Baron Von Frankenstein (voiced by the legendary Boris Karloff) holds a special convention of The Worldwide Organization Of Monsters to discuss his retirement. When he announces that his successor will be his nerd nephew Felix, the world’s major monsters are mortified. Now, The Creature’s Bride (voiced by Phyllis Diller), Count Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and more must all scramble to steal the Baron’s ultimate secret during one wild party packed with cool monster music and outrageous monster madness!
The mad monster classic you loved as a kid is now better than ever! Filmed in the revolutionary stop motion of “Animagic” by Rankin/Bass (creators of such holiday TV classics as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty The Snowman).
eyelights: the character designs. the set designs.
eyesores: Phyllis Diller, the pathetic musical numbers. the lame humour.
“Ha ha ha. Quoth the raven, “Nevermore”. I’ve done it. Created the means to destroy matter. They must all know. Know that I, Baron von Frankenstein, master of the secret of creation, have now mastered the secret of destruction. The invitations must be sent at once.”
‘Mad Monster Party?’ is an stop-motion animation by Rankin/Bass studio (the people behind such Christmas classics as ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and ‘Frosty the Snowman’) and a couple of the mad geniuses behind Mad Magazine, creator Harvey Kurtzman and artist Jack Davis.
Released in the late ’60s, it’s a send-up of creature movies, but geared towards children. It is now considered a cult classic, having garnered a following throughout the years, and it was also popular enough at the time for the lesser-known sequel ‘Mad Mad Mad Monsters’ to have been released on TV.
Personally, I’m not quite sure what to think of it. On the one hand it has a good core idea, an excellent production and some top-notch talent (ex; Boris Karloff) behind it, but on the other it feels uninspired, as though it could have been something more than what it ended up being.
‘Mad Monster Party?’ is based on simple notion: Baron Boris von Frankenstein has discovered a formula for total destruction and decides to assemble all the monsters (except It) to unveil his creation and to announce his imminent retirement as head of the Worldwide Organization of Monsters.
Frankenstein’s Monster, the Monster’s Mate, Dracula, Werewolf, Mummy, Creature, Invisible Man, Quasimodo, and Dr. Jekyll all have their ambitions, of course, and hope to take over from him, but little do they know that the Baron intends to turn his whole fortune over to his nephew Felix Flankin.
Only the Baron’s assistant, Francesca, knows the truth. Her intention is to make Felix fall in love with her so that she may then take the Baron’s wealth from him. And thus she begins to manipulate some of the other monsters to do her bidding, to make her plan a reality. Hilarity ensues.
But that’s not quite right: hilarity doesn’t ensue. Unfortunately, despite the madness of Kurtzman, the humour is unbelievably lame (ex: the sound of cats during a girl-on-girl fight), rooted in terrible puns and subpar one-liners that only small children might appreciate. It simply does not work from an adult perspective.
Some say that Kurtzman merely reviewed the script that co-writer Len Korobin wrote it. Accounts that noted science fiction writer and editor Forrest J. Ackerman was involved are also disputed, leaving very little room for blame. As a fan of Mad, I would like to think Korobin, who only ever penned this film, is the culprit.
Although actors can’t turn turds into gold, the voice work doesn’t help matters much: aside from Karloff as the Baron (fittingly!) there’s not much else of any worth. Allen Swift does most of the other voices, but only his interpretations of Dracula and Peter Lorre (in the form of Yetch) truly worked.
(On a side-note, if the filmmakers had Karloff and Lorre in their film, why was there no Vincent Price? How could they miss this opportunity?)
The rest hurt. Particularly loathsome is his Felix, during which he affects the vocal presence of a constipated James Stewart. One might think that this could be funny, except that it doesn’t work for a teenaged boy; every time that Felix opens his mouth -which is far too often- you want to tear his little rubber head off.
Meanwhile, comic legend Phyllis Diller was given an important part in the picture as the Monster’s Mate, with the character looking very much like her, but she ruins pretty much every corny line with her lifeless delivery. As for her musical numbers, they couldn’t possibly be any worse if they had been in a Don Bluth film.
Because, yes, ‘Mad Monster Party?’ is also a musical. A frickin’ musical! I loathe musicals. I hate them with a passion. But a good musical I can tolerate. ‘Victor Victoria” and ‘Star!’ I can handle. But ‘Mad Monster Party?’ I can’t. That the songs are gawdawful adds to my pain, but that there are so many makes it unbearable.
Thankfully, the show looks absolutely fantastic – almost enough to be worth the 90 minutes’ run-time!
Jack Davis’ creature and character designs are awesome to look at in almost all the cases (I think only the Monster’s Mate isn’t, and that’s certainly not his fault). He already had a good understanding of the material, having done the art for various monster comics, but he also understood and adjusted it to the film’s audience.
Rankin/Bass did a great job of making his characters look great of course, and they did the same with all the sets: watching ‘Mad Monster Party?’ was a whole lotta non-stop eye candy – from the Baron’s castle, to the jungle, to the details in Felix’s pharmacy – it was all superbly crafted. Masterful, even.
If only the animation wasn’t so clunky. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled with Tim Burton’s own “claymation” creations, but ‘Mad Monster Party?” didn’t flow very well, with the movements seeming to skip beats on a regular basis. The musical numbers were especially poor, with the quick movements hindering the sequences.
A lot of imagination went into ‘Mad Monster Party?”, though. Some was totally borrowed (ex: the ‘Some Like it Hot‘ ending), some was original, and one wishes that it has coalesced into more than what it is. I certainly do. It looks so bloody fantastic and had so much potential that it could have been a favourite of mine.
Unfortunately, as it stands, it’s just a shadow of what could have been. Perhaps had I seen it as a kid, nostalgia would have given it a veneer it doesn’t currently have and I’d relish it nonetheless. Having seen it for the first time as an adult, however, it’s just too unsophisticated for my liking.
I’m not so mad about this monster party.
Date of viewing: September 29, 2013