Monster Party is
a relatively obscure stop-motion animated musical treat from 1967 that many
non-genre fans are unaware of.Aimed at
children, it is the creation of Rankin and Bass, the production team
responsible for so many holiday television specials including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus
is Comin’ to Town, The Little Drummer Boy, and The Year Without a Santa Claus.Unlike these specials, however, Mad
Monster Party made the rounds to movie theaters as a feature-length film
for Saturday and Sunday matinees.It’s the
obvious inspiration for Tim Burton's The
Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), boasting an infectious musical score that
sticks in your head long after the movie is over.
Baron Boris von Frankenstein, the lead
character who is voiced by Boris Karloff in one of his last roles, decides to
hang up his lab coat and hand his castle and duties over to his less-than-capable
nephew Felix Flankin (Allen Swift) who can’t seem to do anything right.He plans to make this announcement at a
gathering of monsters that includes a dim-witted monster of his own creation,
the monster's mate (voiced by Phyllis Diller), his lab assistant Francesca
(Gale Garnett), Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Dracula, the Werewolf, the Creature
from the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the
Mummy, a King Kong-like ape, and a creepy-looking Peter Lorre look-alike.Naturally, Felix goofs up everything, which
causes the monsters to conspire to eliminate him and find out the secret that Baron
Frankenstein his unearthed.
Monster Party was
originally released on Embassy Home Entertainment in the mid-1980s and was
sourced from a dark 16mm print, much like its rare television airings.The opening credits referred to the
availability of a soundtrack album, however one was never released at the time.
It took nearly 20 years for a now-defunct
record company, Percepto Records, to finally issue the music on compact disc,
which is now long out of print but can be found if you look hard enough on eBay.Unfortunately, the film's original camera negative
was reportedly water-damaged many years ago, rendering it unusable. Whether or
not it still exists is anybody's guess, but fortunately a pristine 35mm print,
which possesses a minimal amount of dirt and scratches at the head and tail of
each reel, has survived and was used for the new Blu-ray/DVD combo release which
is now available from Lionsgate.The
Blu-ray is a revelation and the film has never looked this good before.It is framed in the 4 x 3 (1.33:1) ratio, but
on widescreen monitors and televisions the image can easily be expanded to 16 x
9 (1.78:1) without looking contorted.
Both the Blu-ray and the DVD have the
following extras that have been ported over from the Lionsgate DVD-only release
Monster Party: Making of a Cult Classic" featurette (14:47)
Sheer Animagic! Secrets of Stop-Motion Animation" featurette with Mark
Caballero and Seamus Walsh (9:35)
Ghouls: The Music of Mad Monster Party" featurette with Maury Laws (3:45)
bonus sing-along tracks for kids of all ages: "Our Time to Shine” and
"One Step Ahead"
The new Blu-ray is a worthy step up
from the standard DVD and worth the purchase.This will make a great addition to one’s collection, especially for Halloween.