Reviews

'Mad Monster Party' It's a Scream!

Mad Monster Party is a terrific blend of humor, music and heart, perhaps not the themes typically associated with a monster story, but nonetheless just as effective.


Mad Monster Party

Director: Jules Bass
Cast: Boris Karloff, Phyllis Diller, Allen Swift, Gale Garnett
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release date: 2012-09-04

Mad Monster Party, the 1967 “Animagic” (stop motion animation) Rankin/Bass cult classic and trademark is a feature-length Halloween story that fits very well within the impressive list of other holiday specials they are known for.

The special brings together a large cast of horror and monster movie characters, including the Mummy, the Werewolf, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man, Dracula, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Frankenstein’s monster. The story revolves around Dr. Baron von Frankenstein’s retirement as leader of the monsters. He decides to let them all know he is stepping down by inviting them all to a party where he plans to name his successor.

Dr. Frankenstein also invites his nephew, Felix Flanken. Felix is the polar opposite of his uncle in that he’s a Jimmy Stewart-like innocent, content to continue his life as a small town pharmacist. What makes Felix such a fun character is how unfazed he seems to be by all the supernatural creatures he’s surrounded by. In fact, through a series of very clever circumstances and misunderstandings, he doesn’t realize the actual danger he's in.

When the Monster’s Mate and Francesca, Dr. Frankenstein’s husky-voiced vampy secretary, learn that a new head of the monsters will be named, they scheme separately to gain the upper hand, leading to more mix-ups and hijinks. Apart from Dr. Frankenstein’s retirement, he has also discovered a life-extending formula, a closely guarded secret, creating another reason for those around him to conspire.

Again, Felix acts as the perfect counterpoint to all these monsters. His clumsiness, persistent allergies, and overall obliviousness provide much of the humor in the special. However, Mad Monster Party isn’t trying to be particularly scary; rather, it takes a more lighthearted approach. The Rankin/Bass production is what really sets the tone. Their specials are known for a mix of genuine warmth and humor, but always with a bit of a kooky side, and this special is no exception. Mad Monster Party even adds a great twist at the end, one that adds yet another level to the story.

In addition to the classic Rankin/Bass visual aesthetic and tone, their specials have employed the use of exceptional, often original, music. Mad Monster Party makes excellent use of the songwriting team of Maury Laws and Jules Bass. Their songs run the gamut from a Goldfinger-inspired opening number, “Mad Monster Party”; to a classic '60s dance party song, “The Mummy”, to the very catchy “You’re Different”. The songs are all reflective of the time, but they're also well crafted and enthusiastically delivered.

Mad Monster Party uses some brilliant actors to voice these characters, most notably Boris Karloff as Dr. Frankenstein and Phyllis Diller as the Monster’s Mate. They are both unmistakably themselves and imbue their respective characters with tons of personality. Diller, in particular, is used perfectly – her cackling laugh punctuating many of her character's devious plans. Also, in the grand tradition of other voice actors, most every other character is voiced by Allen Swift ,whose characterization of Dracula would go on to be the template by which he would go on to be represented.

Rankin/Bass’ Mad Monster Party fits in wonderfully with the rest of their iconic holiday output. It stands alongside classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, and Frosty the Snowman and more than holds its own, despite the fact that it hasn’t been shown with the same regularity over the years. Hopefully, this Blu-ray release will bring it to the attention of a whole new generation of viewers discovering it for the first time.

Mad Monster Party is a terrific blend of humor, music, and heart, perhaps not the themes typically associated with a monster story, but nonetheless just as effective. It may seem that Mad Monster Party is intended solely for a younger audience, but it brings as much to entertain, if not more, for an older audience, as well.

This new Blu-Ray DVD release contains several bonus features, including three featurettes: on the making of Mad Monster Party, the “Animagic” process, and the music. In addition, there are some great contributions by Arthur Rankin, Jr., Allen Swift, and Rankin/Bass expert Rick Goldschmidt. The extras also include two sing-alongs and a trailer.

7

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image