Comedy Oddities: Mad Monster Party?

mad monster party indexBoris Karloff was one of the most famous actors to ever play the Creature/Monster created by Baron Frankenstein but here in one of his final roles for the first time he gets the chance to be the mad scientist in a film which was written by Mad Magazine creator Harvey Kurtzman and writer Len Korobkin, and boy can you tell this as in places it’s like the magazine has come to life.

Unlike pretty much every other character in the piece Karloff underplays the role in a pleasingly fun manner, in this stop motion affair which sees him interact with pretty much every famous movie monster of the era. These monsters are played by Allen Swift (a vaguely well known voice over artist, best known for portraying Simon Bar-Sinister in the Underdog cartoons), who takes on 95% of the roles in the movie including the film’s hero, the mild mannered Felix Flankin who is asked to visit his uncle Baron Boris von Frankenstein (Karloff), though he has no idea why he’s received an invitation, and is completely unaware that Dracula, the Invisible Man, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Mummy, The Werewolf, The Creature From The Black Lagoon and a few other unusual beasties are going to be joining him.

The reason why everyone’s been brought together is because Boris is the head of the worldwide organisation of monsters, but after creating a devastatingly deadly formula he’s decided his life’s work is complete and he wishes to retire, with him planning on announcing his replacement at the gathering. There’s a shock though as it’s not Dracula or Dr Hyde who is set to be the new boss, but the mild mannered Felix Flankin, and that’s enough to cause outrage and for the monster’s to start scheming their revenge.

It’s a cute affair and packed with almost every pun relating to monster mayhem that you might imagine, and it also includes a couple of songs which while not the catchiest thing ever will almost definitely make you smile, with one that Boris Karloff sort of chats along with being the highlight, but a romantic ode towards the end is fun too. The dialogue is rather unpredictable and at times lacking in inspiration, but on other occasions it’s pretty daft and amusing, with Dracula describing himself as “The original Batman” being the kind of silly gag that the film does well, while the Peter Lorre-esque Yetch mocks the Invisible Man with the line “No wonder you’re invisible, you’re ugly, and revolting and disgusting”.

In the middle of the film there’s a great set piece where all the monsters have a rather goofy fight, which involves custard pies and the bones of one the creatures being used as weapons, and which is a real delight. Also enjoyable is Boris’s secretary Francesca (Gale Garnett) and her fine line in withering put downs, Frankenstein’s Monster’s Girlfriend (Phyllis Diller) is an admirably bizarre creation, and the final fifteen minutes is beautifully doolally madness featuring an appearance from a very famous movie monster and a strangely twisted denouement for some of the characters.

I wish I only had positive things to say about it but unfortunately at 95 minutes it is far too overlong and it could easily have been half an hour shorter, with most of the scheming between the various monsters deserving to be cut. It’s a shame as it’s inspired at times and if it had been tighter this could have been a real cult classic, but it’s not to be and so while definitely worth watching it’s doubtful you’ll fall madly in lust with it.

★★★

Alex Finch.
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