Rankin-Bass, the company that brought you TVís Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other perennial holiday favorites, took their stop-motion ďAnimagicĒ process to the big screen for 1967ís Mad Monster Party. Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass hired Mad Magazine creator Harvey Kurtzman to help write a script blending classic monster movie horror with some of that magazineís silliness. With frequent Mad illustrator Jack Davis designing the characters, it was a Mad monster party, indeed.
As the film opens, Baron Boris Von Frankenstein has developed a formula capable of destroying all matter. His lifeís work complete, the Baron announces his retirement and invites the monsters of the world to join him in a farewell dinner. Among the monstrous luminaries attending are Frankensteinís Monster, the Monsterís Mate, Dracula, The Werewolf, The Mummy, The Invisible Man and a Peter Lorre-inspired character named Yetch. Also on hand is the Baronís nerdy nephew, Felix Flankin, whom the Baron announces as his successor.
Naturally, this doesnít sit well with the assembled creatures, and the bad guys conspire to eliminate Felix. Luckily, the hapless hero finds a friend in the Baronís vampy assistant Francesca, and the two team up with the Baron to fight off the mad monsters with smarts, strategy and singing.
Mad Monster Party was one of the final films for monster movie legend Boris Karloff, who lent his distinctive voice to Baron von Frankenstein. Phyllis Diller provided the vocals for the Monsterís Mate, adding a few of the sharp-tongued zingers for which the comedienne was famous. Karloff and Diller each sang a tune on the movieís soundtrack, but the real musical star of the show was a skeleton rock band called Little Tibia and the Phibbeans ("Do the mummyyyy...").
Despite the talents involved, the film fared poorly in its initial release, but repeated showings on Saturday ďCreature FeatureĒ television matinees around the country have made Mad Monster Party an underground favorite. Its continuing influence can also be seen in a later stop-motion Halloween flick, Tim Burtonís The Nightmare Before Christmas.