Tag Archives: Dracula

The Most Marvelously Monstrous Monster Models

 

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Photo credit: Boy’s Life Magazine

Here at Warehouse Find I’ve written about favorite toys of my youth (Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces, GI Joe, Jarts, and Shogun Warriors), but I haven’t written about model kits from those days so long ago. I must admit I didn’t build many models back then. I still don’t, even though I have at least half a dozen just waiting to be worked on.

No, my older brother was the model-builder in those days. And he had some of the coolest model kits to ever be made. I’m specifically talking about a popular line of model kits featuring monsters and scenes of the macabre.

In the 1950s, TV stations in America began playing the old Universal Studios horror classics, giving those great old, scary movies new life. Kids all over the country discovered the greatness of horror filmdom’s golden age. Aurora Plastics Corporation had been making model kits for close to ten years; when, in 1961, they hit upon the brilliant idea of capitalizing on those horror films’ new-found popularity. They would issue a line of model kits based on those monsters.

Their first was Frankenstein’s Monster. He was soon followed by Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Creature, and the Phantom of the Opera. Those would be followed by other famous Universal monsters. Later came the giant monsters: King Kong, Godzilla, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. (Click here to get more information on these great monster models.) They were a roaring success with the young-uns!

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By the time I was a sentient kid, it was the 1970s. (I turned six in late 1970.) My older brother had found the 70s’ versions of Aurora’s monster models. Those models jumped on the “kids like things that glow in the dark” phenomena. They reissued their original kits with a second set of selected parts that could glow in the dark! It was a cool idea, but it didn’t always translate well.

It was evident I was in my budding years of a lifetime of pedantry, because even at that tender age I thought the glowing pieces that were hands and heads made sense on Dracula and the Phantom, but on the Wolf Man, King Kong, the Creature? And why would Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Phantom have glowing shoes? Godzilla having a row of glowing fins on his back was cool and it made sense, but his having a glowing head, hands, feet, and a tail was silly.

Well, no matter. The models were excellent. I was so envious of my older brother’s collection.

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Photo credit: eBay

Years later, in the 1990s, another set of reissues of some of those models hit the market, this time they were put out by Monogram. They were part of the Luminators model kit series, models made of transparent plastic in neon colors. You could send away for a black light that would make those kits glow in the dark. But they didn’t look so good otherwise. I bought a set (Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Phantom, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy) anyway.

I put Dracula together first, without painting him. He was a bright yellow collection of plastic that vaguely resembled the great monster. It just wasn’t very impressive. Then I remembered the lesson taught to me by the original series of Jonny Quest in the episode The Invisible Monster: Paint will make it visible.

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Photo credit: Bill Jones

I took the old vampire apart and began anew. This time I would paint him. But it wouldn’t be the last time.

I put the other sets together, painting the parts as I went along. I had a limited palette consisting of only a few colors of model paint. Those paints were oil-based enamels that didn’t mix very well to create a greater variety of colors. Still I did my best and I thought I had done pretty well. I even showed them off to a few people, including my older brother. I put them proudly on display in my room and then didn’t think about them much again.

Until.

Until I made a visit to Chris Mars’ house. Chris Mars is the original drummer of the legendary Minneapolis rock band The Replacements. He is also a very talented artist. His paintings, although disturbing, are fantastic. He is also a good friend of my best friend, Dave. Chris was out of town and Dave was house-sitting when he invited me over for a couple movies and beers.

Let me tell you guys! Chris Mars has a very cool house. His being an artist and into old movie monsters made his house particularly interesting to me. He had all kinds of monster memorabilia, some of which he created himself. And there, in his living room, was his set of Aurora monster models. They were painted so exquisitely, I was positively awestruck.

I’m also an artist. I’m mainly a cartoonist, but I can do portraits and I’m not bad at illustration. I like to think I’m pretty good at the cartooning and portraits. That I’m a decent artist. But looking at Mars’ monster models put me to absolute shame. I felt embarrassed by the models of which I had held such pride.

Chris Mars, without being there, had shown me that I didn’t have to use model paint. He clearly didn’t and he worked with a far greater palette than I had. So, soon after my visit to the artist’s home, I was taking apart those five monsters, breaking out the acrylic paints I’d had since art school, and repainting. And I don’t think I did too badly.

More reissues were released and I picked up several of them. Of the ones I worked on, I started out doing them the right way. From the start. Those turned pretty darn OK, too.

Below are pictures (not the best quality) of the models I’ve completed. The first five are part of the Luminators reissues and they look much better painted.

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Look closely at Dracula’s right knee. You can see where the cape broke when I was taking it apart to repaint. This and the next four were the models I repainted after seeing Chris Mars’ collection.

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It was clear to me that this was the Monster from The Bride of Frankenstein, so I “muddied” it up a bit to match the look in the movie.

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A later version of the Wolf Man was more accurate to the movie versions by Lon Chaney Jr., but this one is still an awesome pose. I love the skull!

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It’s been suggested that this Phantom is based on James Cagney’s portrayal of the character as part of the Lon Chaney biopic Man of a Thousand Faces (1957).

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Cagney or…

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…Chaney? I think it might be based on Cagney.

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This is not Boris Karloff’s Mummy. It’s Lon Chaney Jr’s from The Mummy’s Tomb (1942) and The Mummy’s Ghost (1944).

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This is the first of the non-Luminators reissues I worked on.

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Other modelers have Ann facing away from Kong. I think, judging by the look on her face, it makes more sense to have her looking at her giant simian captor.

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Sorry about the poor focus of Rodan’s face. This broke as I was trying to get the picture. The overall design makes it prone to breaking this way, besides when put together Rodan’s face is positioned so far down it’s barely visible.

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Ghidorah is just a damn cool monster!

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And finally! The King of All Monsters!

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share!

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That’s my name. Don’t wear it out!

One of the several podcasts to which I listen has given me a virus. The virus is the observation that Hollywood overuses characters’ names in movies and TV shows. For some reason, scriptwriters feel it necessary to have their characters constantly calling each other by name. Sure, when one character is greeting another or trying to get the attention of another it makes sense, but when you are in conversation with a friend are you constantly saying their name?

“Hey, Dave. Did you watch the Golden Globes last night, Dave? Don’t you, Dave, think it was crazy to award The Martian as the Best Comedy, Dave?”

“Just what to you think you’re doing, Dave?”

Sorry. Slipped into my HAL 9000 impression.

So, since I caught that virus, I have become acutely attuned to noticing name usage.

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“Shhh, Murph. Don’t cry, Murph. Murph, I’ll only be gone, Murph, for most of your life, Murph.”

When I watched Interstellar (2014) I noticed the lead character calls his daughter by her name quite a lot. I counted more than 50 usages of “Murph” in that nearly three hour movie. Now, before you think I’m crazy, I didn’t count the “Murphs” during my first viewing of the film. I counted when I watched it a second time with my wife.

In 1931, Universal’s Dracula was released and it made Bela Lugosi a star. I mention it because during the climax of the film, when John Harker and Professor van Helsing are attempting to rescue Mina Seward (Harker’s and Dracula’s love interest) from the evil vampire’s clutches and to destroy said vampire, Harker calls out “Mina” SEVENTEEN times.

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“Mina! Mina! Mina, Mina!”

OK, that does make sense. He was trying to find her. They weren’t in conversation. What else would he call out? But 17 times in a segment that lasts no more than five minutes?

HBO’s Band of Brothers (2001) has an episode focusing on one private: Albert Blithe. Blithe is having courage under fire problems. He can’t seem to overcome his fear and be able to function in battle. At one point, he temporarily suffers “hysterical blindness”.

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“Say my name! Say it! Say it!”

Blithe doesn’t join the fight on D Day. Blithe doesn’t try very hard to find Blithe’s unit. Blithe gets advice from a couple of Blithe’s superior officers. Blithe can’t get any sleep. Blithe, Blithe, Blithe, Blithe…

See what I did there? That’s pretty much what the episode does. It keeps having characters say “Blithe”. At one point, of all the paratroopers being called into formation, Blithe is the only one singled out by name. “That means you, Blithe!”

I get it. That private is the central focus of this part of the ten part series. You don’t have to say his name more than 25 times in an episode that runs about an hour. I’ve tried to count all the “Blithes”, but a few are obscured by the sounds of battle, so I can’t be more accurate.

Recently, I just watched the Back To The Future trilogy. I had only seen the first one when it was originally released and not again since. And I had never seen the sequels. I was pleasantly surprised to find they are all very entertaining films.

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“Doc? Doc! Doc, where’d the car go? Hey, Doc?!”

Any guesses as to how many times Marty says “Doc” in those three movies?

I don’t know, but I think it’s in the hundreds!

It’s kinda ridiculous.

And now that you’ve read this, I’ve spread the virus to you and you’re gonna start noticing all those names. My apologies.

Oh! Before I sign off. I have a nitpick with Back To The Future Part III.

Marty travels back in time to the 1880s. He meets his great, great grandparents. They are played by Lea Thompson (who also played Marty’s mother in all three films) and Michael J Fox. That was clever having Fox play the great, great grandfather, but hang on a minute…

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Their last name should have been Baines, not McFly.

Lea Thompson played his mother. OK, I can accept she would look very much the same as Marty’s great, great grandmother. And I can accept Seamus McFly looking very much like Marty. But I cannot accept that they were McFlys!

Marty’s mother was a McFly by marriage not blood, so why the hell would she look exactly like great, great grandmother McFly? What kind of incestuous family dynamic have we got going on here?

It’s just a movie. I should really just relax. It’s just a movie. I should really just relax. It’s just a movie…

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