Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mad Monster Party Combo Pack BD + DVD (1967)

Mad Monster Party Combo Pack BD + DVDAesthetically, the best Rankin/Bass "Animagic" flick of them all. Well worth watching, if for no other reason, just too see the fantastic in-the-round MAD MAGAZINE-like caricatures of the entire array of classic monsters. Those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s fondly remember seeing this classic on TV a few times around Halloween. And now, thanks to the cool folks at Anchor Bay, we can nostalgically relive that childhood experience over and over again--in more vivid color and with crisper images than ever before, as the DVD was digitally remastered (for the first time ever for home video) from a rare original 35mm print!

Unlike their other Christmas and Easter productions, this one-and-only Halloween flick from the Rankin/Bass team is not overly saccharin or maudlin. Not only did MAD MAGAZINE's Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Davis have their hands in the writing and the visual artistry, but the master of macabre himself, Boris Karloff, voiced the animated puppet version of himself as Baron Frankenstein! So you know that, like all Rankin/Bass works, it's a wholesome family movie, but you can also be sure that there is lots of funeral-parlor and gallows humor--and even a few scary moments.

If you enjoy claymation-type animation, you'll enjoy watching this film. If you laugh at the comedy of flicks like ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, you'll guffaw endlessly during this movie. And if you love to watch and collect the old classic monster movies, the DVD version of MAD MONSTER PARTY? is a must-own.

I was thrilled to come across this newly repackaged DVD version of "Mad Monster Party" thank you, Anchor Bay!

Like other reviewers, MMP was a staple of my early TV viewing years. KTTV in Los Angeles used to show this program every year, around Columbus Day (I think), and it quickly became a holiday tradition. Then, and now, I don't think MMP ever got the respect it richly deserved. It dropped from the airwaves sometime in the late 60's.

This newly re-mastered DVD has captured the film in all it's colorful richness. The sound is what you'd expect, (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), but on my home theater it still looked and sounded great. And there were a few more surprises.

For example, I was surprised to find that the film is 95 minutes long I guess it's a product of looking back through 30+ years, but I hadn't realized that this was intended to be a full featured theatrical release, competing with Disney's total dominance of the youth and family film market in the early 60's. I'd just assumed that this was a made-for-TV production, ala "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."

For reasons not fully explained, when the film was released it was restricted to matinee showings and never had the wide audience distribution and success it could have achieved. Consequently, it didn't realize its' full potential and was soon in television distribution.

The history of MMP's ups and downs is documented in an accompanying, richly illustrated, 24 page booklet, "Mad Monster Party: The Complete History of the Classic Rankin/Bass Theatrical Release." This is a real gem with interviews, behind the scene photos, and production art. This could easily have been turned into a really slick video extra for the DVD set, but even in this "hard-copy" form it's very entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Also included are a set of postcard sized "lobby cards" with studies of the main characters: The Monster's Mate, Dracula, Fang, Uncle Boris, Nephew Felix, Yetch, and (of course) the over-the-top-sexy Francesca. (Is it just me, or does Francesca look like she could have been Jessica Rabbit's mother?) Maybe for copyright reasons (I'm just guessing here) Frankenstein's Monster is called "Fang" and King Kong is "It."

The animation is very much a child of the 60's from it's James Bond like opening theme to the red-wigged skeleton band. My 10-year-old thought the wigs meant that this was an all-girl group! I tried (unsuccessfully) to explain the significance of the mop-topped groups of the British rock invasion and she looked at me as though I was making it all up. But you and I know the truth and can nod knowingly at the corny musical numbers and strangely stilted dance moves of monsters trying too hard to be "groovy."

A truly great blast from the past, this DVD must be in any serious Halloween fan's collection, particularly if you have children or grandchildren who've never seen this holiday treat before even my jaded Generation Y teens got a kick out of it. I give it five stars and highly recommend it.

Buy Mad Monster Party Combo Pack BD + DVD (1967) Now

Not too long ago, this lost Rankin/Bass puppet-animated feature film was virtually forgotten about under the pile of other holiday classics including "RUDOLPH", "FROSTY" and "SANTA CLAUS" from the same creators. Now, thanks to verification from Rick Goldschmidt (and his wonderful books about R/B) that this film really did exist and wasn't just a childhood dream, "MAD MONSTER PARTY" has acheived cult status with its own website, a CD soundtrack, several airings during the past couple Halloween seasons and is finally released in this gorgeous collector's DVD.

When Dr. Baron Von Frankenstein decides to retire from his long career as the head of the "Worldwide Organization of Monsters", he invites all of his creations Frankenstein, The Mummy, Count Dracula, The Invisible Man, The Werewolf and many others for one final bash to announce that his successor will be his long-lost nephew, a nerdy boy named Felix Flankin. This does not sit well with the monsters, who each covet the position, and so poor Felix is in big trouble!! Boris Karlof adds his eerie sound as the Baron, Phyllis Diller is an ingenious choice as the Monster's Mate, and Gale Garnett takes the cake as the most memorable character, Francesca, a curvy, buxom, husky-voiced sexy red-head with a mind just as sinister as the ghastliest of the monsters.

The DVD is nothing short of stunning, with a beautiful, crystal-clear digitally restored picture and lots of extras including trailers, stills, original artwork, cool animated menus and a 24-page booklet included inside the DVD. A special thanks to ANCHOR BAY who have also promised to release 2 other Rankin/Bass features "WACKY WORLD OF MOTHER GOOSE" & "THE DAYDREAMER" later this year.

Read Best Reviews of Mad Monster Party Combo Pack BD + DVD (1967) Here

Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass having definitely produced an affectionate "Monster Mash" with MAD MONSTER PARTY, thus providing another fantastic addition to the traditional Holiday classics so many of us die hard classic film revisionists have come to cherish over the years.

There is no live action, all stop-motion animation as Dr. Frankenstein (voiced by Boris Karloff even animated to look exactly like Boris Karloff) is hosting a retirement party to announce his successor after discovering the secret formula capable of destroying all matter. The Horror Genre ghoulies are all invited as Monster and the Bride (delightfully voiced by Phyllis Diller), the Doctor's very lovely and very buxomy assistant Francesca, Count Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Peter Lorre-like servant Yetch all arrive to attend the party. Among other memorable characters included are the Skeleton Band variation of the Beatles, the Zombie Bellhops, Chef Mafia Machiavelli, and the little singing critters. Brief appearances from the Fly, the Blob, and Aurora of Little Shop of Horrors also are at hand, as well as King Kong (strangely referred to as "IT"). Enter Felix Flanken, Boris' nerdy nephew and a Drugstore Pharmacist, who loves soda pop, has allergies, wears fancy suites, and talks like James Stewart. It's going to get very ugly with the Monsters discover Felix is the Successor-to-Be.

I must say, it's been a long wait for this DVD, and after a recent viewing on AMC several years ago, this delightful Horror Comedy is now back and better than ever. DVD has great picture quality, and extras include:

Theatrical trailer

Production Art Gallery

Poster and Still Gallery

24 Page Booklet by Rick Goldschmidt

All in all a great treat for die hard fans of the classics Horror films. Who after all could not see this film and instantly fall in love with Francesca? Gale Garnett gives a delightful performance as her voice. Gale around that same time had a hit single with "We'll Sing In the Sunshine". She makes Francesca effectively more than your average Femme Fatale, she is beautiful, seductive, clever, treacherous at times, and simply unforgettable.

In closing, do buy this DVD it will look great on your shelf of Holiday classics alongside HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, and Rankin and Bass' other classics RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and FROSTY THE SNOWMAN.

Want Mad Monster Party Combo Pack BD + DVD (1967) Discount?

Please note that this review is for the "Special Edition" DVD of Mad Monster Party, and not the actual movie, which is an easy 5-star animation classic.

The bonus material consists of 3 featurettes a "Making Of"; a "Music Of"; and a "Secrets Of Animagic". While it was enjoyable to see Arthur Rankin talking about the history of the film, I found it almost unforgivable that the two surviving stars (Phylis Diller and Gale Garnett) were not interviewed for this. Especially when footage of Phylis speaking about MMP already exists and only had to be purchased and tacked on. What's even worse is that Gale Garnett's name was not even mentioned, I kid you not! Every other person involved with the making of this movie was talked about except for the voice behind two songs in the film, and the most memorable character, Francesca. Apparently it was a legal issue, but one that should most definitely have been resolved.

Also included is the theatrical trailer which was present on the previous release but the TV spots and photo stills gallery which were on the original DVD were omitted from this one. This "Special Edition" has a better cover but the first DVD has much more attractive menus. If you are a Rankin/Bass fan, you will probably still want to pick up this new release (even if you already have the other one) but I do feel that more effort could have been put out to make this "Special Edition" more special.

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