A Rankin/Bass "Classic": The Wonderfully Weird "Mad Monster Party

Nothing feels like a warm, creepy, claymation-y hug quite like a Rankin/Bass holiday special.

Even if you're not familiar with the name Rankin/Bass, you'll no doubt be familiar with their filmography which boasts classics like Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, The Year Without A Santa Claus, and The Little Drummer Boy.

The company is synonymous with Christmas, but they have a little-known gem to their catalog for the Halloween season: Mad Monster Party.

Released in 1967, Mad Monster Party (sometimes inexplicably written as Mad Monster Party? with a seemingly superfluous question mark) tells the story of Baron Boris Von Frankenstein summoning all the monsters to his Isle of Evil (which oddly enough is in the Caribbean) to tell them about a major discovery he has made and inform them that he will be retiring from his position as the head of the Worldwide Organization of Monster. In attendance are Frankenstein's Monster (who is sometimes referred to as "Fang."), Count Dracula, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man (who does have some lines, but mostly wanders around in the background, which is hilarious), The Mummy,  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, It (who is basically King Kong), and the Baron's dorky nephew, Felix.

The cast has some degree of star power. Phyllis Diller voices an original character known as the Monster's Mate, a more ghoulish "Bride of Frankenstein" facsimile. Horror legend Boris Karloff voices... any guesses? No not Frankenstein's monster or The Mummy, roles he is practically synonymous with. Instead, he lends his Grinch-narrating pipes to Baron Baron Von Frankenstein (because "Boris").

Aside from the two characters voiced by Diller and Karloff, and the Baron's assistant/Felix's love interest, Francesca, who is voiced by Gale Garnett, every other voice is provided Allen Swift (credited for whatever reason as "Alan Swift"), best known for voicing Simon Bar Sinister in the original Underdog cartoon. He also voices Baron Von Frankenstein's henchman, Yetch, using a Peter Lorre impression, because honestly, what is a Halloween special without someone working in a Peter Lorre impression?

While no doubt lesser known than its Christmas-y counterparts, Mad Monster Party has garnered a cult following over the years and carries a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes

As a movie it really It's got everything. It's goofy but get's weirdly dark at times and has a pretty satisfying twist at the end. Plus, the inherent creepiness of stop-motion animation — especially when it's a Rankin/Bass production — works really well with a Halloween theme.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find it available to stream for free, but it can be rented on Amazon or YouTube. It also works its way into the Turner Classic Movies lineup (that's where I saw it), so keep an eye out for it because there are far worse ways to kill 95 minutes than Mad Monster Party.

(P.S. While doing some research for this, I learned that Allen Swift did some voices for another Rankin/Bass production called The Enchanted World of Danny Kaye: The Emperor's New Clothes which could possibly be even more strange than Mad Monster Party).


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