AURORA MONSTER SCENES
In 1971, a model company called Aurora was struggling. They had made a good name for themselves with awesome kits based on classic monsters, dinosaurs, and the like, but sales were waning, so they decided to up the ante with what was arguably the most offensive and shocking toy sets ever marketed to kids. The snap together kits featured Frankenstein, Dr. Deadly, and Vampirella, which wasn't that outrageous, but they came with an array of torture devices and a figure cleverly marketed as "The Victim" that caused an uproar.
The comic book ad above launched the set to America. As they kidnap a woman to bring her into the torture dungeon, Vampirella assures her party that her screaming is just fine by saying, "Don't worry, this is New York, no one will help her!" This was a grim and totally inappropriate reminder of the horrible case of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death with as many as 12 witnesses in the apartment building next door did nothing.
Can you imagine any kid coming home with "The Victim", or actually opening it up on Christmas day? The artwork on the box is fantastic, and it's actually one of the more valuable and collectible vintage toys of the time.
If you click the thumbnail above, you can see an alternate version of the ad (which may never have actually been published) where "The Victim" was going to be sold as "Dr. Deadly's Daughter". I suppose the angle of torturing his own family member was probably too much for even the most jaded monster fans.
Obviously it didn't take long for numerous groups to protest the hell out of this toy. According to the AURORA MONSTER KITS website:
Massive protests against the kits came from religious publications and general newspapers, since they all thought that it promoted sex and sadism among children. All the negative publicity led to an immediate stop of production for these kits in May 1971, by the company which now had new owners: Nabisco Inc. The kits remaining on the toy store shelves led to new protests in November, this time outside Nabisco's headquarters in New York. These protests held by groups as: Parents for Responsibility in the Toy Industry, and National Organization for Women, resulted in a recall of the Monster Scenes kits from store shelves in the U.S.
The National Organization of Women hasn't called for the banning of a toy since the Mattel "Math is Hard Barbie" debacle in 1990, so you have to give credit to AURORA for their long standing record. How many toys get a rap for promoting "sex and sadism"? That's quite an accomplishment by anyone's standards.
As you would expect, these hard to find kits fetch a pretty price on the collector market, with Mint in Box specimens easily approaching the $300 range and even $30 for instructions.
Anyway, the next time you hear someone complaining about the violent toys kids love these days and the bad influence of wrestling, videogames, and toy guns, just show them this to shut them up.
NOTE: An earlier version of this article first appeared on retroCRUSH over 13 years ago, but I found a cool site The Haunted Closet which added some new items about reissues of the kits, and an article about the original protest that you can READ HERE.