Sunday, June 23, 2013


So here's my story: When I was a kid, around 11 or 12, I turned on the TV and caught the last five minutes of this movie. It blew my mind and I was outraged that I had missed the whole thing. The next day at school I asked all my friends if they'd seen it. No one had.

Back then, in rural British Columbia, we only got two television channels, so it was inconceivable that none of my friends -- NONE OF THEM -- had seen it.

Looking back, maybe there was a big hockey game on the other channel, I don't know. Nevertheless, for years I doubted that I had actually seen it. I convinced myself that I'd dreamed it or something.

Then I started hearing about it on the internet. It was real! I hadn't dreamed it! Then yesterday I found a VHS copy in my local thrift store. I picked it up and last night I forced my family to watch it.

Well, it was entertaining, but not without its problems. It's very dated and certainly NOT politically correct. The film was produced in 1967 by Saul Rankin and Jules Bass, the same guys who made Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. It was co-written by Harvey Kurtzman who wrote for MAD Magazine.

The film features Baron Boris Von Frankenstein, voiced by Boris Karloff, gathering all the monsters at his castle to retire and pass on his secrets. The other monsters, Dracula, The Mummy, the werewolf, the creature, etc, realize that he is going to give his secrets to his nephew, Felix. Each wants the secret for himself and chaos ensues.

The film has some good performances and some bad ones. The animation is really clunky and Phyllis Diller plays, Phyllis Diller, which can get old pretty quick.

Some of the musical numbers are good and some are terrible -- I mean really bad! And the attitudes are very dated. The female lead, Francesca, wants the secret for herself and hates Felix until, in a moment of hysteria, Felix slaps her around. Then she falls in love with him! Wow! Not cool!

Should you see it? Yes, particularly if you are old enough to have potentially seen it as a kid. It's loaded with nostalgia. If you are younger it probably will mean little to you without the cultural context. This is stop motion animation -- NOT CGI.

Anyway, now that I have finally seen the thing after waiting for 36 years, I can cross THE MAD MONSTER PARTY off my bucket list. Yay!

UPDATE: If you really want to see it, you can download it from the itunes store (U.S. only, though) but at $9.99 you'd better be really sure you want to watch it!

I've been here and there. I've drawn a lot of pictures. I've written a bit, too. I'm not good at this self-promotion thing. Look, you want to know about me? just visit these websites. Okay?


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Pretty sweet to finally achieve that childhood ambition to see the full program after 36 years. I'm happy for you! I like the cheesy Beatles wigs on the skelly band, LOL!

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

I'm envious for sure. While I haven't been searching for it as long as you have, I have heard its name spoken in dark corners and glimpses of its snappy designs by comics legend Jack Davis and know I have to find a way to see it someday.

Maybe its "datedness" is why is hasn't become a staple of TV repeats like Rudolph, Frosty and the Grinch. Or maybe the only way you get holiday specials outside of Christmas is if your name is Charlie Brown.

M. D. Jackson said...

Well, once I saw it I knew why it never got shown on TV again. Harvey Kurtzman threw a lot of jokes in there that would go over kids' heads but that the adults would get. That kind of "nod and wink" humour doesn't play well today. And at 95 minutes that's a big block of TV time for what is "questionable" family entertainment.

M. D. Jackson said...

And yeah, Debra, the Skeleton band is pretty cheezy but that was actually one of the better musical numbers!

Kal said...

You think it will be better than it is and it passed by my radar too for a long time.

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