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review added: 7/23/02



Mad Monster Party
1967 (2002) - Canal+ (Anchor Bay)

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Mad Monster Party Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A/B

Specs and Features

95 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, 24-page booklet with liner notes by Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt, theatrical trailer, production art gallery, poster and stills gallery, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned


Sort of a "lost" Rankin/Bass classic (you know, from the guys who brought us Rudolph and Frosty), Mad Monster Party is way cooler in theory than it is actually sitting through it. That's not necessarily a slam. Mad Monster Party has some of the coolest production values for a stop motion film this side of Nightmare Before Christmas. So it's cool eye candy, even if the film itself is slightly "weak" by today's standards. Still, if you like monsters, this film is a gem of a cartoon.

The best description of the film is on the official website, called the Plot in Under 1 Minute. Here goes (time it if you'd like): "The Worldwide Organization of Monsters have come together to select a new leader to replace the retiring Baron Von Frankenstein (voice of Boris Karloff). Conflict erupts among the monsters, when the baron decides that the leadership of the union should go to his nebbish nephew, Felix. All the biggies are present: The Werewolf, Dracula, The Creature, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Igor -like "Yetch." This animated feature employs the Rankin/Bass Animagic process (a stop-motion photography technique that uses three-dimensional figures)."

That's pretty much the whole deal. In-between the lines, we have a power play between the good doctor and Dracula teaming up with (and eventually going up against) the doctor's perfect creation Francesca (Gale Garnett, using a Kathleen Turner-like voice, with red hair and a little cartoon body shaming even Betty Rubble). Both want the doctor's secret weapon created at the beginning of the film, which could be used for so much -- including taking over the world. But the doctor wants to give it to his nephew. The film is very cute, but it's just not as badass cool as I thought or hoped it was going to be. I never saw the movie before getting my hands on this new DVD, mostly because when the new video came out a few years back, I was already neck deep in DVD and had no time for anything VHS. I've seen some really cool pictures here and there, used online, in magazines and as cover art for various Misfits albums. And I've always thought that the designs for the Animagic puppets were incredible. In fact, I want a set. Sadly, the liner notes explain that not a single doll is in existence. But, Jesus... how come McFarlane Toys hasn't pursued a license for these guys? Those would be monster toys worth having. God bless "Jolly" Jack Davis (the EC and Mad Magazine artist who designed the characters in the film).

The film itself is sort of lame, sort of cool. The humor is definitely aimed for adults, although there is nothing in here that should keep the kiddies from seeing it and maybe even enjoying it. There's just some really funny inside, cheeky humor. All in all, if you're a monster fan, you'll have fun even with just seeing the characters act out. If you're a fan of Rankin and Bass, this is a DVD really worth picking up. I say that because this is the absolute best looking Rankin and Bass presentation ever released on home video. Wow... this transfer is clean. The colors pop, the contrast is dead on and there seems to be no damage whatsoever to the print Anchor Bay used. It's pretty incredible actually. The picture is in full frame, which is the original framing, so no worries there. The sound is a straight stereo mix with no distortion and clean dialogue. There are a few songs in this film, and they sound pretty good in this mix. This DVD represents to film very nicely.

As for the extras, they're pretty good. Originally promised was a short making of documentary that is not here. Apparently, the final product wasn't available in time, so I guess that means we might get another super deluxe edition at some point. Maybe with a limited edition tin. Yippie. Still, what we do get is pretty cool. There's the film's original trailer, a selection of production art (i.e. Davis' original character designs and storyboards) and a poster and stills gallery section with a nice batch of production stills. Not too bad for a flick many of us haven't seen until recently. The best part of this is a nice liner notes booklet written by Rick Goldschmidt, who knows just about everything there is to know about Rankin and Bass (based on the volumes he's written about them). The story of the making of this film and its history is a good read. Maybe this is a primer for a Mad Monster Party book? The art alone and the fascinating story about this hidden gem is worth reading.

Mad Monster Party is all right as movies go, but it's mostly eye candy. Wonderful, delicious eye candy. This new DVD makes it even better eye candy. Check it out. And Mr. McFarlane, get on with getting a license to put these figures out. I want my very own Francesca doll. Seriously.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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