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Spotlighted by Les
Good Evening! Or day depending on when you’re reading this review. I, Count Whyboy, am here to invite you to the MAD Monster Party? Why is that title phrased like a question? Anyway we're looking at a very particular film created by a company whose work that almost everyone knows. Rankin/Bass. Oh for those nostalgia lovers you know who Rankin/Bass are; Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town and today's movie Mad Monster Party?
You can tell by that list that this is a very different movie for them. When Les asked me to spotlight this I thought cool, I could have another movie I watch during Halloween other then the Mook Animated Scooby Doo movies. I expected it to have aged weirdly over the years like all the other Rankin/Bass movies with their brand of weird choppy stop motion animation and what not. But Rankin/Bass are pros at writing truly innocently timeless stories like Frosty The Snowman and Rudolph (Okay bad examples because those are both adapted but you get what I mean.) The crew has plethora of classics under their belt but not one that I can think of that was strictly a Halloween themed movie. Will this be just as memorable as Frosty or Rudolph or will it fade to obscurity like 60% of Rankin/Bass’s other projects? What could possibly go wrong? Eh... plenty. But what's the story?
In the dark depths of Frankenstein castle, Baron Boris Von Frankenstein, played by Boris Karloff has finally perfected the formula to destroy anything but feeling like he's grown too old he decides to name a successor and he contacts all his old monster buddies to choose from at a good ol’fashion Mad Monster Party? The guest list includes his assistant Francessca, Dracula, the Invisible Man, The Mummy, It, The Hunchback of Notre dame, Dr. Jeckyl and Mr Hyde, The Werewolf, and The Creature. But it turns out that Frankenstein has already decided who will be his successor, his long lost nephew Felix Flankin played by Allen Swift who is, to put it bluntly like this movie, an absolute loser. And that's really the extent to the story. So, will Felix become the next Frankenstein or will one of the other monsters see to it that Felix doesn’t get a chance? Watch the movie if you want to find out.
For me, I wish one of those monsters knocked that loser, Felix Flankin’s block off. For two reasons, one Allen Swift, who I'm sure was a fantastic guy, but he makes Felix just sound like he needs a good beat down with every solitary breath he takes and that's just weird coming from the peaceful Whyboy. But nevertheless after listening to Felix’s dialogue I wanted to pound his face in. He's just a whiny loser. There is zero arc for this guy's character. He starts out as being a bored pharmaceutical salesman popping pills with his ugly Pacman mouth and at the end the only thing that he’s learned is how to get an emotionally unstable woman. And just to add to this I have to ask “Why?” Why is Felix bored with his life? Is it just that he doesn't feel mentally challenged by the work he's doing or is that just who he is? Does he want adventure, romance, to become a scientist? WHAT? All we really get out of this guy is that *sigh* I'm bored. Context is everything and Felix’s context frames him like the most lazy, whiny loser on the planet.
But maybe Felix would have had this character development and context that he desperately needed if, you know, Rankin/Bass actually focused on the loser. I get the fact that Felix as well as all the ghouls and spooks are all the stars but Felix completely fades from the picture for over half the movie just to have these monsters just run around, arguing and just doing random shenanigans with each other. When I first watched this movie, I imagined that the movie would follow Felix as our straight man to this weird world and would interact with all the monsters personally in some way. Unfortunately unless you count slapstick as “personally interacting” then there's none of that. Overall Felix is a pathetic bland stick amongst a bunch of colourful monsters OR that's what I would be saying, if the rest of the cast weren't all just slightly bigger blander sticks.
I get that the monsters in this movie aren’t going to be all the most talkative and communicate through groans like The Mummy. But this understanding only goes so far as only 5 can actually talk, and 2 out of those 5 monsters aren’t even the lead monsters featured in the starring credits. And an even bigger kick in the balls is that of the main monsters that can talk, STOP TALKING halfway through the movie. Nice. But let’s discuss the two piss stains that are allowed to talk. These two are Yetch and the Monster's Bride. Yetch played by Allen Swift again, and I don’t hate his attitude like with Felix but I do hate this character for adding on an entirely needless subplot of him trying to get his mack on for Felix's soon to be love interest, Francessca, making the entire middle of the movie drag. This subplot steals the focus away from Felix and the Mad Monster Party for a parade of unnecessary, unneeded BS. And the Monster's bride played by Phyllis Diller who is a fantastic actress but here she acts like a block of wood in this.
I have no idea what the director was telling her when she was in the recording booth but if I had to guess he told her to turn off the emotion in her voice. There is just no weight behind what she says, and she gets this REALLY forced laugh that every time I here it’s like a tiny peace of my heart evaporates. Both, Yetch and Monster’s Bride, are just there to forcefully add drama where just the drama of a pharmaceutical salesman being chosen to become king of the monsters is plenty. Even if you just removed Yetch the movie would be better by ten fold.
But how about we just segway into the musical numbers. Like in a LOT, and I mean a LOT of early-animated movies there has always been that annoying brand of musical numbers. The sporadic in the middle of a scene musical numbers. Now I can forgive the whiplash of story to song out of nowhere, if the songs were good but no, the musical melody in all of the songs are slow and just lifeless. Which is odd seeing how this movie is called called Mad Monster Party? I thought the melodies of the song would have a lot of high energy rhytmns but nope we get love ballads from the monster's bride and others to waste 5 minutes of the movie each time. Even the actual staging of the songs is rather bland and uninspired. The musical staging in this ANIMATED MOVIE looks more like it should be performed on an actual live stage. The best-animated musical numbers take advantage of the movie being animated and make it colourful and big using multiple levels, lighting, and etc. This movie makes everything seem small and colourless. Not fun or interesting to watch or listen to.
But let's get some positivity in this before I ruin my mood. Mad Monster Party? looks along the same quality as the other stop motion classics that Rakin/Bass have done which is a good or bad thing depending on what you think of them. BUT there is a lot more obvious experimentation done in this film then I believe necessary like the dozens of keyed in explosions, the total mix match of several different methods of lip movement, the different colors and styles of lighting, and the other keyed in effects. For the time it may have looked impressive… actually scratch that, it looked manageable for the story but it has aged poorly and even though it makes the movie look distinct it also leaves it with a very inconsistent art style.
Now if I were to go back in time and step in between Rankin and Bass and tell them as their story editor what to fix about their script I would say first off allow more time for the actual main monsters to talk with Felix and hang out with him. Second a love story is great but several different love stories in this movie just drags it down so condense it. And make Felix deciding on becoming the new Frankenstein be the focus of the story. Also, USE BORIS KARLOFF. For crying out loud he's like in 15 minutes of the movie in only small increments. That was a crushing disappointment because he was fantastic as Baron Frankenstein; I dare say he was my favorite character. Oh who am I kidding if Boris’s character was replaced with a rock, the rock would’ve been my favorite character.
Overall this movie is a major disappointment and not even close to being any form of Halloween Classic. Especially with it's WTF?! ending that I won't spoil here but trust me when I first watched it I was literally screaming WHAT?! This coupled with the inconsistent art style, boring and slow music, and complete lack of character, the only thing Mad about this Monster Party is how Mad I got with all these stupid mistakes. I do not recommend watching this movie.
Written By: Taylor 'Whyboy' Wyatt
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