I’m not quite sure how I happened upon it, but as a kid I found a VHS copy of Mad Monster Party in my grandparents collection. For a child of the unusual variety it was everything I could want in a movie: monsters, cartoons and music! As an adult those reasons still appeal to me, however, there’s five more that explain why Mad Monster Party is one of the greatest – and most underrated – animated films of all time.
1. Jack Davis
New York based-artist Jack Davis made a name for himself with his work in Mad Magazine and illustrating horror stories for EC Comics. However, it’s his pensmanship on Mad Monster Party that has stood the test of time. Davis’ character designs served as more than cutesy guides for the animators, they created the personalities of the characters. From the curves of femme fatale Francesca to the riffs on classic monsters, Davis’ designs are genius. His work on Mad Monster Party has influenced everyone from Tim Burton (Corpse Bride comparisons anyone?) to Bruce Timm (the Batman animated series).
2. The animation
There’s a wholesome beauty to stop motion animation that you can’t get with any other form of animation. Rankin/Bass were the guys who brought the medium to the mainstream with their hugely popular Christmas specials, but Mad Monster Party took it to a whole new level. There weren’t computers to smooth the effects or transitions between movements, this was 1967. Let me say that again – 1967! The quality and scope of Mad Monster Party is astounding. It wasn’t like today where multiple dolls can be made of the one character to shoot various scenes simultaneously: there was one doll and one actor tasked with adjusting the movements frame by painstaking frame. Sure, the action is a touch jerky at times but Rankin/Bass brought a personality to stop motion animation that still stands up some 45 years later.
3. The rogues gallery
Dracula, The Creature, Yetch, The Mummy, Invisible Man, Frankenstein, The Hunchback, Werewolf, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and King Kong rip-off It. Add to that Boris Karloff playing inventor Dr. Baron Boris von Frankenstein - a tongue-in-cheek version of the character that made him a star – and you have a love letter to classic monster movies.
4. Harvey Kurtzman
Best known as the creator of Mad Magazine, Harvey Kurtzman is also responsible for one of Mad Monster Party’s biggest assets: the script. Packed full of wit, innuendo and slapstick humour, it’s a genuinely touching and whimsical genre masterpiece.
5. The mash, the monster mash
Although never officially released for sale, Mad Monster Party’s soundtrack is all kinds of awesome. From Ethel Ennis’ smooth vocals on the opening theme song to the uber appropriate use of Bobby Pickett’s Halloween favourite Monster Mash, there isn’t a dull track used in the film. Maury Laws swingin’ sixties score is also a beauty, but the real scene-stealer? The Mummy by Dyke and the Blazers. Warning: if you watch this clip you’ll be humming “It’s the Mummy!” under your breath for the rest of the day.
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz