Oh My God! When I was a kid I loved this film. They used to show it every year in Los Angeles and every year I would make the time on my calendar and I watched it with joy that I can’t really explain. It’s probably the monsters. As a kid I loved the old Universal Studios monster films from the 30’s. Boris, Bela, Claude, Lon; I bought the model kits, drew pictures of them. So as you can see, any film about all the great monsters of film history getting together to have a party was a must see for me and I’m recommending to everybody within sight of the words I’m typing. Just buy this video…my full review after the jump:
And now I’ll go into the bona fides which I hope will sell the DVD’s to those who are on the fence. First off, the film is made my Rankin Bass. These are the guys who brought us “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Here Comes Peter Cottontail”. If you want to read the full list, Wikipedia is just a few types away so I won’t bore you, it’s just enough to say that anyone who grew up in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s; these things were holiday musts. And they stand the test of time as well, they’re that good. I could go on, explain how like the Warner Brother’s cartoon of the 40’s or Jay Ward’s cartoon of the 60’s or the Pixar films, these Rankin/Bass films are projects made for children but are written so that adults can enjoy them. I also could go into the painstaking process that went into the making of the Rankin/Bass output; how each character was a handmade puppet; how they were filmed frame by frame with individual puppeteers moving the character incrementally for each shot, but you get the idea.
This next bit is pretty geek heavy and may not carry much weight for people beyond a certain age, but I’ll do my best to explain. The script was written by Harvey Kurtzman and the characters were designed by Jack Davis. Lost? Kurtzman was one of the genius writers behind EC comics from the 50’s and one of the founding creators behind Mad Magazine. His stuff was so good that when the Museum exhibit about the genius of comic creators toured the country a couple years ago, his work was prominently displayed. As for Davis, he too is a Mad Magazine alum. Again, for people of a certain age and mind-set, although they might not know the name, they definitely would know the drawing style of Davis as he was the artist responsible for innumerable movie parodies drawn for the aforementioned Mad Magazine.
As for the vocal artists involved in the project, first and foremost, Boris Karloff does the voice of Uncle Boris Frankenstein and how cool is that? And sure, there’s Phyllis Diller, but who under 40 even knows who she is? One-hit-wonder, Gale Garnett voices the female lead as well as sings a couple of songs, but the weight of the project is carried by Allen Swift. Swift was a former comic turned voice actor and what makes his involvement with this project so neat is that he fills the cast out with an incredible array of impersonations. Because of him, we get Jimmy Stewart playing the male lead, with Peter Lorre as the Zombie Waiter, Charles Laughton as the Freighter Captain, and Sidney Greenstreet as the Invisible Man.
In ending, I’d like to finish by talking about he music. You heard me. “Mad Monster Party” is a musical. Beyond the joy of hearing Boris Karloff warble through a tune, the project is filled with a series of catchy tunes that have haunted my whole life. Starting with the rousing “Mad Monster Party” theme sung by Jazz singer, Ethel Ennis and ending with Gale Garnett’s rendition of “Never Was A Love Like Mine”, which I consider to be one of the most romantic songs I’ve ever heard, this film has a pretty rousing score, that alone would make it worth the purchase.
In short, I’d recommend this feature to anyone.
This disk is loaded with extras and if you’re a fan of the movie as I am you’ll want to watch all of them. The best is “Mad Monster Party Making of a Cult Classic”. It gives you most of the background information that you would want. The only fault I could find is that the specialist on Rankin/Bass is really, kind of boring. He speaks a little slowly and doesn’t seem to notice, so while what he is saying is interesting, you really wish he could say it a little faster or that he might be able to express the excitement that he’s obviously feeling.
I can’t review any kid-friendly DVD without putting it through the “Teresa Test”. Again, Teresa is my 5 year old daughter, who you might think would be a little gun shy about watching a film filled with Monsters, but you’d be wrong. She loved Mad Monster Party and I ended up replaying it a dozen times until she could memorize half the songs and what better recommendation is there than that?