpts and box art were a mish mosh of movie stills on top of the kits having influences from some of the original book versions like The Phantom of the Opera kit.
Not only is the phantom a mix of two versions Lon Chaney's original and James Cagney's makeup from "Man of a Thousand Faces" he's holding the mask from Claude Rain's Phantom movie.
I like having The Phantom wearing his mask and used a black silicone elastic to hold it in place.
Then there's the age old question of who the person behind bars is? Well that Aurora group has an awesome member that actually read the book (I know, I know) and had told everyone that The Phantom wasn't scarred by acid, but was actually born disfigured and lived in the Paris Catacombs beneath the theater. And the whole love story was secondary compared to his actual doings there. Then people would make the mistake of of exploring the parts of the catacombs where he lived and would wind up imprisoned or worse in the various traps that the Phantom had set for intruders.
And while most builders favor grays for their Phantom base I searched the internet for photos of the catacombs and found one by Gaspard Duval that shows they are actually shades of brown.
After a year of enjoying the works of the Aurora collectors I started seeking out other Monster Model groups and even enjoyed seeing the works of Armor (Tank) builders. And in their group I was introduced to all kinds of techniques of weathering and giving the models realistic material looks which I started using on later builds. And around that time a man by the name of Joe Walters had invited my to join his new Facebook group "Aurora Classics For Geriatrics". And I have to say without Joe I wouldn't have met a lot of builders that I beyond respect and consider great friends in that group.
And one of those artist is a man by the name of Bon Ogle
Bon made me realize that if I'm going to strike out on my own and assemble and paint my models my way I should take the next step and rework those kits if I feel like it. And the best part is model parts that would have never been used because there's only so many that need to be completed have a new use. And Broken, warped and even burnt parts can be given new life. Just look at this amazing diorama he had built with a Aurora King Kong, Pterodactyl and T-Rex model kits.
Then this had inspired me to do one myself with another scene in King Kong with a Polar Lights re release King Kong, a Lindberg Model Company T-Rex, three orphaned Creature From The Black Lagoon Lizard Monsters (One was warped that I was able to heat and reshape, another was from the Aurora add on accessory set, and the third came with a half melted Creature Base). Then I was able to use a melt mark riddled Aurora Superboy base with the cave, and was able to turn the Dragon monster into The Munsters beloved pet Spot. And the Fay Wray that I didnt' need one I had Kong holding a up rooted tree got me an awesome trade for a 1961 Aurora Frankenstein kit from Canada.
I got rid of the tiny palm trees and gave Kong a uprooted tree to hold instead.
This Creature base was a complete mess before I reworked it.
He was a warped Lizard Monster before I was able to heat and reshape and pose him.
Amazing what some help from a heat gun can do.
The Aurora add on kit Lizard Monster and a melt marked Superboy base and cave.
The Dragon Monster from the wrecked Superboy base became Spot with my Munsters kit.
Yeah I made Herman green (But Lilly did say he was green in the show).
From a We're not sure if it was an aggressive Space Dragon to Spot.
I gotta tell you that The Munsters kit was a big old challenge. The rug didn't have the best detail to work with along with the character's faces and they were like trying to paint postage stamps.
Then the King Kong nameplate, tiny palm trees and Fay Wray I didn't use got me this really cool 1961 Aurora Frankenstein from another group member by the name of Alvin Rivait up in Canada. He was restoring a King Kong kit up by him and needed those parts. I had only asked for shipping from Central Jersey to him for the parts I had that he needed since another member Mark Biddison had done the same for me (I'll cover that in Part Two).
In return he had sent me a 1961 Aurora Frankenstein that needed some TLC. Alvin had bought him in lot sale of other monster models but he wasn't one of Alvin's favorite kits. Whoever the original builder was had decided to make his arms closer together in front of him but that made a huge split in his back. Then Alvin said his jacket and base were warped like someone had kept him next to a heat source. I was able to use my heat gun to reshape his coat and burial mound but the base of his tombstone had to be left alone because it was to think to safely warm up to reshape.
I painted Canadian Frankenstein with a solid sweater but did his sleeve linings in gray after a conversation with another member Kevin Maottishaw when he was asking why some builders didn't do it that way. But I think a lot of us were influenced by the MARX walking Frankenstein where his sweater top and sleeves were gray.
When I finished him up I painted him slightly different than my first re release version and I notice that he was standing up straighter too after reworking him.
I had painted my Polar Lights re release with a brown sweater and sleeves then muddied him up to match how he looked after he crawled out of the wreckage of the burned windmill.
That's all for now, but come back for Aurora Classics For Geriatrics Part Two with more models and my fellow builders.