Thursday, 22 May 2014

Ani-MAY-tion Month: Mad Monster Party? (1967)

I won't beat around the bush, I love Mad Monster Party? despite knowing how flawed it is. The pacing isn't perfect, the jokes are a bit lame, the songs aren't exactly classics, and the story keeps throwing up ridiculous moment after ridiculous moment. Yet I still love it.

Baron Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) is throwing a party. He's due to retire, and so invites lots of famous monsters to his home on The Isle Of Evil, where he will also choose his successor. The guest list includes Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman, Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde), the invisible man, an aquatic creature (probably from a black lagoon), and . . . . . . . Felix Flankin, the Baron's nephew. Also in attendance are The Monster, of course, The Monster's Mate, and the lovely Francesca. And Yetch, an assistant to the Baron who is quite smitten with Francesca.

It may not be a Christmas-themed work, for a change, but this is unmistakably another wonderful Rankin/Bass production, with the usual cast of colourful characters, lovely visual details and musical interludes. Looking at it objectively, it's a couple of notches below their best work, but what horror fan can be objective when a stop-motion feature brings together such classic archetypes? And let's not forget the zombie bird men, and a gigantic ape that also makes an appearance.

The script by Len Korobkin and Harvey Kurtzman (with some uncredited help from Forrest J Ackerman, apparently) alternates between awful and great. Again, I just don't mind. Even when it's being pretty bad, in terms of dialogue and obvious gags, it's trying so hard to please that I give in to it.

The vocal cast isn't exactly a who's who of celebrities from the time, but the inclusion of Karloff is the biggest plus. Allen Swift is the man responsible for most of the other voices, and does great work in every role, while Gale Garnett gets to wind the men around her little finger in the role of Francesca. Phyllis Diller has fun as The Monster's Mate, but she's given a never-ending stream of bad jokes/puns to deliver.

The film is akin to one extra-large Halloween cracker, and crackers are always put out on the table when a party atmosphere is being created. The jokes in crackers are usually awful, the toys/gifts are rarely much better, and there are often times when you pull them apart and don't even get a satisfying bang (now, now, stop making up your own jokes). Yet that doesn't make them, or the party, any less enjoyable. The same can be said of Mad Monster Party?


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