The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hunchback of Notre Dame
Aurora, 1963

Some of these cool models are not easy to come by, especially if they haven't been recently reissued. The problem is all the box collectors out there, who pay big bucks for an original box and never build the model (that would destroy the value). I try to find kits in trashed boxes, but as a last resort I'll get one that has already been built up and restore it. At the time I bought this built model, it hadn't been reissued since the 1970s. Recently Polar Lights finally did a reissue, but for some reason renamed it "The Bell Ringer".

This model came to me through the mail in typical 60's "built-up" condition. Heavy layers of gloss enamel, the ropes were all broke, and the kid who built it back then had some problems fitting the parts together. After soaking the model in oven cleaner I was able to get most of the parts apart and clean off that gloppy paint. This made it a lot easier to do a good job on the reassembling, using standard putty-and-sanding on the mold lines.

The base only needed some dry-brushing to really bring out the wood grain. I picked green for the guy's outfit to get it to stand out from the base, again starting dark and going lighter as I added layers of dry-brush. The iron wrist cuffs and metal rings are not gloss black, but a mix of gloss and flat to give it a "satin" finish (very few things in life except for patent-leather shoes are gloss).

The fleshtone is also put on in layers, allowing the features to stand out. The darkest tones are in the folds of the face and the lightest (actually white) are the scars on his back. The shoulders got some red, this guy's got to have something of a sunburn. When done correctly this kind of layering makes a big difference but is also "invisible", in that it looks like natural tones. One of the problems I notice with airbrush work is this lack of subtle shading.

The ropes were painted a straw yellow, and took some careful fixing. Most of the models you see are missing some or all of these, I wanted mine to be complete. I actually had to find a replacement for a couple of sections, in the end I used actual string of the same diameter, stretched some out and used clear polyurethane to stiffen them. When spliced in with super-glue and painted to match they became perfect. Check out the model and see if you can tell where they are!

Oh, about the movie. Lon Chaney Sr. played Quasimoto way back in 1923. He practically invented the art of monster makeup, and his rendition of the hunchback is basically what has been used ever since. It was a pretty intense story - Disney had to do some wild rewriting to lighten it up into a cartoon.

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