Friday, October 26, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Mad Monster Party

Most fans of animation will know Rankin/Bass from all their holiday specials, but while they've done productions in cel animation, they were pioneers in the realm of stop-motion, or as they patented it "Animagic". Mad Monster Party was their first full-length film of this type that came out right after their successful Rudolph TV special, and was done in part with a Japanese animation studio that specialized in stop-motion. This began Rankin/Bass' relationship with Japanese studios into various international productions like King Kong Escapes and The Last Dinosaur, and their big hit TV series, Thundercats. However, this wasn't a holiday film, but done as an all-ages monster movie, so Hotel Transylvania and Groovy Ghoulies are just pretenders to the throne comapared to this masterpiece.

Set apparently in modern day, Baron Frankenstein comes up with his own version of the atom bomb in a secret formula. He decides to use this to mark his retirement as the head of the monsters, so he sends invites to all the monsters to his remote south seas island. One invitation also is sent to his human nephew Felix who is totally unaware of his uncle's monstrous background. All the great monsters show up: Dracula, Wolfman, the Mummy, Invisible Man, the Hunchback, and the Creature. After the Baron announces what his plans are, his sexy assistant Francesca becomes jealous and wants his secrets for herself, so she forms a brief partnership with Dracula to get them. Once Felix arrives on the island, Francesca lures him out into the jungle for Drac to whack him, but after the Count fails, she becomes frustrated, and Dracula then teams up with Frankenstein's Monster and his mate(here voiced and modeled after Phyllis Diller). But after jumping out of a window to escape her turncoats, Francesca is saved by Felix, and then falls hard for him. They decide to escape the island when Dracula rallies the other monsters against the Baron. All of them are cornered by "It", which here is King Kong(apparently because they didn't have the rights to use Kong even though Rankin/Bass did King Kong Escapes a year later). "It" gathers up all the monsters and climbs to the top of a mountain, but the Baron sacrifices himself using his secret formula to blow up the whole joint as Felix and Francesca escape. Be sure and catch the hint to Blade Runner though at the end!

Despite its age, Mad Monster Party is an absolute classic. It makes for a great Halloween screening, although I've seen it shown around the Holidays too. It has some truly exceptional animation for the time, and a decent soundtrack. Although the main selling points are the dark sense of humor it carries, and the performances by Boris Karloff as the Baron, plus voice actor extraordinaire Allen Swift as the rest of the entire male characters which includes all the monsters. If you think The Nightmare Before Christmas is the only stop-motion monster mash, then you owe it to yourself to pick this up!

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