Just because we're reviewing spooky movies doesn't mean we have to leave the kids out of the fun. If anyone knows how to do family-friendly holiday fun right, it's the animation giant Rankin/Bass, the same studio that brought us Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and one of my all-time favorite animated features, The Wind in the Willows.
Unfortunately, the medium of claymation is a bit of a lost art in this age of computer animation. It's true that GGI often obtains a similar look, but there's just something tangible and organic about claymation.
Today's film takes a look at the personal lives of classic monsters popularized by the classic black and white Universal pictures. Without any further ado, let's step into Frankenstein's laboratory and examine the mad experiment that is 1967's Mad Monster Party?
As our film opens, we join Baron Boris von Frankenstein as he puts the finishing touches on his latest triumph, a formula that completely destroys all matter. Feeling accomplished, the baron informs his secretary Francesca that he's retiring from his position as head of the Worldwide Organization of Monsters, and he plans to throw a grand party to name his successor. The baron sends out invitations to all of the famous monsters as well as his only living, human heir, a young pharmacist named Felix Flanken.
Nervous Felix is overjoyed to be invited, believing his destination to be a tropical resort. He boards a freighter bound for the Isle of Evil along with the likes of Dracula, the werewolf, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the mummy, Dr. Jekkyl (and his alter ego Mr. Hyde), and the invisible man. When the monsters arrive, they are dismayed by Frankenstein's announcement, but Francesca, feeling betrayed by the doctor, strikes a deal with Dracula to steal the matter destroyer formula and eliminate Felix.
Mad Monster Party? is a wonderful introduction to all the classic horror characters and personalities fans have come to know and love over the years, all while remaining safe and accessible with spooky fun that comes across as lighthearted and wholesome as opposed to terrifying.
Now what's an animated feature without musical numbers? There aren't any lasting earworms like those in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but He's a Mummy! is a simple toe tapper that even the youngest boils and ghouls can follow along with. The late Ethel Ennis provides the opening theme song.
Mad Monster Party? doesn't get nearly the same recognition as its holly-jolly winter counterparts, and that's really a crime, because it deserves to be experienced by younger generations and not lost to obscurity. It's true that Phyllis Diller's performance as the monster's mate can get a little grating at times, and I can't help but wonder how much she was allowed to ad lib. Most of the main characters are voiced by Alan Swift, whose impression of Peter Lorre makes up for some of Diller's cringier moments.
I think I've made my opinion clear. Mad Monster Party? is a great movie for horror fans both young and young at heart. I was able to get it on sale in HD for a mere $4.99 on Vudu, and it's worth every penny. Do yourself a favor and watch this one with the kids. You're in for a scream!