Todd reviews a Rankin-Bass stop-motion Halloween special.
Mad Monster Party is a 1967 halloween treat from the same folks that brought you those Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman stop-motion Christmas specials.
Baron von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff), president of a monster organization, invites all members to his house for a party where he plans to name a successor: His clueless nephew, Felix Flankin, a clutzy kid who works at a drugstore and sounds like an uppity Jimmy Stewart.
But a few of the monsters devise a plan to get rid of Felix and put themselves in charge. Lame hijinx ensue.
If you’re the type of person amused by the idea of all the classic Universal horror monsters starring in the same movie, you won’t be disappointed. The Invisible Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Werewolf, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, the Creature (from the Black Lagoon), King Kong, Igor, and The Mummy join the party, each carefully tweaked just enough from their official namesakes to avoid copyright infringement.
Rankin-Bass never had the polish of, say, Aardman Studios today. The animation is jerky, items in each scene sometimes shift on their own, and there are occasional inconsistencies in scale. But to me, it’s no less charming for it. We enjoy both Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbara for different reasons.
Several musicla bits pad out the time of this full-length feature, none of them particularly memorable. I think the producers acquired the rights to a grab bag of songs and shoehorned them in the best they could. With the exception of the cute “Look Ahead” sequence in the Baron’s lab, the animators seemed fresh out of ideas for the song-and-dance numbers.
Many scenes unrelated to the plot provide fodder for gags and pad out the running time. Some are better than others. I particularly enjoyed the tour of the kitchen, with the chef showing Yetch the dishes he's prepared for this wildly disparate group.
But overall, this is the level of humor you can expect:
Mr. Hyde: (upon transforming) Hyde! Hyde!
Felix: Hide? You want me to hide? Well if you want to play games, you must be feeling better. Certainly don't look it. Okay, I'll hide and you try and find me.
Kids will love this one. I’m positive that, had I seen this in my youth, it would’ve been a Halloween staple in our house. There are some adult jokes, but it’s still not the kind of movie that caters equally to both audiences. Grownups will find the plot a little silly and may want to jump up for a popcorn refill when the songs come on.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. Those who remember 1960s television are in for a nostalgia treat. The charming animation makes up for its childish plot and dialogue. I don’t know if I’ll watch it again, but I’d show it to my kids.
I must call attention to one character: A bombshell redhead Francesca (voiced by Gale Garnett) who probably needed extra wire supports to keep her top-heavy figure up. She’s such a holdover from her era as to be an almost unrecognizable archetype today.
Watch out for the scene when she and The Monster's Mate (Phyllis Diller) come to blows by yanking their dresses off and tumbling on the floor to the sound of fighting cats. Really.