Mad Monster Party? spends a solid portion of its runtime only slightly amusing. It’s technically competent stop-motion animation with a charming voice performance from Boris Karloff as Boris von Frankenstein. He’s just discovered the anti-life formula and has become destroyer of ravens, potentially worlds. Having run the gamut from creating life to creating anti-life, Karloff decides it’s time to retire, and he’s leaving the whole thing to nephew Felix Flanken (voiced by Allen Swift). And he’s going to reveal both his achievement and his succession plan at a meeting of the Worldwide Organization of Monsters.
So Karloff invites all the monsters to come down to the island, have a few laughs, have their dreams of world domination crushed.
The opening titles are a usually amusing, always competent series of bits involving the various monsters getting their invitations to the party. There’s Dracula (voiced by Allen Swift), there’s the Invisible Man (voiced by Allen Swift), there’s Dr. Jekyll (voiced by Allen Swift), and there’s Mr. Hyde (voiced by Allen Swift). Swift has two more major characters—the zombie and the Frankenstein Monster. Phyllis Diller plays the Bride of the Frankenstein Monster, though Mad Monster doesn’t do the obvious hair bit.
Finally—at least in terms of unique performers—there’s Gale Garnett. She plays Francesca, Karloff’s ample-bosomed assistant. She thinks she ought to be the heir and starts plotting against Karloff, enlisting the aid of Count Dracula.
Swift plays Dracula as a Borscht Belt Bela Lugosi. Outside Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Swift has a bit for all the voices. Invisible Man is Sydney Greenstreet, specifically in Casablanca, including the fez. The zombie character is Peter Lorre (looks like him too). Felix, the lead (who looks like a variation on Hermey from producer Rankin/Bass’s Rudolph), is Jimmy Stewart. It’s very disconcerting to watch the Stewart bit fail over and over; like, did they really think it would work?
Swift will also voice “Mafia Machiavelli,” who is the chef. It’s a surprisingly intentionally problematic scene with the killer chef threatening the Lorre zombie, who’s busy mooning over Garnett.
Garnett is Mad Monster’s secret weapon. When she does her song about betraying everyone—in alliance, at that time, with Dracula–the movie suddenly gets strangely good. At first, it seems like a brief flash of goodness, but then Garnett keeps going, both in her performance and the occasional song numbers. She and the Felix puppet get a good moonlit duet and such.
There’s a surprise monster—a deus ex machina in a movie about a literal deus ex machina—but there’s enough humor in the finale for the movie to surpass the contrivances. Even the worst characters have some charm to them, and the stop-motion’s always fun. There are a couple of great action sequences, including one coming immediately after Diller and Garnett’s puppets start wrestling, and the soundtrack plays cat yowls. Repeated ones, like the sound editors demanded more, drilling in the “joke.”
But then the movie immediately recovers with a phenomenal action sequence.
Mad Monster Party?’s got lots of moments ranging from fun to actual funny, a surprisingly good performance from Garnett, a fun one from Karloff, way too broad work from Swift, and superb stop-motion animation.
It all evens out well enough.