This is the way I’ve heard it told:
In the 1960s, Rankin/Bass was a film production company, headed by partners Arthur Rankin, Jr and Jules Bass. They produced many animated films, but are most famous for their holiday specials and for an animated version of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” (still my favorite film version).
It was due to the success of holiday films like “Rudolph, the Red-Nose Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman“, that the Rankin/Bass company felt like they could finally compete with Disney in the Feature Film arena.
To that end, Rankin/Bass pooled all their resources, called in all their L.A. privileges, and did anything they could to produce a full-length film, which was basically an extended classic-style Rankin/Bass Halloween special.
The film failed financially, and it helped lead to what was more or less the end of Rankin/Bass.
Before I bombard you with loads of screenshots, and a tribute video I made, I’d like for you to know the plot, to streamline the breakdown process a bit. I would say there were spoilers ahead, but a person probably wouldn’t read this sort of post if they were afraid of spoilers.
Here goes: Baron Frankenstein has created a formula that would enable him to rule the world. He is also the chief bad guy in the whole world, and is head of all the monsters in the world. They look to him for leadership.
The Baron is planning to retire and invites his only living relative, Felix Flankin, to his castle to turn things over to him. Little does he know, Felix is a pharmacist and a huge Jimmy Stewart fan. And kind of a screw-up.
The Baron also invites all of the monsters in the world to his castle to witness his new creation, and to see him turn things over to his nephew.
The monsters, being bad guys, do not like all this one bit. They have been loyal to the Baron all this time, and now he’s gonna leave some nincompoop human in charge?!?!?!
A struggle for power ensues, Felix bumbles his way through the whole thing, Don Knotts style, and falls in love with Francesca, the Baron’s assistant, and whom I firmly believe was a huge inspiration for Jessica Rabbit in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?“.
The Main Cast of Characters:
Baron Boris von Frankenstein. Voiced by none other than Boris “the Grinch” Karloff. Head of all the monsters everywhere. Creator of a top-secret, rule-the-world, potion. Uncle to Felix Flanken.
Felix Flanken. Voiced by Allen Swift, who does most of the other voices also, but does one helluva Jimmy Stewart impression for Felix’s voice. Bumbling, but good-hearted, nitwit. Allergy Sufferer.
Francesca. The Baron’s hot-as-hell assistant, who may have ulterior motives.
Yetch. Head of the house servants at the Baron’s castle. Clearly inspired by Peter Lorre. In love with Francesca. Can remove his body parts at will.
The Monster’s Mate. Voiced by Phyllis Diller. Also looks like her and may not be a monster at all, other than being Phyllis Diller. I would have no clue who Phyllis Diller was if she wasn’t on Scooby Doo that time. This is the Frankenstein Monster’s ladyfriend. The brains of the operation. Has a funny laugh, is a bit of a creeper, and is power and money hungry.
Now that you are armed with all that information, on with the show!
Originally, I planned to not do a full breakdown of this movie, for two reasons. For one, I made a tribute video that featured a lot of the really cool scenes. And for two, this is a full-length movie. Clocking in at 95 minutes, to fully show Mad Monster Party would take about 300 screenshots. Plus, I really don’t wanna ruin the magic for anyone who has never seen it.
I also should be honest here: Mad Monster Party is incredible, but it kinda lags in parts. You’re really in this one for the visuals of stop-motion monsters and the badass, elaborate handmade sets.
It’s not that the plot is bad, or the dialogue is bad, but there are several scenes that could have been cut out entirely and it would have really helped the pacing of the film. I have taken the liberty of cutting several of them out here, but if you watch the movie you’ll get to see them.
Really, to put a fine point on it, Mad Monster Party would have made an amazing hour-long Halloween special on television.
Anyway, in the first scene, shown above, we get a brief prologue of Baron Frankenstein completing his potion and testing it out. It makes a mushroom cloud right outside of his castle window, by which the Baron knows, “It’s ready!”
He then sends invitations to all the monster in the world. This is shown in a montage of the monsters receiving their invitations while the opening credits roll:
Look at that Wolfman! Gee Minetty, he is so cool looking!!!!! And if you think this photo of him is cool, just imagine seeeing him walk around and do wolfy-type stuff!
Next, we get introduced to Felix Flanken, pharmacist and Goof Extraordinaire:
Felix is mixing up a soda. I can barely remember when drug stores still had real soda fountains and lunch counters. Showing Felix mixing up this sugary cocktail is clearly a parallel to the Baron mixing up a rule-the-world potion. The fact that he is a pharmacist doesn’t hurt, either.
In this scene, Felix receives his invite from his Uncle, whom he has never met. He decides he is due for a vacation, thinking that a castle on a remote island is some sort of resort.
Right here she’s really giving her husband, The Monster, the blues. Word has gotten out that the Baron is inviting all the monsters to his Castle for one last party, and to announce his retirement from the horror business.
“We deserve that formula! We deserve that inheritance! You need to get it for us!”
She really is a shrew, isn’t she?
The Baron discusses his plans with Francesca, his assistant and probably the hottest puppet ever created. Definitely hotter than Janice from the Electric Mayhem. Although I would probably date Janice. Francesca is more of a fling, Janice is more of a serious commitment.
Francesca may not be as trustworthy as the good Doctor, errrr Baron, believes.
You see, the Baron, despite being the honcho over all the monsters, is really just a kindly old man at heart. And naive as a mofo.
Next we see all the monsters getting onto a ship. A freighter that will be passing close to the Baron’s island, which they wish to be dropped off at.
Check out this Dracula:
“Now, how much for the passage, hmmm?” Dracula asked the ship’s Captain and First Mate. When they tell him, he says he should probably just fly, and turns into a bat. This, coupled with the other weirdos who wish to sail with them, make ol’ Cap and his Mate feel mighty jubous.
By the time Felix arrives to book passage on the SS Herring, the Captain is so scared of everything that he tells Felix that he can just ride for free. “No charge! Just don’t do any of your surprises on me!”
Later that evening, the Captain tells the Mate to go invite the passengers to have dinner at the Captain’s Table with him. This shot right here just about sums up what all happens when the Mate goes to do that.
Meanwhile, Felix meets some of his fellow passengers…
Felix meets most of the other passengers in a similar fashion, always narrowly escaping death through sheer dumbassery.
the Baron: “These guys better be ready for the party, Yetch! It better be fun! The food better be good! And my guests better have a good time! Or it’s your ass!”
Yetch: “Yes sir, Mr. the Baron, sir!”
Yetch runs into Francesca here and gets a little cheap feel. You can see how Francesca feels about that. Yetch is in ecstacy and doesn’t come out of it for a few seconds.
Francesca: “You better not ruin this, you creepy little turd!”
Look how aloof Dracula looks right here. I love it. I don’t know how they got the facial expressions on these characters to be so perfect most of the time, but they did. Look at Phyllis! She’s gauging whether the Baron may give the inheritance to Dracula or not. The Monster is obviously wondering if he could kick Dracula’s ass or not, if it came down to it.
You just knew that joke was gonna have to come out at some point, and here it is. They saved it for the arrival scene.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Mummy arrive together. The Hunchback carries in the Mummy’s coffin. I guess I never really thought about the Mummy needing to sleep in a coffin like a vampire. But then again, I guess I never really think about the Mummy. The Mummy has definitely been my most-overlooked monster in the pantheon of classic monsters. Poor Mummy.
Yetch: “The octopus soup is too strong!!!”
After the oohs and aahs die down, and the banquet is over, and everyone is shithouse drunk, it’s time for the band:
This is probably my favorite part of the whole movie. They play this really awesome garage-rock song about the Mummy. Note the “beetle” on the bass drum. This was 1967, ya know…
I think this is also the first time you get a decent look at one of the under-appreciated monsters at this mad party: the fish thing. Look at him on the right in the above shot. He’s not really a Creature from the Black Lagoon, but he is certainly of some sort of aquatic origin.
The shot above is cool because the guitar is actually accurate. It’s the nice little touches, like an accurately assembled puppet guitar, that really set this production apart.
Francesca, plottin’ mofo that she is, invites Dracula outside for a dance:
Some of the dance is in the video below, but needless to say, Dracula mistakes Francesca’s intentions. She has called him outside to see if he’ll help her get the formula and the inheritance.
Francesca: “Why you mean old witch! I’ll fix you good!”
CAT FIGHT!!!! LINGERIE CAT FIGHT!!!
I love Phyllis’s underwear.
In the meantime, the rest of the monsters have gotten good and sauced at the banquet and get into a food fight, which leads to a real fight…
Next, it’s the Invisible Man’s turn, with his fez and smoking jacket and everything:
The next morning, everyone is sleeping one off…
What’s interesting is that they make no bones about what is going on here. Broken bottles and empty bottles are all over the place! And before you think, “I bet Disney would never have the balls to do something like this!”, go watch Dumbo and get back with me. In 1967, people weren’t so damn sensitive.
While everyone is sleeping off their own little ornery hangovers, Felix and the Baron and Francesca have a chat on the beach:
Felix and his uncle go off on their own for a tour of the grounds, while Francesca schedules another meeting with Count Chocula:
I need a pith helmet in the worst way.
Needless to say, none of the ambushes work out and Felix escapes every one in an equally obtuse manner.
They don’t really sing the song from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town“, but it’s instantly recognizable as a Rankin/Bass classic. Plus it features a green mouse, a bird creature, and…
Moving on from Boo’s cameo, Frankenstein tells Felix that this is a family business. Do you recognize any of these faces from the Frankenstein family? A correct answer may net you a big prize! Or it may not. I’m kinda broke, yall.
What did you expect, Francesca? They are monsters, after all, and probably not the most trustworthy creatures on earth. Not to mention, you’ve been living it up in the lap of luxury, up here in the castle with the Baron, while the real monsters have been living off the sweat of their proverbial brows. There could be a little class war tension coming out here also. Not to mention that Francesca is, as far as they know, a human, and they are monsters. And the formula should go to the monsters! Racists.
The monsters close in on her and she is forced to jump out of the window, into the moat below…
Fortunately, Felix Flanken was fishing in the moat, in a boat, with a dry coat.
To be honest, Felix slaps her around a little bit, which makes her love him. I’m not kidding in the least. But I didn’t want to show that. Different times and whatnot. But I suspect that this scene could be why you never see Mad Monster Party on television.
Francesca sings a song and does some erotic dance for him. Makes you wonder what her job was before, “Mad Scientist’s Assistant”. Not to mention that she clearly has some emotional issues if getting smacked causes her to fall madly in love with this nerd.
But this is no time to play with the local flora, Francesca! There are monsters in the woods, and they are after you!!!!
Felix really shows what he’s made of here. Deep down inside all of us is a fighting spirit, despite how much of an indoorsman we are. Felix has his glasses on and is aware of what is happening, and he chooses to fist-fight a werewolf!!!
That is correct. King-muhfuggin-KONG!!!
Kong: “Uhhhh, ok.”
Francesca: “Oh boo hoo hoo! I can’t do any of that stuff! I’m a robot!”
Felix: “That’s ok, Francesca, nobody’s perfect… perfect… perfect…”
Felix is a robot too! He glitches out, right here at the end. Now they can go home and build some laptops or calculator watches or something.
Before you go anywhere, I want to share this Mad Monster Party tribute video I made and put on youtube. If you haven’t yet, please subscribe to my channel, so you don’t miss any more terrible videos. There’s too many good videos out there, join me and watch my bad ones!
turn up the volume…