Mad Monster Party
by Evan ODell 7/12/09
(1967) Directed by Jules Bass. Story by Arthur Rankin Jr. Screenplay by Len Korobkin and Harvey Kurtzman. Starring Boris Karloff, Allen Swift, Gale Garnett, Phyllis Diller, and Ethel Ennis.
Made by Rankin/Bass, the makers of many "Animagic" stop motion animation holiday favorites including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, and Frosty the Snowman. This animagic feature played on the popularity of Universal's monsters which had a resurgence of interest with the run of The Addams Family and The Munsters starting in 1964. Mad Monster Party has long enjoyed cult status and occasionally receives theatrical showings.
Harvey Kurtzman who penned the script was the creator of Mad magazine. Jack Davis was an artist for Mad Magazine. He designed the characters. He had previously worked on monster stories for EC Comics before the comics code forced the end of their tales of horror and the supernatural. Mad Monster Party was said to have heavily influenced the creation of NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and CORPSE BRIDE.
This was the last American production that featured Boris Karloff. His remaining movies would all be Mexican productions. I wish I could say I found him as iconic here as in his other animated voice work in Dr. Seuss' THE GRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS. The character, Yetch, seems to be based on another horror icon, that of Peter Lorre.
This does feature musical numbers. I like most of the music in the movie, but Gale Garnett's song mid-way through the movie bothered me enough to make me reach for the remote. Though, it is exciting to see Boris Karloff in a monster movie that you can show children. But then again, I never saw a kid who didn't like Frankenstein, of whom children seem to have a real affinity for and understanding of. I think it odd that Phyllis Diller's character looks roughly the same as she does even now, forty years later.
I liked the movie okay, but I don't have the nostalgia others do as I really don't recall this being in syndication when I grew up. It started to wear on me by the end of its 95 minute length. Though I look forward to showing my young nephew Mad Monster Party at some point. I hear that this has long been available in 16mm transfer only. Anchor Bay has done a fine job of restoring an original 35mm print for this edition. Though gone are the lobby cards and collectors book of their 2003 release. Warner Bros. has optioned this for a remake, possibly live action or CGI..
Baron Boris von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) is retiring from head of the monster society and plans to turn over his secrets to his dorky nephew, hypochondriac Felix Flanken (Allen Swift). He's invited all the monsters to his lair for the announcement including Frankenstein's monster, the monster's mate (Phyllis Diller), his fembot assistant Francesca, Dracula, the Werewolf, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Invisible Man, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, the Mummy, and King Kong (in all but name). When the others find out who is to succeed Frankenstein, they plot to eliminate him.