Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mad Monster Party: get funky with Rankin and Bass

Every Christmas, the nation is subjected to those stop-motion specials such as "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer," "The Year Without a Santa Claus" and "Twas the Night Before Christmas." The team of Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr., also made a few Easter specials and even directed "The Last Unicorn," one of the all-time great animated features.

In 1967, the duo tackled Halloween and even got Boris Karloff to join them on the ride. The result was "Mad Monster Party."

Karloff voices Baron Boris von Frankenstein, an elderly mas scientist who wants to bring his friends together for a party. His friends happen to be Dracula, the Wolfman, the Frankenstein monster, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man, and the Mummy.

Yes, it's a Universal Monsters reunion. Or a filmed version of Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash."

Throwing a twist into the plot, the Baron invites his nephew, Felix Flankin. It seems the Baron wants to gt his nephew into the family business and have him hook up with gorgeous redhead Francesca. She has other ideas, of course. And huge bazooms.

The highlight of any Rankin & Bass production are the songs. "Mad Monster Party" features an amazing title song sung by Ethel Ennis. The track sounds like it could have been a 007 theme, Ennis channeling (or outdoing) Shirley Bassey.

And then there's "Do the Mummy." Classic 1960s pop, with a group of shaggy-headed skeletons performing the tune for the gathering of monsters.

"Mad Monster Party" lives up to the name. It has monsters, it's a party and I'm mad Rankin & Bass spent most of their creative energy on Christmas. That's not necessarily a bad thing, however. It allows "Mad Monster Party" to stand out on it's own. It's an odd inclusion in the Rankin & Bass oeuvre.

The best part is that if you are a parent and your children love Rudolph, but you want them to enjoy the Wolfman, "Mad Monster Party" is a worthy introduction to the world of monsters.

Threat level: ORANGE. This would be red if it was closer to Halloween, but you can watch it any time of year. I watched it on Netflix Instant Watch. I'm pretty sure there are copies floating in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. (For an explanation of Warning Signs ratings, visit our Warning System page.)

"Mad Monster Party," a Rankin & Bass Production from 1967 stars the voice talents of Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller.

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