Friday, October 11, 2013

Flicking Through Netflix: Mad Monster Party

Rankin and Bass have become a staple of the holidays nowadays.  Every year in November, they start playing them over and over again on TV.  We've seen them so often that some of us have committed their movies to memory.  Rudolph, Santa Claus, Little Drummer Boy, all essential parts of holiday cheer.  Well, you can forget about all that.  It's the Halloween season and I'm not in the mood for a cutesy Christmas story.  I want something I can sink my teeth into.  Something with werewolves, vampires, monsters, and mummies.  Luckily, Rankin and Bass did have one special dedicated to all things Halloween:  Mad Monster Party.

Mad Monster Party is, admittedly, a movie that’s a bit hard to describe without some help.  So allow me to let Netflix describe it for me.  “Dr. Frankenstein makes plans for his retirement and convenes a meeting of all monsters to announce his replacement. As word spreads that the doctor is going to choose his young nephew for the position, the visiting creatures plot a coup d’état that would leave Dr. Frankenstein retired … permanently.”  

While the above plot is technically true for this movie, I will say that plot doesn’t seem to be what this movie is concerned with.  Most of the time, to drive the story forward, the movie relies on comedy set pieces that mostly go nowhere.  I kept comparing it in my head to Looney Tunes cartoons in that it mostly relies on jokes, slapstick comedy, and wit to keep the plot moving.  Unlike Looney Tunes, however, this movie is a bit short on the laughs for me.  Most of the jokes and slapstick fall flat for me and I believe a lot of that has to do with the animation.

I’m sorry to say this, but a lot of the old Rankin/Bass specials have just not aged well at all.  This special, for example, is animated pretty poorly by today’s standards.  There are multiple instances where the animation is just really jerk-y and static-y.  Usually, the age of a movie doesn’t matter to me, but in this case I was just always very aware that I was watching a movie made in the 60s.  It took me out of the experience a bit.  However, while the actual movement of the characters was pretty bad, the characters themselves were pretty good.  Mostly from a design standpoint.

I think all the monsters and characters are designed uniquely and creatively.  They all have the classic Rankin/Bass look to them, meaning you know that each character was designed with great care and thought.  Though, the generic “hot woman” of this piece looks like every other generic “hot woman” from the Rankin/Bass specials.  The voice acting is, for the most part, pretty good too. Most of the voice acting is done by one guy, but there are two fairly major stars in this piece:  Boris Karloff playing Boris von Frankenstein and Phyllis Diller playing the Monster’s Mate.  Boris did a spectacular, dead-on job but Phyllis… Look, lady. You’re a fantastic woman with a great sense of humor. But in this movie, did you HAVE to do that signature laugh after EVERY SINGLE LINE? I kept thinking “We get it, you’re Phyllis Diller. ENOUGH with the laugh.”

There are a few really random, completely unnecessary, and bizarrely pointless song numbers in this movie.  The songs always had very little to do with what was going on in the story or scene at the time.  If they had removed the song numbers altogether, the movie would have been better off.  I just didn’t find any enjoyment in them at all.

In the end, this was a movie that was worth watching at least once.  If you grew up with those classic Christmas movies, I think you’ll enjoy giving this movie a shot.  It has the same feel of those movies, but with Halloween in place of Christmas.  At least for me, despite the subject matter, repeat viewings of this are probably not gonna happen.  It’s a shame, because I was expecting one monster of a good time.

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