I first ran into Nathan during the "30 Day Horror Movie Challenge." We had a mutual love of Ernest, so I knew I needed to check him out. Once I started reading through Son of Celluloid, I couldn't stop. I then won his contest for actual screen used props from "Dear God No!" which had already brought us together with both of us having quotes on the DVD. His love of everything from Joe Bob to extreme cinema kept bringing me back. I recently wrote an article for his "What Halloween Means to Me" countdown along with so many other bad asses. I hope to someday walk through a horror con side by side with the son, grog in hand.
Everything I Need To Know I Learned from Mad Monster Party?
Introducing the next generation of monster kids to the world of PG, kid friendly fright fare purely as an entry point into the horror genre that we all love is all well and good, but we’ve gotta remember that there are also a lot of life lessons to be found in these films. We’ve all heard that infuriating “what message is this sending to our kids” question thrown at horror movies. Well, if you look at a lot of the “training wheels” horror, they’re actually offering the little bastards some sage advise if they’re smart enough to listen. Take one of my favorite flicks of all time, Mad Monster Party?, for example. Rankin-Bass (the same stop motion animation studio responsible for Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer) released this masterpiece in 1967, not only giving us a classic horror-comedy romp featuring an all star lineup of the greatest monsters of film history and the voice of Boris Karloff, but dropping knowledge in the process. There are a lot of universal truths to be gleaned from Mad Monster Party?, and I’d like to share them with you. These are lessons have served me well throughout my life, so let the ‘ol Son of Celluloid give you some words to live by…
Exploding birds are funny after all.
Remember when you were a kid and feeding Alka-seltzer to seagulls or throwing snap-n-pops laced bread to pigeons just to watch the feathers fly was your favorite pastime? You do too! I know I’m not the only one. I’d be willing to bet that your parents use the same “that’s not funny” and “people who do that grow up to be serial killers” lines on you too. Well, Mad Monster Party? completely disproves that argument. When it comes time to test out his matter destruction formula, Baron Boris Von Frankenstein grabs a nearby crow, drops a little serum on his Raven friend, and watches him explode. The Baron isn’t a serial killer. On the contrary, he seems like a kindly old gent. He even busts out a “Nevermore” joke, proving once and for all that not only do sane people engage in a little avian demolition from time to time, but it IS a laughing matter. Take that Mom!
Destruction > Creation.
Every kid could tell you that. Building that house out of blocks is fun, but it’s nowhere near as good as kicking that bad boy and watching the blocks hit the other kids in the face. The Baron definitely agrees. Building that monster, his bride, and Francesca was cool and all, but making this formula that can destroy anything, anytime, anywhere is the ultimate thrill! He refers to it over and over throughout the flick as “my greatest creation/discovery.” He says that to Francesca repeatedly. It’s like he’s taunting her. “I made you, and you’re nice and all, but this blue stuff that can annihilate everything is WAY cooler than you could ever hope to be.” Who cares about creating life when you can make it cease to exist? Always remember folks; destruction is way more fulfilling and impressive than creation.
The fuck ups get all the breaks.
File this under sad but true. We’ve all run into this. Do you have someone at work that is an absolute fuck-up, but they seem to always catch the breaks? Yeah, we’ve all dealt with that one. You want to bash their head in, but for some reason the boss always seems
to fall in their favor. Well, Felix is a fuck-up. There’s no two ways about it. Just watch him at work in Mr. Cronkite’s Drugstore. He gets a letter from his Uncle inviting him to the Isle of Evil (by the way, apparently you could mail live spiders in the 60’s) and then proceeds to knock over three displays and flood the store while asking for a week off. Mr. Cronkite is so pissed that he grants the vacation so . What they don’t show is later in the day after Felix left, when his competent co-worker showed up on his day off to pick up a couple of things after working a double for the last three days only for Mr. Cronkite to tell him he needs him to finish Felix’s shift. Oh, and by the way, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and cover Felix’s shifts for the next week too. Yeah, that would be great. Why? Because that dumbass destroyed the store, so I gave him a vacation. Now clean up this mess that he made. It happens every time. Might as well get used to it. Goddamn you Felix!
If you create a monster, you are the monster.
Look at that cover. Look closely. That’s Baron Boris in the middle, and The Monster to his immediate right. As you can see, it’s the same face. Look at that jaw line. Look at the brow line. Look at the nose, forehead shape, and ears. Aside from small details, they have the same head. This begs the question, when the Baron created this monstrosity; did he make him in his own image? Did the monster slowly morph into his creator? Did the Baron become the spitting image of his monster over time? Are they intrinsically linked on a cosmic level? Who is the real monster? I think I’m gonna leave it to you to discuss the deep, philosophical, existential implications of this one. That’s some deep “…the abyss gazes also into you” shit right there.
Your drunken idiot friend will ALWAYS find out about the party.
We’ve all done it. You want to throw a party, but you don’t want that one person to show up. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that drank up all of the booze, puked in the aquarium, started a brawl, instigated all kinds of drama, cussed out the cops, passed out naked in the middle of the floor, made an ass of themselves…and most likely is responsible for that stain on the couch that no one can identify. It’s no use. They, or in the Baron’s case “It”, will ALWAYS catch wind of the party and show up pissed because they weren’t invited. It did his best to ruin the last monster convention at the Baron’s place. The baron and his staff took great pains to make sure It doesn’t hear about the shindig this time around, but despite their best efforts, It shows up at the Isle of Evil ready to get rowdy. Predictably, It ends up being the death of the party. We all have that one person, and they WILL show up, no matter what you do. Go ahead and make a contingency plan.
Sometimes a little sexual ambiguity can be so much hotter.
The Baron, at some point, created a voluptuous, smoky voiced redhead named Francesca. If I say that a claymation character is hot as hell, does that make me as weird as the hentai guys? ‘Cause, you know, she’s pretty sexy for a…nevermind. I’m gonna stop there. Anyway, we’re left to wonder “did they or didn’t they?” He introduces her as his “secretary.” I saw Secretary. I think I know what’s going down in that castle. If they
had told us flat out that they were an item, we wouldn’t think anything of it. Since they leave it ambiguous, we get to imagine all kinds of inappropriate subversive scenarios in a kid’s movie. Take the scene where he tells her about Felix for example. When the Baron says stuff like “Seeing you everyday gives me a great deal of pleasure” in a way that could be construed as either fatherly or lascivious, and she gives a sheepish “Why, Dr. Frankenstein;” the exchange is positively dripping with sexual tension. If she’s just Anna Nicole-ing it, that’s just kinda icky. If the Baron created his own sentient sex doll who’s trapped in the castle at his beck and call, well, that’s a fetish fuel scenario right out of one of those old men’s adventure mags. Then again, maybe I’m just a pervert.
If it acts weird, throw drugs at it.
This is one that the parents and doctors of the world have REALLY picked up on. At one point, a (wo)man-eating plant has a mouthful of Francesca with the intention of chowing down. Thinking quickly, Felix, a pharmacist, throws a handful of pills in its mouth. Apparently they work, because the plant mellows out and grows flowers from its tongue. I’ll have some of whatever Audrey’s having! From Ritalin to Prozac to Xanax, Americans (and I’d imagine people all over the world) are ready to drop some mood altering pharmaceuticals on you at the first sign of antisocial behavior, much less eating people. Felix was truly ahead of his time.
If you want the girl of your dreams, bitch slap her!
We all know that the best way to calm down a hysterical female is to slap the ever-living shit out of her, right? Of course! Hollywood has taught us that from the beginning. Hell, sometimes it takes a village, right Airplane? Anyway, what you might not know is that there is a side effect of the old five-finger sedative; the girl will fall madly in love with you. For the entire movie, Francesca has had it in for Felix. She’s tried multiple times to plot his death and screw him out of his birthright as the Baron’s heir. After Felix pulls her from the moat, she starts crying about how everything was fine before he came to the island and yells “I HATE YOU!” repeatedly. Seeing that she is obviously hysterical, he gives her two good slaps across that pretty face. Francesca suddenly seductively moans “Oh Felix, you’re wonderful. I’ve been such a fool.” She then sings him a cheesy love song and jumps his bones. So what are we to learn from this? If an impossibly beautiful woman hates you…and says so, haul off and coldcock her. All chicks are kinky like that and dig the abuse, so she will instantly be head over heels for you. That is the way it works, right?
When everything goes wrong, just blow everything up!
Your friends have betrayed you. Your girl has fallen for another. Your party is ruined. Everything has gone wrong. So, what do you do? No, no no, it’s not time for Ben and Jerry’s, a razor blade, and some My Chemical Romance. Maybe if this was Twilight, but this is Mad Monster Party?, and it’s time for some wholesale destruction baby! It has the Baron and everyone else clutched in his fists. Everyone that the Baron showed such great hospitality to has spent the last day trying to kill his nephew, and his “whatever she is” Francesca has run off with Felix. The Baron has a little surprise for everybody though.
He’s still got a vile vial of that destruction formula. You done messed with the wrong mad scientist folks, cause he’s gonna vaporize himself, the island, and all of you! That’ll show ‘em. Considering he’s the most likable character in the movie, it seems that the lesson is that the heroic thing to do in a situation like this is a dramatic mass murder/suicide involving explosives. I’ll keep that in mind…
EVERYONE has a deep dark secret.
It’s a tried and true trope in movies to have the one completely normal (and often slightly nerdy) character in the midst of the monsters. They’re supposed to be the audience’s identification point. In Mad Monster Party?, that’s Felix. He’s portrayed as a bumbling everyman in a world of vampires, werewolves, creatures, zombies, and mad scientists. Even Francesca, the only other semi-normal character, is one of the Baron’s creations. Felix is the only normal human, or so we think until the film’s final moment. Yes folks, I’m about to spoil the ending, but you’ve had 45 years to see the flick. It’s not like I’m facebooking Walking Dead spoilers here. Get over it. So, Felix and Francesca are alone in a boat. The island exploded, and there’s no one else around. They’re finally safe, right? On the contrary, this is when Felix suddenly develops a twitch, repeats the line “Nobody’s perfect…” over and over, and starts clicking metallically. Then the camera pans away and into the credits we go. What the hell just happened? Is he a machine? Is he another one of the Baron’s golem creations? Is he just bat-shit crazy? What is Felix’s dark secret? Well, it’s so dark that Rankin-Bass won’t even explain it. You couldn’t handle that kind of knowledge. We don’t know what the hell he is or what the hell he’s going to do to the woman trapped in a boat in the middle of nowhere with him. All we do know is that the normal guy is actually some kind of deranged beastie after all, and it probably isn’t gonna end well for the buxom redhead. The moral of the story is that we all have a monster lurking inside of us. Even the good guys among us are really hideous inside. In the end, the best thing to do is give that monster control and let it all out…but not until you’ve won the damsel’s trust and you’re alone, far away from anyone who could possibly save her…
You see? There is a lot of good advice to be taken from Mad Monster Party?, and the other films we’re talking about this week too for that matter. All 10 of those are exhortations that you would do well to take to heart. Truthfully, there is some bad lessons the unguided kid could pick up from this story. For instance, here is a song in the flick, sung by Boris Karloff no less, called “Stay One Step Ahead.” It’s all about determination and hard work being the keys to success. Yeah, right! Like that ever happens. You should probably just stick with the truths Uncle Nathan just pointed out for you, and everything will be just fine…maybe.
Nathan Hamilton is your average "slightly eccentric" horror movie junkie. At the age of 32, he’s already been involved in “horror business” for 20 years as a haunted house actor, ghost tour guide, and genre blogger/critic/journalist. He currently writes the horror movie blog Son of Celluloid. Nathan is also quite proficient with a chainsaw. You can decide for yourself if you’d rather experience his writing or chainsaw wielding talents. He’s happy either way.