Sunday, October 16, 2016

Collectible Time #70: Dencomm/Aurora Monster Scenes Animal Pit and Dungeon Dioramas

There was a time when Aurora character and diorama kits were the king of their kind: a fact solidified by Monsters Scenes. The '71 1/13 scale, snap-together series followed the company's classic, earlier '60s larger-format set and predated the popular Prehistoric Scenes, but unlike those long, successful lines, this Gothic string met an untimely death. That was thanks to the concerned-to-a-fault National Organization of Women, which threatened to protest and boycott the Nabisco Company and its goods, including the vast inventory it had procured from Aurora. Its members took issue with what they perceived to be a sexist/misogynistic angle to Monster Scenes' content. 

The hubbub was referenced even on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in", and in little time, the models disappeared from store shelves (though the series continued for a duration thereafter in Canada, with only a few new entries being added before it fizzled). As a result, some intended Monster Scenes kits (like Bride of Dracula) only ever made it to the drawing-room stage and the two that actually entered the manufacturing phase, the Animal Pit and the Dungeon, never reached the masses for consumption. 

Dencomm Products International, which was instrumental three years prior in producing a series of original, supplemental Monster Scenes pieces (the Feral Cat; Saber Tooth Rabbit; and Skeleton), now offers those two "lost" kits, each produced from their original molds. 

The Animal Pit contains 40 plastic pieces, including winding stairs; a lidded pit/cage, equipped with clear plastic; and a weird, indiscernible reptile. When assembled, the diorama stands approximately 14": a lofty play set, indeed, for ghouls young and old alike.

The Dungeon holds the same chilling charm, offering 35 plastic pieces, including a hinged, arched door; a trap door on the base; a barred coffin with internal spikes; a creepy aardvark and rats. When completed, it stands a nifty 7". 

Both kits come in colorful, Aurora-artwork boxes, which (per their side panels) feature Dracula and Mr. Hyde, which made their way into the Canadian release, but would instead enter the U.S. in Aurora's mid-'70s, monster-kit series, Monsters of the Movies.

Each diorama (as evidenced from the photos) is highly detailed and fun to assemble, designed to connect to previous pieces, such as the legendary Pain Parlor; Hanging Cage; and (ouch!) Pendulum. They're also handy backdrops for the series' primary characters: Dr. Deadly, the Frankenstein Monster; the scantily clad Victim and Vampirella (the ladies being the primary catalysts of the threatened boycott). 

These clever kits should have seen the light of day decades ago. Now, thanks to Dencomm, a great injustice has been remedied. (Please note: the kits run on the high end of $50-$60 and are in limited run. I was most fortunate to obtain my sets from trusty Z&Z Hobbies, and even then, they were on back-order for nearly a year.)

Incidentally, one can still purchase the original U.S. Monster Scenes reissue line (from either Dencomm or Moebius), making this an ideal time to (re)collect your childhood favorites, or perhaps, finally obtain that which you always desired but were deprived. 

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