June 18th, 2008

Shadowmancer

Mad Monster Party!



Mad Monster Party
{Year II A.S. Directed by Jules Bass. Starring the voices of Boris Karloff, Phillis Diller. Musical vocals by Ethel Ennis, Gale Garnett, Allen Swift. Genre: Animagic}

[Warning: Review contains 'spoilers']

PLOT

Infamous for his Promethean creation of Life, Dr. Baron Boris Von Frankenstein has now discovered the secret of ultimate destruction, comprised of a glowing blue solution kept in a vial. Monsters from all over the world are invited via bat mail to a ball in honor of its discovery, and to decide on a successor to the Frankenstein Legacy. Included amongst the invitations, one goes to an unknown Pharmacist named Felix Flankin, an awkward young man with asthma.

Transported upon a sea monster boat to the island, greeted by zombie servants with groveling supervisor Yetch {a Peter Lorre characterization}, the monsters arrive one by one in ghoulish style, including Count Dracula {Allen Swift}, The Wolfman, Frankenstein's creation along with 'The Monster's Mate' {Phillis Diller}, The Creature, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde {Swift}, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Who will be selected? Included amongst the delightful menagerie of distinguished guests is one Francesca {Gale Garnett}, Dr. Frankenstein's veritable Galatea creation, a curvy redhead with a voice as soft as silk {a 'cartoon cutie', as it were}, whose characterization could very well have inspired one Jessica Rabbit and Sally {NBX}.

After a performance by the resident skeleton band, the party gets rowdy and breaks out into a free for all. Francesca's plotting turns against her and she is on the run with Felix through the surrounding wilderness, where we finally meet "It" {Kong}. There are a couple of surprises towards the end, with a bit of tragedy, and where things are certainly not as they appear to be...

MUSICK


Partially a musical, the Mad Monster Party soundtrack composed by Maury Laws, also features the remarkable vocal talents of Ethel Ennis, who sings the memorably splendid title theme, with wonderful lyrics such as:

"The full moon... brings out the monster in you... a strange tune seems to be playing for you... could you be someone's invention... so unreal as you feel tonight... did you sell your soul to The Devil... at that Mad Monster Party last night...?"

Gale Garnett provides Francesca's sultry speaking and singing voice with the tenderly romantic serenade 'Never Was A Love Like Mine'; Phillis Diller contributes with the humorous, if not relatable "You're Different". Even Boris Karloff joins in with 'One Step Ahead', in a rhythmic narration, with an organ-playing Baron Von Frankenstein.

Of note, to celebrate Halloween, Horror-Rock band The Misfits would eventually record their version of 'Monster Mash' whose video features scenes from Mad Monster Party integrated with their show.

THEY'RE ALIVE!

The characters themselves are rendered in what has been appropriately referred to as "Animagic" ~ marionettes designed by Mad Magazine's Jack Harris, which are imbued with such personality so as to project the believable impression of life - this combined with the suspension of disbelief makes for quite an entertaining and Magical spectacle throughout.

Emerging from the nucleic innovation of Rankin-Bass, who also brought forth such ubiquitous holiday classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, it is easy to see the influence this film has had on the likes of Tim Burton, inspiring many of his creature-characters from The Nightmare Before Xmas, to Corpse Bride and Beetlejuice. It is really nice to have a fun presentation which speaks to those of us who resonate with the Halloween aesthetic. This film accompanies the afore-mentioned presentations perfectly, and is a truly entertaining addition for the monster within.

I recall when this presentation was played every Halloween season, and being a Dracling favorite I kept close to My heart, I'd never miss it.

EXTRAS

Complete with extras such as the theatrical trailer, production art gallery, and poster & still gallery on the DVD, it also arrives with a superb 24-page booklet insert detailing the history, creators, characters, actors, with rare posters, photographs, promotional material, and production art / stills, all making for a most worthy resurrection from the timeless mists of past unorthodoxy.