"Mix'em and match'em! Monster Scenes. Get all 8! Rated X.... For Excitement!"
So read the original 1971 box art for Monster Scenes by Aurora, probably the most controversial toy of the 1970s.
Aurora manufactured a wide range of successful plastic model kits. These included movie monsters such as the Universal Studios version of Frankenstein's Monster. That line was (temporarily) discontinued in 1969; Aurora decided to take a new approach to revitalize their monster line: Monster Scenes.
Figure kits were made, including a new version of the popular Frankenstein kit, Warren Comics' scantily-clad Vampirella, a hunchback scientist named Doctor Deadly, and a halter-top and short-shorts-wearing teenage girl called the Victim.
Dr. Deadly's lab could be made from two kits, Gruesome Goodies and the Pain Parlour, which included a slab, mad scientist-style machinery, and restraints with a heart-shaped lock. Other charming sets included the Hanging Cage, with hot coals, tongs, and a poker, and the Pendulum, with a blade that could be rigged to swing back and forth. Box art depicted just what could be done with the Victim: she was shown in both the Cage (over the coals) and strapped into the Pendulum.
Reaction was guillotine-swift. Concerned Parents, Women's Groups, religious organizations, and the collective PTAs of North America expressed their outrage. Nabisco, which had recently acquired Aurora, found its corporate headquarters targeted by protesters chanting "Sadistic toys make violent boys!" Warren Comics, meanwhile, objected that their befanged heroine had been depicted on some of the box art as a torturer and villain, rather than the vampiristic do-gooder/adventurer she was. It says something that a kit aimed at children could offend a comic company known for sex scenes and graphic mutilation. In the end, the line was discontinued, the models pulled from store shelves, and Aurora's creative department fired, just in time for Christmas, 1971.
The remaining kits were sold in Canada and Mexico, with some cosmetic changes to the boxes. Aurora renamed Gruesome Goodies, the Lab Tables and the Pain Parlour, Gruesome Goodies. The Victim became Dr. Deadly's Daughter but, as they retained the same S&M graphics, the implications were, if anything, more disturbing. Canada and Mexico also saw the release of the line's relatively innocuous second phase kits, Dracula, Giant Insect, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Rarest collectibles of all are the Dungeon and Animal Pit models, shown on some of the box art. None were ever distributed, and only a few are known to exist.
As with many other Aurora kits, some of the Monster Scenes have been re-released by other companies, while originals now fetch staggering prices.
Additional information may be found at:
Aurora's Monster Scenes: the Most Gruesome Toy of All Time.
Dean Milano. "Aurora." Milano Model Kit and Toy Museum.
Parts Pits: Monsters Scenes.