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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mad Monster Party (1967) review

MAD MONSTER PARTY 1967 (on screen title: MAD MONSTER PARTY?)

Starring: Dr. Frankenstein, Count Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frankenstein's Monster, The Monster's Bride and a gaggle of other ghouls

Directed by Jules Bass

The Short Version: Frightfully entertaining animated favorite that's the perfect Halloween capper to a night of spooky ghouls and ghosts. Kids both young and young at heart will likely get the most monstrous mileage out of this kooky and altogether ooky creature collage benefiting from the vocal talents of Hollywood favorites, Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller.

Baron Frankenstein sends out invitations for a special kooky convention--The Worldwide Organization of Monsters--a ghastly gathering at the Isle of Evil where he will discuss his retirement and name his monstrous successor. When Freaky Frank decides to give his wealth and secrets to his sole living relative, Felix Flankin, the other monsters are in an uproar as all have designs on the diabolical doctor's new secret of total destruction.

From Rankin-Bass, the same creators of the claymation favorite, RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, comes the ultimate monster mash. Featuring an assortment of pop cultures most famous creatures, this childhood cult movie favorite is a hugely enjoyable, timeless classic for the monster kid in all of us. In 1967 monsters were still quite the rage and the hopes were that such an enterprise as a creature feature utilizing the "Animagic" process of stop motion animation would guarantee a big hit for the producers which included Joseph E. Levine (SOLDIER BLUE, MY NAME IS TRINITY).

Sadly, this was not the case and the film would only later acrue popularity through airings on television (which is where I saw it the first time). Featuring the voices of both Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller, there's lots to savor here for fans both young and old. Allen Swift did the bulk of the other voices. There's a timeless quality about this movie that will be most appreciated by those who love monster pictures and also those who enjoy animated features. Those with a fondness for the popular RUDOLPH claymation favorite should seek this one out. Fans of Tim Burton will likely enjoy this one as it appears to have been a heavy influence on his NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993).

There's musical numbers (dig them crazy ghouls, Little Tibia & the Fibulas!), an array of classic monsters and other kooky characters accompanied by every haunted house and horror plot device since Universal first became the premiere company of atmospheric terror films. The character of Yetch is modeled after the great character actor, Peter Lorre, and this undead, lovelorn zombie servant constantly loses his head whether for the sultry Francesca, or some comically macabre pratfall.

Apparently, Rankin-Bass had a long time working relationship with Japanese moviemaking technicians. The animators were Japanese and Rankin-Bass would would work with Toho on KING KONG ESCAPES (1967; based on THE KING KONG SHOW) and later collaborate on three live action monster motion pictures--THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977), THE BERMUDA DEPTHS (1978) and THE IVORY APE (1980).

Maybe a tad bit overlong at 95 minutes, it's a triumph of skill in a lost art and a reminder of a time when making movies was more about the magic involved in creating something with ones hands as opposed today where so much is devised with computers. Seldom has their been a more light-hearted, enduring Halloween spectacular, MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967) is one ghastly good time that you can enjoy with the entire family.

This review is representative of the Anchor Bay DVD


Max Evel said...

It brings back memories .

J.L. Carrozza said...

They did have close ties with many Japanese artists.

They helped produced KING KING ESCAPES with Toho that same year.

They also used the Japanese anime studio Topcraft which most notably did a few of Miyazaki's films like NAUSICAA for their cel animated THE HOBBIT and RETURN OF THE KING as well as THE LAST UNICORN and FLIGHT OF DRAGONS. Those cartoons all have a bit of a Japanese look with the big eyes and all that.

Dave S said...

Though Mad Monster Party in 3 years YOUNGER than me, I just watched this for the first time last night (Halloween). Lots of fun.

venoms5 said...

@ Max: It does. I only remember catching it on television in the mid to late 80's and was amazed by it that the same folks behind RUDOLPH had done a monster animated picture.

@ Jules: Yes, I can't believe I totally forgot about KING KONG ESCAPES. It was based on 'The King Kong Show', or whatever it was called. Good movie. I got both the Japanese and US versions of it.

@ Dave: It is a good deal of fun! It might be even better just a little bit shorter, but nonetheless, it's apparent a lot of work went into the movie.

The Vicar of VHS said...

I only saw this for the first time when the DVD came out, and it's lots of fun! The Cult of Phillis Diller personality may be lost on younger viewers, but I thought she was hilarious. Also, I can't be the only one who was surprised by the revealing nature of some of Francesca's outfits. Didn't she even do a lingerie shot at one point? 8-o

So obviously Christina Hendricks plays Francesca in the live-action remake. Better yet, how about a stop-motion Mad Men? :P

venoms5 said...

I didn't realize a remake was on the way till you mentioned that, Vicar! In all honesty, Vicar, I've never paid any attention to Francesca's outfits as being revealing sad to say.

By the way, on a minor note, a friend of mine had several extra copies of the soundtrack and gave one of them to me.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Oh, there's no real remake. I was being silly. Still, a guy can dream!

venoms5 said...

Yeah, I looked it up and it was announced back in late 2004 as a WB live action production. Guess it got shelved, or canceled.

JP "Strange and Shocking Turn Off Events" Wendel said...

Unfortunately I've only seen in once on TV when I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 or 7, but I remember loving it. I should get it now that it's on DVD.

Tommy said...

This movie is my JAM, as it were! Rankin Bass were the kings of puppet kewl, along with Sid N' Marty Kroft. They defined most of my childhood.

venoms5 said...

@ JP: This movie seems to have that very same effect on seemingly everyone who has seen it. Definitely a must own for monster fans.

@ Tommy: I agree, I remember seeing Sid & Krofft shows early Saturday mornings. It would be great to go back only if you could bypass going to school all over again.

Tommy said...

I'm just happy that people like Tim Burton, and Henry Selkirk, and those Wallace & Grommit folks exist as well.

Obviously Pixar is a force to be reckoned with. Their stories are remarkably well written, even though everything is computer generated, and not hand done. Which is not by any way a criticism, but a point of fact.

Pixar, to my mind, consistently come out with superlative, well conceived work.

Carl Manes said...

And how is it again that I have never heard of this? I, personally, blame an oppressive religious upbringing. Will be sure to check this one out asap V!

venoms5 said...

I don't know, Carl. You may have seen some of it on television when you were a kid. Lots of people seem to have been exposed to it the first time that way.

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