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Friday, October 18, 2019 | Retrospective

Probably one of the least seen of the Rankin & Bass puppetoon musical presentations (as it was a feature film and not a made for TV movie like RUDOLPH, et al.), 1967’s MAD MONSTER PARTY? has been a personal favorite since my childhood. In the grand tradition of the “monster rally” and Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash” (and myriad knock offs), comes this children’s musical comedy horror film wherein Baron Boris Von Frankenstein, grandly voiced by Boris Karloff, head of all the world’s monsters, calls a convention on his Caribbean island to unveil his latest discovery and announce his retirement.

Also invited is his nebbish-y, allergy-ridden nephew Felix Flankin (currently a pharmacist’s assistant in Vermont). Mayhem results as Dracula and The Monster’s Bride (Phyllis Diller) plot with, and against, the Baron’s personal secretary, sultry femme fatale Francesca (voiced by Gale Garnett, and possibly the most…”pneumatic” puppet Rankin & Bass ever designed) and his crawling zombie majordomo Yetch (voiced by Allen Swift in Peter Lorre mode) to steal the Baron’s formula and rule all the world’s monsters. Oh, and besides all the aforementioned characters: The Werewolf, The Mummy, The Hunchback, Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man and The Creature From The Black Lagoon are also on hand for the festivities, along with assorted zombie bellhop flunkies, carnivorous plants, blob-like pets, an acid-rock skeleton band Little Tibia and The Phibias and the Baron’s demonic chef Mafia Machiavelli… and a surprise party-crasher, late in the game, the pseudonymous “It”.

“MAD MONSTER PARTY? is a great way for kids to enjoy the classic monsters…”

This is a purely fun film and a great way for kids to enjoy the classic monsters, which is also filled with monster-filled soundtrack. The standout songs are the title composition sung by Ethel Ennis, Baron Frankenstein’s philosophy of life “Stay One Step Ahead” and Francesca’s declaration of love “Never Been A Love Like Mine Before”. There are a few less memorable, but enjoyable tracks “You’re Different,” The Bride’s song to the The Monster as sung by Phyllis Diller, and Francesca’s number as she attempts to seduce Dracula, the ragtime-styled “Our Time To Shine”. Of course, no true monster party would be complete without some dumb fun like an acid-rock tune, “The Mummy” wherein the aged, brittle creature is the first one out on the dance floor to shake his moldering stuff. Also, notable is the excellent, jazzy harpsichord and horn driven incidental pieces by Maury Laws.

The puppetwork is excellent throughout – the designs by EC Comics superstar Jack Davis are wonderful, well represented by the hollow clothes of The Invisible Man, the manly chin of Dr. Jekyll, the moon-like crater-face on Yetch, the Mummy’s hideous teeth, the potbellied Creature From The Black Lagoon, and, not to mention, “It”. The more dazzling sequences are the scene of Francesca sinking underwater in the moat, Baron Frankenstein being showered with sparks while charging his new discovery with lightning, and yet again the final biplane assault on “It”.

Baron Frankenstein, The Monster, his Bride, Dracula, Felix, Francesca, and Yetch are the prime stars here – most of the other monsters get little bits of business but not much else; most of them don’t speak at all, just grunt or howl or moan – although The Invisible Man sounds like Sidney Greenstreet and Dr. Jekyll seems to have made his peace with Mr. Hyde. The humor isn’t very sophisticated, this is Rankin and Bass, after all, but there are occasional chuckle-worthy moments for the adults. Adults may also raise an eyebrow at Yetch’s rather obvious masochistic personality type, not to mention the fact that it takes Francesca being slapped out of hysterics (twice!) before she realizes she loves Felix, but it overall, MAD MONSTER PARTY? is enjoyable for all ages. So here’s to hoping you and your kids can hunt down this Halloween treat!



Shawn Garrett
Shawn M. Garrett is the co-editor of PSEUDOPOD, the premiere horror fiction podcast, and is either the dumbest smart man or the smartest dumb man you ever met. Thanks to a youth spent in the company of Richard Matheson, Vincent Price, Carl Kolchak & Jupiter Jones, he has pursued a life-long interest in the thrilling, the horrific and the mysterious – be it in print, film, art or audio. He has worked as a sewerage groundskeeper, audio transcription editor, pornography enabler, insurance letter writer – he was once paid by Marvel Comics to pastiche the voice of Stan Lee in promotional materials and he spends his days converting old pulp fiction into digital form for minimal pay. He now lives near the ocean in a small metal box and he hopes that becoming a Yuggothian brain-in-a-jar is a viable future, as there is NO WAY he will ever read all the books he has on his lists, or listen to all the music he wants to hear. Everything that he is he owes to his late sister Susan, a shining star in the pre-internet world of fan-fiction, who left this world unexpectedly in 2010. He spends an inordinate amount of time reading, writing and watching movies.