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Mad Monster Karloff

I DVR’d Mad Monster Party? (1967) (yes, the question mark is part of the title) partly out of nostalgia, because I remember seeing parts of it on Saturday afternoon television as a child.

I’ve heard this sort of movie described as stop-motion animation, claymation and puppetoon (not sure of the spelling on the last one). In any case, it is pre-CGI, pre-PIXAR, pre-when-did-cartoons-get-so-cool?

The movie is produced by Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass (one of them is a junior; all I wrote in the TV Journal was “Ooh, Rankin/Bass!”), the folks behind many beloved Christmas specials (most of which I now own on DVD) (I probably did not have to tell you that). The animation looks quaint. That kind of animation always kind of bothered me as a kid, because of the jerky movements. Still, it has its charm.

Now it makes me think of playing with stuffed toys or dolls. You know how when you wanted TB Teddy Bear to walk across the room, you didn’t move his legs in steps, you kind of bounced him in little jumps, sometimes wiggling his body back and forth to indicate speed. And of course he could never really do stuff with his hands; you had to do whatever for him. Oh, don’t sit there pretending you don’t know what I’m talking about!

Even as a kid, I realized that one accepts the limitations of the medium when one is absorbed in the characters and plot. Um, that is not exactly how I put it at the time.

In common with today’s animated features, Monster Party has celebrity voices. The characters are made to look like them too, so that’s kind of cool. I especially liked Phyllis Diller as The Creature’s Mate. I loved her song, “You’re Different,” sung to her monstrous spouse. I do like to see happily married couple.

The main attraction is Boris Karloff as Baron von Frankenstein, head of all the monsters. I will never get over my delight in hearing that mellifluous, soothing voice from an actor best known for “Friends! Good!”

The Baron has invited all the monsters Evil Island for the unveiling of his greatest invention and the naming of his successor. All the monsters, that is, except It, who is apparently too monstrous even for monsters. The only non-monster invited is the Baron’s hapless, human nephew, the son of his favorite sister. The sister was apparently an awesome witch until she fell in love with a human and crossed over.

I think it’s cool when writers come up with new back stories for classic characters. I don’t think Mary Shelley ever talked about Dr. Frankenstein’s family. I must re-read that book sometime (it might be good for a blog post).

I think Mad Monster Party? is a fun movie. It’s good as monster movie nostalgia, ’60s animation nostalgia, and a vehicle for Boris Karloff’s voice. I also liked the sly nod to Billy Wilder, but I won’t say more about that, because I did not include a spoiler alert.