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.
Mad Monster Party? is currently available on iTunes. But if you’re lucky, you might be able to catch it on late-night cable in October.
Give it a try.
and Happy Halloween.