Remember those clay-mation Christmas specials that the team of Rankin-Bass produced in the 60s and 70s? You know the ones; with the Heat Miser/Cold Miser or Rudolf dealing with a somewhat gay elf who dreams of being a dentist.
Yeah, those. They’ve been on TV steadily for over 50 years now.
But did y’all know that the creative team also produced a Halloween-themed feature film as well?
Mad Monster Party? debuted in theaters on March 8, 1967, just missing the mid 60’s monster mania that propelled The Munsters and The Addams Family into pop culture stardom.
The plot isn’t too different from the kinds of campy horror movies that Abbott & Costello or the Three Stooges stared in. It all centers around a weekend party being hosted by the evil Baron (Karloff), at his mansion on a Caribbean isle – The Isle of Evil. Say that real fast…….and it sounds like “I Love Evil”. Cute, right?, – where he has figured out some kind of formula that will allow him to destroy the world.
How much more child-friendly can you get?
Overall, ……… it’s not very good.
The stop-motion “Animagic”, is ……. “clunky”, ……..at best. “Animagic” is the same stop motion technique used for King Kong, Gumby and Davy and Goliath.
Did anyone else ever find it a coincidence that Davy is the only one who hears the dog talk? Just like David Berkowitz?
But I digress.
The monster’s names, most of which were copyrighted at the time, are mostly similar to the famous monsters they are supposed to represent. Here are some examples;
Luckily for the viewers, “Count Dracula”, “Dr Jeckel and Mr. Hyde” and “The Invisible Man” were all in the public domain at the time.
However, Quasimodo is refereed to as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, The Creature from the Black Lagoon is simply “Creature”, and the Wolfman is “The Werewolf”.
And King Kong, straight out of left field, is oddly renamed “It”.
Since the names “Dr. Frankenstein”, “The Bride of Frankenstein”, and “Frankenstein’s Monster” were obviously too costly for the producers use, they’re reassigned the names “The Baron”, “The Monster’s Mate”, and strangest of all, “Fang”. (the name Diller used to refer to her own husband in her stage routine)
But that doesn’t stop Mad Monster Party? from having certain charms.
The cast is led by Boris Karloff (one of several child-friendly projects Karloff lent his voice to in his final years, like How the Grinch Stole Christmas!). Phyllis Diller, Gale Garnett, and Allen Swift complete the cast. Karloff’s character of the Baron (aptly named Boris by the way) and his creation, The Monster – Fang, bare a charming resemblance to the actual actor. This was Karloff’s last project related to Frankenstein, the role that made him a household name, before his death just 2 years later.
Voice actor Allen Swift is truly the standout performer in this one. He voices every male character in the film, except The Barron, of course, and does spot on parodies yanked straight from old Hollywood. Our hero Felix Flankin – Jimmy Stewart. (Felix works for a pharmacist whose last name is Krankheit, German for “sickness”.) The Baron’s lackey, Yetch, is a perfect Peter Lorre. The Invisible Man – Sydney Greenstreet. And the freighter captain – Charles Laughton.
Hopefully y’all watch enough T.C.M. to not need to Google any of those actors.
The script was written by Len Korobkin and Mad Magazine creator Harvey Kurtzman. If you’re a red-blooded male somewhere around my age, you’ll probably remember Kurtzman’s comic strip “Little Annie Fanny” that ran in every issue of Playboy magazine from 1962 until about 1988.
But I digress again,
The songs are absolutely terrible. And I’m being generous here.
The all skeleton band at the banquet, Little Tibia and the Fibians, look an awful lot like the Beatles… or maybe the Rolling Stones…. or possibly even the Kinks…. only in terrible mod red wigs.
Their song, Mr. Mummy – that The Monster’s Mate and the Mummy dance to, is a terrible parody of Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.
OOOhhhh, wait. Now I get it.
The final scene is a direct take-off of one of my favorite movies, Some Like it Hot.
(If you’ve never seen Some Like it Hot, we can’t be friends.)
Not sure there’s too much more that’s memorable in this one, but it did obviously inspire Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and Adam Sandler/Robert Smigel’s Hotel Transylvania. Those zombie bellhops look awfully familiar.
I found this old Halloween issue of MAD magazine from 1960 recently,
Love the headless horseman graphic.
It just screamed, “Frame me and put me on your mantle”.
So naturally, I did.
I haven’t actually read a MAD magazine since John Lennon was alive, so I did a little research.
MAD magazine is an American humor magazine founded in 1952 by editor Harvey Kurtzman. It was originally launched as a comic book, but converted to magazine form in 1955. There have been about 550 issues and circulation peaked in 1974 with just over two million subscribers. (Pretty impressive for a magazine who’s readers mature out of it by age 14).
I know that most people would never consider MAD magazine to be a thought provoker, but from it’s very beginning, MAD showcased a spot-on satire of everything in popular American culture; movies, TV, advertising campaigns, politics, the media, and especially the nuclear family.
In 2007, Los Angeles Times reporter Robert Boyd wrote, “All I really need to know I learned from MAD magazine”, stating:
The magazine instilled in me a habit of mind, a way of thinking about a world rife with false fronts, small print, deceptive ads, booby traps, treacherous language, double standards, half truths, subliminal pitches and product placements; it warned me that I was often merely the target of people who claimed to be my friend; it prompted me to mistrust authority, to read between the lines, to take nothing at face value, to see patterns in the often shoddy construction of movies and TV shows; and it got me to think critically in a way that few actual humans charged with my care ever bothered to.
When you really think about it, it’s not hard to see the influence that MAD Magazine has had over the last 65+ years; The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert, The Family Guy, Dr Dimento, The National Lampoon, Caddy Shack, Jim Carey, South Park, The Daily Show, Weird Al Yankovic, and The Onion.
Looks pretty good framed too.
Charles Samuel Addams, although he signed most of his illustrations Chas Addams, was an American cartoonist known for his darkly humorous and macabre characters.
As a young boy, Addams was fond of breaking into decrepit mansions and visiting the Presbyterian Cemetery. A childhood friend of his described him as having: “a sense of humor that was a little different from everybody else’s.”
His father encouraged him to draw, so Addams did cartoons for his Westfield High School student literary magazine, the Weather Vane.
In 1933, he joined the layout department of True Detective magazine, where it was his job was to retouch photos of corpses that appeared in the magazine’s stories; removing most – if not all – of the blood and gore. Addams complained: “A lot of those corpses were more interesting the way they were.”
Addams’ first drawing for The New Yorker, a sketch of a window washer, ran on February 6, 1932, and his cartoons ran regularly in the magazine from 1938, when he drew the first in the series that came to be called The Addams Family, until his death. He was a freelancer the entire time.
In late 1942, he met his first wife, Barbara, who purportedly resembled his cartoon character Morticia Addams. The marriage ended eight years later, after Addams, who hated children, refused to have any or even adopt one.
In 1954, Addams married his second wife, also named Barbara. A practicing lawyer, Barbara number two also had Morticia-like looks but combined with diabolical legal scheming, by which she wound up controlling The Addams Family television and film franchises and even persuaded her husband to give away other legal rights. At one point, she convinced him to take out a $100,000 life insurance policy. When Addams consulted a lawyer about the move, the lawyer told him that the last time he had heard of such an thing was in the movie Double Indemnity with Barbara Stanwyck. (Stanwyck’s character was plotting her husband’s murder.) He and Barbara number two divorced in 1956.
Addams married his third and final wife, Marilyn, in a pet cemetery. In 1985, the Addamses moved to Sagaponack, New York, to an estate they lovingly named “The Swamp”.
Some of his recurring characters became known as the “Addams Family”. It was television producer David Levy who approached Addams with an offer to create a television show based on these drawings. All Addams was required to do was give his characters names and more characteristics for the actors to use in portrayals. The series ran on ABC for two seasons, from 1964 to 1966, and has been in syndication ever since; spawning four movies, an animated series and even a stage musical.
Addams drew more than 1,300 cartoons over the course of his life. The films The Old Dark House and Murder by Death (one of my favorites) both feature title sequences that he illustrated. Addams died on September 29, 1988, at the age of 76, suffering a heart attack in his parked car.
He was cremated and his ashes buried in the pet cemetery on his estate, “The Swamp”.
Here are a few of Addams’s dark cartoons;
Allow me to introduce you to Baron Samedi.
Baron Samedi, the English translation of his name is the less-frightening sounding “Baron Saturday”, is one of the Haitian spirits of the dead, or Loa.
You might be familiar with versions of him in movies like Live and Let Die and The Serpent and the Rainbow, or American Horror Story; Coven, and even Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. (That’s right, wholesome Disney snuck some voodoo in on you.)
He is usually depicted as a tall black man dressed in a black tailcoat and top hat, with dark glasses and cotton plugs stuffed in his nostrils – resembling a corpse dressed and prepared for burial in the traditional Haitian style. He has a white skull-like face, or sometimes….. a skull for a face.
He is noted for disruption, obscenity, debauchery, and having a particular fondness for tobacco and rum. Notorious for his outrageous behavior, he swears continuously and makes filthy jokes to the other spirits. He loves drinking and smoking so much that he is rarely seen without a cigar clenched in his teeth or a glass of rum in his bony grasp.
Baron Samedi can usually be found at the crossroads between the worlds of the living and the dead. When someone dies, he digs their grave and greets their soul after they have been buried, leading them to the underworld. But he is also the Loa of resurrection, and it is in this capacity that he is often called upon (with a voodoo ceremony, of course) for healing by those approaching death; as it is only the Baron that can accept an individual into the realm of the dead. He can cure a mortal of any disease or wound, if he thinks that it is worth his effort. His powers are especially great when it comes to voodoo curses and black magic. Even if somebody has been afflicted by a hex which brings them to the verge of death, they will not die if the Baron refuses to dig their grave. So long as this mighty and influential spirit keeps them out of the ground they are safe. Respectively, he also ensures that all corpses rot in the ground to stop any soul from being brought back as a brainless zombie.
What does he demand in return for these favors?
That depends on his mood.
Usually he is content with his followers wearing black, white or purple clothing …. or he may simply ask for a small gift of cigars, rum, black coffee, bread, or grilled peanuts.
Not necessarily a bad guy, but still not someone I would ever want to run into in a dark alley.
I prefer vintage, I really do.
But there are a lot of vintage inspired products online if you do a little research.
Some real charmers too.
Creepy Company is a an excellent source for vintage inspired products.
Like this simply spooky button down sport shirt in a skull/black cat print.
Need a hostess gift for an upcoming Halloween party? Look no further than this spiced pumpkin guts candle.
The Jack-O-Lantern graphic even comes in a chenille patch. I’m ordering two.
You may not usually think of a hardware store a good source for vintage Halloween. But this blow mold jack-O-lantern from Ace Hardware is a pretty decent find. And $24 is a lot less than you’ll pay on eBay.
Zazzle is another great source for t-shirts and so much more.
Like these customize-able prints; I like this Ghost Show shirt.
and this ‘fraidy Cat.
Really diggin’ this Old Devil Plate too. Imagine a table set with all black and orange Fiesta-ware with a handful of these added in.
“Spook up” your sofa with a couple of these throw pillows. Like this art deco black cat.
Or the witch in the moon print.
I don’t think Shiny Brite ever produced Halloween ornaments, but the Radko company has filled this void nicely. These flocked Halloween balls seem old and new at the same time.
And these figural Halloween ornaments would look extra spooky on your….ahhmmmm….”Halloween” tree. You know, If you do that sort of thing.
Plenty of time left to order for all your Halloween needs.