These are the original thirteen monster models produced by Aurora in the early-to-mid sixties. Since then, they have been re-produced by various companies, so they are all fairly easy to acquire today, though an original in the box usually goes for hundreds of dollars.

On the left is the original box design which easily captured our pre-pubescent attention in the stores. On the right is the original artwork by James Bama, a commercial / fine artist who did thousands of paperback covers, including the Doc Savage books. These hi-resolution scans were taken from an Aurora catalog from 1967 which used Bama's paintings without the lettering, allowing us to see the sometimes obscured bottom third. The two pages from which these scans were taken are reproduced towards the bottom of this page.

Although Bama is a well-repected fine artist whose paintings sell for top dollar, most of the original Bama paintings you see here are gone forever. An excellent article dealing with this can be found here, and an excellent retrospective Bama book is available here.

In the center are high-resolution photos of my build-ups of the thirteen models. Only one model, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is an original from 1964.

As of 2010, it is not known whether or not this painting was destroyed in 1969 when Aurora rereleased these models as glow versions.

More info follows below.

This model was inadvertantly the beginning of hard ball licensing contracts. When this model came out, the Lugosi Estate (his son) sued, and the Supreme Court eventually ruled that celebrities could, indeed, license their likenesses, even if those likenesses were used by a corporation in a copyrighted work. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time - The Beatles' Brian Epstein sold those rights away for a pittance in 1963. Since then, licensing has come to rule everything - including, ironically, the resin garage kit business spawned by lovers of these Aurora models. These talented sculptors of short-run, expensive models seen elsewhere on my site have been crushed by "cease and desist" orders from Universal Studios.

This painting was actually based on Lugosi as he appeared in "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948), eighteen long, hard years after his career-defining role in "Dracula" (1931).

The original painting was painted over by Aurora when marketing their glow-in-the-dark versions of these models in 1969 and is now lost forever.

This was my first model, and it got Aurora into a bit of marketing trouble. I was six years old, and I thought I was buying a toy. Opening it up, it looked busted! My mom explained to me that I was expected to build and paint it. Even when I did all that, the model (right) looked nothing like the box art, which was a pastiche of Lon Chaney's 1941 "Wolfman" and Hammer's 1961 "Curse of the Werewolf". The artist, James Bama, was then told to use model prototypes for the next two models' box art, The Mummy and The Creature.

The rope tie is missing from his belt. I don't know why. Don't ask.

This painting may still exist. The brouhaha over the "the stuff in the box doesn't look like the cover" resulted in Aurora hiring someone to do a totally new painting for the glow version in 1969, so this painting was spared.

Unlike the box art, I didn't put blood on the hands and eyes. Mummies don't bleed.

This painting actually shared a canvas with the Creature. You can see the purple sky and a bit of the Mummy base in the background of the Creature painting (below). The originals were available on eBay awhile back and were bought for over $12,000 each. More can be found at the link I gave earlier regarding the Bama box art.

Love that blood-red sky....

This painting apparently still exists (see "The Mummy", above).

The final model was a cross between Jimmy Cagney and Lon Chaney.

This painting is based on Jimmy Cagney's (!) very short performance as the Phantom in "The Man With A Thousand Faces" (1957), a so-so biopic of Lon Chaney Sr. It was probably all that Bama had to go on.

This was another Bama painting totally destroyed by Aurora in 1969.

This is the original Bama painting, based on a publicity photo of Anthony Quinn in the then-latest movie version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". Mr. Quinn sued for the unlicensed use of his likeness, and Aurora had Bama add hair and change the face a bit to do away with any simliarities to Quinn (see Bama painting on the far right).

"Quinn" boxed kits in excellent condition go for many hundreds of dollars.

The original short hair looked goofy - I've heard tell that the sculpt reminded people of Charles Bronson.

I added some red stuff to make it look more like Chaney.

This is the "corrected" Bama version from the 1967 catalog. Even this corrected version is lost forever due to the 1969 paint-overs.

Polar Lights, who did modeling fans a great favor by re-releasing all but two of the original models in the original boxes messed this one up badly, They released it as "The Bellringer" to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit from Disney, who had a feature-length cartoon of "The Hunchback" in release at the time. In addition to the ridiculous name change, Polar Lights also used a terrible scan of the corrected version as the cover art. However, in light of their other modeling efforts, they have been forgiven.

I found this image on the web back in 2000. I wish I could credit it, but I have no idea where I found it. I used it because it still had the "Universal Pictures Presents" text above the name; the Moebius re-issue is missing the lettering.

Interestingly, the film was made by Paramount, not Universal. In the Fifties, Paramount sold all of its 30s films to Universal, but this one had already been acquired by MGM in 1940, who at the time were producing an inferior version of "Jekyll and Hyde" with Spencer Tracy; they wanted to see this version buried.

So Universal never had a right to license this title. Hope Aurora didn't pay them too much back in 1965.

This model is a resin reproduction by RetroResin, with extra flasks and books and a different head. RetroResin produced it as a labor of love in the 1990s since Polar Lights wasn't interested in reproducing it in styrene for the masses.

It has since been reproduced in styrene by Moebius Models and is widely available.

Another great Bama painting lost to the ages because of the "glow-in-the-dark" paint - overs.

I hadn't yet seen the movie when this model came out. My mom bought it for me on our way to the Dentist when I was 7 years old. For some reason, the box art scared me a bit, which didn't help with the dentist appointment.

Look at the tail! I wonder if the model prototype had a longer tail, which was "stubbed" (see left) when it came time to manufacture the molds?

This painting no longer exists due to the 1969 paint-overs.

The original box had "RKO GENERAL PRESENTS" above the "King Kong" title, but I couldn't find a good scan of it on the web. This is the Polar Lights reissue.

This painting may still exist. The glow version of "Kong" used a new painting which copied the original.

This is a scan of the Polar Lights Reissue from the 1990s - their first in a long line which eventually covered 11 of the original 13.

I bullt this when my kids were under six, so I left out the severed hands and arms that were strewn across the floor. I reconciled myself to it by reasoning that James Whale (director of "The Bride of Frankenstein") wouldn't have stooped to that kind of vulgar showmanship. Of course, I could have been wrong.

The original box art was designed for the typical Aurora long-box.

This version is a bit of a rarity - there's more information, gross as it is, on the bottom as compared to the official box (far left).

This painting may still exist.

Aurora's first sculpt not based on a classic horror film. I've heard it referred to as "The Salem Witch" but I've never seen an original box with that title.

A silly model, but lots of fun to paint.

This painting apparently still exists, somewhere. The glow version was a copy of the original painting. Bama's wife posed for the picture!

Again, this is an image I found on the web back in 2000 and have no idea how to credit. This was the first (and last) in a series of original character Aurora models which would carry the "Famous Monsters Of Filmland" logo to enhance marketability. Reissues of this model are always missing the "FM" logo and usually the "Aurora" logo.

Again, a bit of a rarity - there's much more information available on the top of the original painting.

This was actually painted by
Mort K√ľnstler.

Another painting lost forever to a 1969 "glow" paint-over.

The following are the two pages from the 1967 Aurora catalog (from Holland - hence the "cm" measurements), from which the above Bama paintings (far right column) were scanned.

 

 

 

And who can forget the Famous Monsters of Filmland ads which enticed us to buy yet another batch of models to replace those which we had blown up with firecrackers?

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