One of my favorite seasonal movies growing up was the regularly aired “Santa Claus is Comin‘ to Town”. My family would yearly gather around the television set each Christmas season, tune into ABC, and watch the wonderful stop-motion style film featuring the wonderful Mickey Rooney. The film featured such wonderful songs, such as “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”, that I today still catch myself humming it’s melody from time to time.
To my surprise, I learned a few years ago of a Rankin and Bass production that had slipped me by in my younger years. How could this be, I pondered? I thought that I had seen nearly all of them, be it “The Little Drummer Boy”, or “Jack Frost”. Luckily, the little red envelope company had a copy of today’s film, and I was able to have it sent to my mailbox.
31 Days of Howl-oween
A Review of Films Filled with Frights
~ Mad Monster Party ~
Director: Jules Bass
Cast: Boris Karloff, Allen Swift, Gale Garnett, Phyllis Diller, Ethel Ennis
Country: United States
Specs: 94 mins. / Color / OAR 1.37:1 / MPAA Rating: NR
Head of the evil monsters society, Baron Von Frankenstein plans to retire, and hosts a gathering of all the classic monsters, including Dracula, the Werewolf, Hunchback, Dr. Jekyll, Invisible Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the Mummy, to announce his successor. Upon learning of his intentions to name his human nephew, the attendees all devise a way to off the unsuspecting inheritor, in order to gain the title for themselves.
Fans of Rankin and Bass‘ other more famous programs (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Here Comes Peter Cottontail”, “The Year Without a Santa Claus”) will undoubtedly be interested in this take on the famous Universal Monsters. The animations are all equally as compelling as those mentioned, and the cinematography is very impressive for a “stop-motion” film.
However, whereas those other films, and most of the other Christmas/Easter Rankin and Bass productions, are entertaining timeless tales featuring memorable songs, this production falls into the pile of mediocrity. For starters, the film suffers from the same fate that modern films such as “Shrek” will in years to come. It relies heavily on pop-cultural references of its day, that most viewers today will not understand in the least. There are also played for gags characterizations on famous people during that era, again, likely lost on the modern viewer. Granted, I am very familiar in my young age with most of the subjects being lampooned, but I also am an avid film viewer, having seen more films in a year than many do in a lifetime. Thus I am aware of the in-jokes. Therein lies the second issue with the film. The jokes just aren’t funny. Let a young 4 year old watch the film, and sure, a few laughs will be had at the overabundant reliance on slapstick humor, but anyone past the age of 10 will likely not find a character tripping and falling onto the ground laughable.
Moreover, the songs are just plain forgettable. They are neither catchy nor relevant. Many of them, lyrically, had me scratching my head as to the pertinence to the story.
As previously stated, I did enjoy seeing the familiar Rankin and Bass style, and did find entertaining, albeit momentarily, the famous monsters all gathered together a la an old “Abbott and Costello Meets” movie, or “The Monster Squad”. I simply lost interest early into the film, and felt any desire to complete the picture wane by halfway through.
Overall, it may be worth a viewing to those I’ve already referenced. I’m guessing, however, it may be your last.
My Rating: *** / C
Available on Amazon: Mad Monster Party
or Amazon Video on Demand: Mad Monster Party