On The Bench 274: Dwight Kemper’s Dracula

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Found at the bottom of my ex-wife’s closet, this model kit, a 1970s Aurora Frightening Lightning glow in the dark “Dracula” model kit once belonged to her brother. She gave it to me when I expressed an interest in trying to restore it. The materials my ex-brother-in-law used to color the model included on hand items like red glitter for inside the cape, white out for the shirt and black Magic Marker hair and eyebrows and what appeared to be a mustache.

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I began by soaking the parts in nail polish remover to dissolve the glue. I found a gallon zip lock bag to be very helpful in giving every inch of the model a good soaking.

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I soaked the head in paint thinner to remove the Magic Marker as best as I could.

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Using still photos of Bela Lugosi from the 1930 Universal film “Dracula,” I began painting the face to give the model a greater resemblance to the actor. Putty was used to fill in cracks. An Exacto Knife was used to trim flash.

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The interior of the mouth was missing from the kit, so I used putty and sculpting tools to make a new mouth interior and upper teeth.

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I decided to paint most of the face and hands, leaving the eyes and a bit around the eyes, and the fingertips unpainted so when seen in the dark, it appears that his eyes are glowing a hypnotic green, and fingertips glow with an unearthly power.

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As for the base, I decided to leave the glowing grass as is. The model was missing one bat, and that bat was glued to the trunk of the tree. Extricating it from the tree trunk sacrificed on tiny foot, which I restored with more putty.

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I also decided to paint the bat a more natural brown color, rather than traditional Aurora black. I downloaded scanned model kit instructions to make sure the bat was properly placed on the right tree branch, which I repositioned as seen in the instructions. I also decided to paint the inside of the cape Testors Ghost Gray rather than red, since the actual cape from the movie was this color. In fact, NONE of Lugosi’s capes had a red lining. That belonged to Christopher Lee’s Dracula.

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Update:  my ex-wife found the second hanging bat in her closet and gave it to me to finish the restoration. Photos provided.

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The final result: Count Dracula in all his fiendish glory.

Dwight Kemper

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