By Justin Humphreys
© Justin Humphreys – 2010
Who was the marketing savant who decided to put “pain” in a kid’s toy’s name?
Does Barbie drive a Pain Ferrari? Would the Great Garloo have sold better if Ideal had called him The Big Green Pain Demon? Has Wham-O made a fortune over the last fifty years selling Pain Hoops?
The answer to the last three questions is a resounding no, but Aurora’s creative minds didn’t realize that the word “Pain” doesn’t make toys fly off the shelves. From its inception, the entire Monster Scenes line was a House of Usher waiting to crumble. What responsible parent– outside of the very coolest!– would want their kid building a miniature torture chamber, even if it was one with a blackly comic name like “Gruesome Goodies” or “The Pain Parlor”?
The really sad part about the latter kit is that it contains no torture devices– Aurora could have just as well have called it “The Mad Lab” or “Dr. Deadly’s Playroom” or something equally innocuous. But they chose “The Pain Parlor,” which no doubt conjured up images of the Marquis de Sade armed with a branding iron moving in on Aurora’s Daisy Mae look-alike, “The Victim”, for a few good licks. Before you can say “IT’S ALIVE!”, the kits bombed, and for the last thirty-five years, that semi-rare kit has remained in the $50-75 range.
But restrictive parents be damned: the Monster Scenes are some of Aurora’s most fascinating and appealing kits and you don’t have to be Norman Bates to enjoy them. In fact, their initially unsavory reputation makes them somehow more attractive… Doesn’t forbidding kids to have something ALWAYS do that? And like those cool parents mentioned above, Frank Winspur’s Moebius Models has done all monster kids a big service by reissuing “The Pain Parlor” and “Gruesome Goodies” (each sold separately).
The Pain Parlor
Like “Gruesome Goodies,” “The Pain Parlor” is basically a generic monster movie lab set with a stone floor, lab equipment a la Kenneth Strickfaden, an operating table designed to fit the Monster Scenes “Frankenstein,” and a glow-in-the-dark skeleton. Since the Monster Scenes were sculpted decades before model companies began focusing on photographic realism, Aurora vet Bill Lemon sculpted them in a simple, comic book fashion. For instance, the skeleton has a square-ish head that could have been patterned after a walking corpse from an Al Feldstein “Tales from the Crypt” cover. The thousands of finely detailed kits that have emerged in the last three decades have only made the relatively naive charms of Aurora’s sculptures all the more appealing. Not because they’re better, but because of how perfectly– and nostalgically– they capture that unreal pulp horror look.
The kit itself snaps together in minutes. The lab machine is detached from the base, so it can be moved within the kit itself or combined with the “Gruesome Goodies” lab.
The aptly-named “Gruesome Goodies” delivers exactly that: the perfect 1/12th scale all-purpose additions to monster kits or even action figures to create a moldering yet super-scientific lab which nothing good will ever come out of. Aurora had seldom produced kit versions of the laboratories from endless horror movies, with the “Bride of Frankenstein” being an exception. Something like “Gruesome Goodies” would have seemed to have been an ideal addition to the 1/8th scale monster line as a customizing kit.
The kit itself is classic stock horror material, right down to the coils and electrodes that practically spit sparks and emit unearthly electrical noises. Making “Gruesome Goodies” all the more enjoyable is the vast number of clear plastic parts that are included, not only as covers for portions of the lab equipment, but also many test tubes, beakers, and other scientific paraphernalia. The coup de grace, though, is the ultimate expression of the series’ macabre
sense of humor, the Monster Scenes’ own mascot– the Fanged Bunny (years before Monty Python and the Holy Grail, no less).
The idea of having a series of interlocking monsters and their (un)natural habitat akin to Aurora’s Prehistoric Scenes, might have been a master stroke if the company had only avoided the sex and sadism angle. (“Rated ‘X’- For Excitement!” as a tagline? Who wrote that stuff?!) Perhaps something more like the Creeple People Maker would have worked or like Aurora’s original Universal monster kits– more fantastic than sadistic. What if the Monster Scenes had
gone on for years? And Aurora had produced giant Jacob’s ladders like in the lab where Karloff’s monster was born, or a Bride for their Frankenstein’s Monster? Or a Gill-Man complete with a cove in the Black Lagoon? Or… Or…
Well, that’s a moot point… We have to content ourselves with these perverse little styrene gems, but gems they are, and that’s plenty of styrene contentment right there.