(2002) - Canal+ (Anchor Bay)
by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits
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
of a "lost" Rankin/Bass classic (you know, from the guys
who brought us Rudolph and
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
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.