Mad Monster Party (1967) is a Rankin/Bass stop motion animation classic and the stuff of inspirations for the likes of Tim Burton and his own animated films “Corpse Bride,” “Frankenweenie” and “A Nightmare Before Christmas.”
When the Baron Boris von Frankenstein decides it’s time to retire as “Head of the World Wide Organization of Monsters” after creating the most wickedly awesome invention ever on Evil Island, he decides to throw a party and invite his eclectic collection of “witches, warlocks, demons, ghouls, zombies, vampires – monsters!” – along with his abnormally human nephew, the mild-mannered, clumsy and sneezy Felix Flankin – in order to decide who will become his successor.
The result is a camp comedy comic book romp of calculating monster politics and hi-jinks, hip musical jazz breaks and a rocking good time.
Charming scary monsters, screaming coo-coo clocks, a brilliant flame haired bombshell of an assistant, stereotypical Rankin/Bass musical breaks, and a raucous punch-bowl dipping, pie-throwing party that puts the bar room brawl to shame, all make for a mad-campy-cool monster party.
Creative team Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. brought together talented vocal actor Allen Swift, along with the recognizable character voices of actors Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller, to add the appropriate homage to monster movie lore and a comedic flavor of the time.
Swift alone plays 12 different voice characters– from the Jimmy Stewart-esque Felix Flankin to the Peter Lorre-styled Yetch – and a host of famous monsters that we know and love from early black and white horror through to the 60s.
Gale Garnett’s sultry-voiced Francesca might look familiar, as she would certainly pass for a Jessica Rabbit look-alike.
The title song “Mad Monster Party,” graced with the velvet tones of Ethel Ennis, may quickly remind you of a James Bond film. Maury Law’s own unique Jazz inspired soundtrack plays like an impressive homage to that famous John Barry 007 theme, with its menacingly powerful horn section and twangy Duane Eddy-style guitar.
Puppet designer Jack Davis and Japanese puppet technician Tadahito “Tad” Mochinaga provide a creative assortment of characters reminiscent of early movie monsters such as “Bela Lugosi’s Dracula,” the “Creature” (from the Black Lagoon), the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Werewolf, Boris Karloff’s own Frankenstein’s monster, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc. was known for its animated Holiday television specials and unique stop-motion animation “Animagic.” Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass’ stop-motion productions were created in Japan. Their early work in the 60s was done by Japanese puppet technician Tadahito “Tad” Mochinaga. Later, the company went to Japanese studio Topcraft, where many animators, including the studio’s founder Toru Hara, would go on to join the famous Studio Ghibli, working Hayao Miyazaki’s feature films such as “My Neighbor Totoro.”
Mad Monster Party will be on the big screen at the One Colorado Courtyard on Friday, Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m. and the event is free.