MAD MONSTER PARTY?
MAD MONSTER PARTY? ($20) is childhood favorite that I've been hoping would come to disc for more than a decade. The rights to the movie have always been difficult to pin down, so getting the movie released on Laserdisc never looked to be a very promising proposition. Being an Embassy Pictures release, the rights changed hands quite a few times in the age of video. Further complicating matters is the fact that MAD MONSTER PARTY? is also a Rankin-Bass production, so another shade of gray was added to the rights quagmire. Then came the reports that there were no longer any 35mm elements in existence for the film, which is why the last VHS release of MAD MONSTER PARTY? was transferred from 16mm. Fortunately, that story proved to be incorrect, as 35mm elements for MAD MONSTER PARTY? have been unearthed On top of that, Anchor Bay Entertainment has secured the DVD rights and have beautifully mastered MAD MONSTER PARTY? from a 35mm negative.
Like the classic Rankin-Bass holiday specials, RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN, MAD MONSTER PARTY? was produced in Animagic, a stop motion process that utilized puppets that were animated one frame at a time. However, unlike those "cheery" Christmas specials, MAD MONSTER PARTY? entered the realm of horror and monsters to tell its amusing and decidedly family oriented tale. One could look upon MAD MONSTER PARTY? and the Rankin-Bass holiday specials as the predecessor to TIM BURTON'S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, since that stop motion film featured monstrous characters, who actually impinge on Santa's yearly gig. Of course, MAD MONSTER PARTY? lacks the sophistication of the Tim Burton movie, but this 1967 release does have charm all its own.
MAD MONSTER PARTY? opens with Baron von Frankenstein deciding to announce his retirement as head of The Worldwide Organization Of Monsters, just as he has made his greatest scientific achievement. The Baron has his beautiful assistant Francesca call together Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Monster & his mate, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Hunchback and The Creature, so that he may announce both his retirement. Also on the guest list is the Baron's only living relative, a nephew named Felix Flankin, who is little more than an accident-prone assistant pharmacy clerk. Despite Felix's shortcomings, the Baron still plans to name his nephew as his successor and recipient of all the Baron's secrets. Of course, all of the monsters want the Baron's secrets for themselves, which leaves the monsters scrambling to eliminate the unexpected interloper during one heck of a mad monster party. MAD MONSTER PARTY? features the vocal talents of Boris Karloff as Baron von Frankenstein , Allen Swift as most of the monsters, Gale Garnett as Francesca and Phyllis Diller as The Monster's Mate (talk about type casting).
Anchor Bay Entertainment has made MAD MONSTER PARTY? available on DVD in a gorgeous full screen transfer that frames the movie in its proper 1.37:1 aspect ratio. MAD MONSTER PARTY? obviously underwent some sort of restoration for its transfer to DVD, whether it be digital or to the film elements themselves remains a bit unclear. What isn't unclear are the results of the restoration, which are spectacular. Flaws in the film element have been virtually eliminated; a slight scratch during the opening credits is the only one I noticed.
The image is sharp and nicely defined, within the limits of the stop motion puppet world created for the film. Colors are vibrant; especially Francesca's flaming red hair, plus all of the hues are reproduced with no signs of chroma noise or smearing. Blacks are pure, whites are clean and contrast is pretty smooth, although limited by the production. The grain structure of the film is occasionally noticeable, but it is never excessive. Digital compression artifacts never made their presence known on the cleanly authored DVD.
The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is very good considering the film's age. Fidelity isn't as good as one finds in modern recordings, but the sound holds up rather well when amplified. Even at mid-fi, the musical numbers sound pretty darn good. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and always understandable. There is no appreciable background hiss or surface noise, indicating that the soundtrack is either very well preserved or has been cleaned up digitally. No other language tracks or subtitles are present on the DVD, but the film is closed-captioned.
Full motion video, animation and music serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection feature, as well as a few extras. Included on the DVD are Poster & Still Gallery, Production Art Gallery and a theatrical trailer. The DVD also includes a rather hefty twenty-four-page booklet that features a history of the film and a large number of photographs.
MAD MONSTER PARTY? is a childhood favorite that still manages to tickle the old funny bone. If you are a fan of the movie and have waited as long as I have to own it on disc, then you will most definitely want to get a copy of Anchor Bay Entertainment's terrific looking DVD.
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