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.
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.
Are y’all on Pinterest?
It’s the site where “mommy bloggers” share their ideas.
And me? Well, yes, I have to admit that I’m also guilty of occasionally browsing Pinterest for occasional inspiration. (Or…….PIN-spiration as they call it.)
My latest find; These über charming Black Cat Cookies.
They are soft, cake-like, and super easy to make. The best part; you don’t even need a cookie cutter. (Finally found a decent reason to buy those waxy candy corns too.)
Here’s what ya need:
Mix the first 5 ingredients in a mixer on low untill blended. Sift the next 5 ingredients together and slowly add to the wet mixture 1 cup at a time, while continuing to mix on low. Once all the solids are well-combined, remove the dough from the bowl, wrap in wax paper, and chill for about 2 hours.
Roll the chilled dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and arrange on a Silpat covered baking sheet. I baked 6 at a time because I wasn’t sure how much they would spread. Not too much actually.
Use the bottom of a glass to press each ball flat.
You will ‘prolly wanna powder the glass bottom with a little cocoa to keep it from sticking.
Pinch the tops of the flattened dough circles into ears….
…and use a fork to press in whiskers,
’till they look something like this. Easy, right?
Bake – in a preheated 350 degree oven – for exactly 10 minutes.
When they come out of the oven, immediately press the candies into the warm cookies; 2 candy corn eyes and I used an M&M for the nose. (You could also add the candies before baking, but they will melt a little. It’s your choice…works either way)
Let the cookies cool on a baking rack and enjoy.
Like I said,
PUURRRRRfect with a glass of milk.
I’m one of those people who constantly says “I can do it better”.
Seriously, I can.
Take these Home Depot lawn spooks.
I like them, but…
“I can do it better”.
(Especially better than $169….SHEESH!)
I started with a big ol’ Funkin. (that’s a foam craft pumpkin).
Of course I couldn’t find any at a local craft store in the size I wanted, about 14 inches across, so I had to shop online at Funkins.com.
Still not satisfied with the color (it’s a little one-dimensional orange) I aged it by washing it over with brown acrylic craft paint mixed with water. The brown settles into all the nooks and crannies nicely….making it look a little more realistic.
When it was good and dry, I set about carving a spooky face in it with a sharp steak knife. I just drew my image first with a pencil.
It’s pretty similar to carving a real pumpkin…without all the moisture. (Bit of advise; It’s easier to cut clean straight lines than curves. Just sayin’)
For a secure base of the ghoul I used an 18 inch round wood table top from the hardware store. I stained it grey to match the concrete patio and screwed a silver 1/2 inch flange to the center.
Into the flange I screwed a 5 foot pipe that I sprayed the bottom 3/4 white with spray primer. (I suppose you could use PVC pipe, but for some reason I had a few extra pieces of steel pipe in the garage.) I want my finished ghoul to look like he’s floating in air.
For the shoulders, I attached a second flange to the center of a scrap 2X4 and twisted this to the top end of my mostly white 5 foot pipe.
I stapled some scrap pieces of chicken wire to each end of the 2X4 to shape into arms.
I picked up these skeleton lawn stakes from the party store…
…and just wired them to the ends of the chicken wire.
I simply used hot glue to glue my funkin to the center of the 2X4. (Also notice that I used a small piece of wood under the back to ever-so-slightly aim his face downward)
To light my ghoulish face, I wired a chandelier socket to the cut end of a white extension cord…
…and added a 3 watt flicker flame bulb. It doesn’t put off a lot of light…just enough to make for a spooky glow inside the funkin head.
I used a drill with a paddle bit (1 1/4″) to make a hole in the back base of the funkin big enough to push my flicker flame bulb inside.
Just insert the bulb into the hole and use zip strips to attach the cord down the pole.
You’ll need a queen/king sized white sheet. I tore the entire edge off and washed it a few times. I squished it into a ball and let it air dry so it was as wrinkled as possible. I cut a hole in the middle for his face and ties a piece of string around his neck for a little definition.
Next I covered him in a few pieces of gauzy cheesecloth from the craft store being sure to leave his face exposed…
With a pair of sharp scissors, I cut tears and holes as randomly as I could. I just wanted to be sure there were no straight edges. I don’t think it’s possible to do this wrong….the more tears, the more it will blow “creepily” in the October breeze.
Because he looked so pristine, I filled a spray bottle with diluted coffee and spritzed him as randomly as I could. I love this part…..it smells so good.
From foam pumpkin….
To feindish ghoul on our front porch in just an hour…..
and yeah, I think I did it better.