Monday, August 29, 2011

Mad Monster Party

Okay... this is one kooky little film! Quite how I missed this mad malarkey growing up, I can't imagine, and can only conclude that it may never have been shown in Australia. Anyway, I'd still be completely ignorant of its existence if I hadn't noticed it mentioned in a post about child-friendly horror movies on The Horror Hotel blog (here). I didn't really like the other Rankin/Bass stop motion animation films, like Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but I had much higher hopes for this one because of the subject matter.

While Mad Monster Party is far from perfect, it's hard to resist the blend of traditional gothic horror imagery and 1960s pop culture. I particularly enjoyed the James Bond-esque opening titles song, with Batman-style word graphics like "shriek", and "gasp", as we were introduced by location to the rogues gallery of classic horror monsters featured in the story. The sets of Frankenstein's castle were fabulous, and the storyline was littered with appealingly silly jokes like Dracula stating that he was "the original Batman", a reference to the popular Batman television series that was airing at that time.

Full of very Sixties stream of consciousness looniness, and punctuated as it was with songs, this movie reminded me a little of the television show, The Monkees, except The Monkees' songs were good, and these, for the most part... weren't. In fact, this movie featured a number of musical interludes which appeared to be designed solely to induce the urge to stab oneself in the eye with a fork. There was one cute song called "Do the Mummy", performed by a skeleton band called Little Tibia and the Fibias, and if only they had left it at that, the film would have been so much more enjoyable.

There were also a couple of truly bizarre moments that really made me wonder how they got away with calling this a children's film back in the day. For example, in one scene, a Phyllis Diller voiced "Monster's Mate", and Baron von Frankenstein's buxom assistant, Francesca, strip down to their underwear and engage in a cat fight. As they roll around the floor, meowing sound effects can be heard. Then at another point, the camera zooms in on Frankenstein's male chef provocatively pinching the buttocks of an Igor-like character. My son, incidentally, thought these scenes were hysterical!

By all accounts, this movie has a cult following amongst those who remember it fondly through the rosy spectacles of nostalgia. It is certainly a freakily surreal roller coaster ride, and if, like me, you like the aesthetic of the gothic horror classics, and the Sixties, then it will probably make you smile. Apparently the look of Mad Monster Party was a big influence on Tim Burton's stop motion films, which is a pretty impressive legacy!

17 comments:

  1. This might be best watched inebriated. :-D LOL!

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  2. I have not seen this one, hum.

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  3. Hi Adsila,

    If you do ever get the chance to see it, I'd go with Cullan's suggestion!

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  4. I have not seen this movie. It is now on my wish list. I might have to make up different songs with my girls to go along with the ones that suck. They are good at making silly and crazy songs.

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  5. I really, really want to see this! Unfortunately I can't drink so I'd have to do it stone cold sober. It can't be that bad if it influenced Burton...right? Lol guess I'll see

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  6. Looks cool though might watch it before I show the kids, I think the scariest modern kids film is coroline, all I had to do was walk around the house with bottons on my eyes, saying I was their other mummy and the kids were screaming lol.

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  7. This looks like fun. I haven't ever heard of this one either.

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  8. Hi Vivienne,

    My son actually enjoyed most of the silliness in this movie, which goes to show it must still have an appeal for a modern generation of kids. As for the songs, he only liked "Do the Mummy". Unfortunately, I suspect the title had something to do with it... he was engaged in a lot of wicked double entendre-style giggling!

    Hi Cherry,

    Don't worry! The people who made the movie were probably drunk, so it all evens out in the end!

    You really can see how it would have influenced Tim Burton's work, so it's definitely worth watching just for that. And the Dracula puppet was the model for The Count on "Sesame Street"!

    There's an interesting two part documentary about the movie on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcHADq8nGOo&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSMHfrqnwXY&feature=related

    Hi Lisa,

    I LOVE "Coraline"!! Don't worry, this movie really isn't scary, just looney!! There are some really weird risque bits that may require explanation though, so be warned! Haha!

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  9. Hi Jessica,

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who'd never heard of it! There's quite a bit written about it across the internet, so it obviously has a devoted following.

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  10. I like watching this movie. I always wondered why they don't play this every year on Halloween like they do the Christmas ones. I also watched some of a documentary they did for this film and the detail and money that went into making each one of those figures was insane. Supposedly there is a remake coming out but I'm not sure if it is a cartoon based on this or live action or if it just uses the same name.

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  11. Hi Slowdeath,

    Yeah, the documentary is really interesting!! The Rankin/Bass Christmas movies get shown here a lot, but I had seriously never heard of "Mad Monster Party".

    I just discovered that there is an official website:

    (http://www.madmonsterparty.com/)

    I'm going to have to go and check it out. There are also toys available on Ebay and fan artwork all over the internet! It's such a revelation!!

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  12. Ooo! This does look like fun! I'll have to see if I can track it down too now ~ thanks for sharing and educating us all!

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  13. Hi Goth Shoes,

    Yes, it's definitely kooky fun!!

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  14. Thanks for this nice review. A friend of mine saw this a couple of years ago and I've had it in my Netflix queue ever since. Now, I think I'll try to finally see, probably as Halloween approaches. I'll bet my Little Monster will get a kick out of it! The fact that it inspired Tim Burton only make it that much more necessary to watch it.
    P.S. Sorry you didn't like Rudolph. It's such a traditional classic in the U.S. that I had no choice but to love it! Here's a blog I wrote about it:

    http://monsterdad69.blogspot.com/2010/12/horror-that-is-rudolph-red-nosed.html

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  15. They used to show this all the time on TV when I was a lad. Aside from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, it is my favourite thing Rankin/Bass ever did!

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  16. Hi Monster Dad,

    I'm only starting to realize the pop culture significance of Rankin/Bass films in the United States. A few of them were shown in Australia, but only occasionally, not as a yearly tradition. The only one I have vague memories of seeing as a child was "The Little Drummer Boy". I think I was an adult when I first saw Rudolph, and that might have even been when I was living in London for a while. And "Mad Monster Party" was only a very recent discovery.

    There's no doubting the contribution to stop motion animation though, and I can see the influence on Tim Burton.

    My son thoroughly enjoyed watching "Mad Monster Party", so I'm sure your daughter will love it! Thank you for the link, as well. I'll definitely check it out.

    Hi Mercurie,

    I didn't mean to malign poor Rudolph, I just don't have a sentimental attachment to the film. I saw very little in the way of Rankin/Bass productions growing up, and there isn't a cultural tradition of showing them each Christmas, in Australia.

    Unlike the U.S. and the U.K., Christmas falls in the summertime, and Australians are more likely to be at barbecues or the beach than inside watching movies during that season. When I lived in London I was amazed at the concept of the "Christmas Day Movie", because the television is usually pretty abysmal here on Christmas Day, simply because no one is watching.

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