Column: Slicing Score: Mad Monster Party? (1967)

By Maria Mitchell

mad monster partyMad Monster Party? (1967, soundtrack) Composed by Maury Laws & Jules Bass.

1967 marked the debut of the stop-motion animated film Mad Monster Party?. This film is an inventive, satiric rehash of many of the great horror films dotting the first half of the twentieth century, including Dracula and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and boasts an eclectic, smooth, jazzy score composed by Maury Laws that is rife with plenty of eerie moments. This score is also notable for the wit of its lyric numbers, supplied by Jules Bass. The title song, Mad Monster Party, gets things underway with Ethel Ennis singing this winsome verse:

The full moon brings out the monster in you.

A strange tune seems to be playing for you.

Could you be someone’s invention?

As unreal as you feel tonight?

Won’t you tell me baby, what happened…

At that monster party last night?

Whew! Not a bad way to get some goosebumps rippling. This score definitely doesn’t begin like many a bloated kiddie-film musical. This number begins with a genuinely creepy song, which Ms. Ennis sings with a smoky, mysterious voice. The main instrumental jazz theme keeps things pleasantly trudging along, with Boris Karloff in puppet animation reprising his role as Frankenstein’s monster. Karloff invites a plethora of horror icons to come to his Island of Dr. Moreau-style hideaway to celebrate his discovery of a serum that can completely destroy all matter. This serum packs a major atomic-oblivion knockout to anything it touches. The power the serum represents is coveted by all the monsters that plan to do battle with Boris’ hapless and nerdy nephew, Felix Flanken, its rightful inheritor, for its possession.

As the film goes on, parts of the score get overly mushy and sentimental, with bumbler numbers like “Never Was a Love like Mine”, sung by Karloff’s ridiculously sexy red-headed (precursor to Jessica Rabbit?) secretary to Felix. “You’re Different”, sung by the Bride-of-Frankenstein, Phyllis Diller, to her hulking, wandering-eye-bearing monster of a husband, is spritely and campy, but ultimately more interesting to adults than children because most kids, hopefully, don’t have intimate knowledge of marital tensions.

This generation gap between composers who write songs for children’s movies and their target audience is a common problem. Hans Zimmer’s score to The Lion King is a perfect example. Mr. Zimmer, explain to me why kids need to learn Machiavellian power struggles via the lyrics of Tim Rice through Be Prepared? On the other hand, Danny Elfman’s Kidnap the Sandy Claws from The Nightmare Before Christmas probably helped inspire more than one sadistic delinquent and God only knows how many little girl’s minds have been brainwashed by the female-empowerment wasteland that is the score to the 1950 Disney version of Cinderella, so I guess it’s not fair to single out Mr. Zimmer. Many times, the implications of songs such as these will largely go over the head of kids, not because kids are stupid but because the songs deal with issues kids have yet to understand.

The entire ending of Mad Monster Party? is a cheesy knock-off of King Kong, complete with Laws composing a militant tribute to Max Steiner’s heroic finale of the original Kong score. Remember, the cheese oozing from every frame in this film is part of its great fun. Although this soundtrack is largely out of print these days, the movie, happily, was released on DVD in 2005. It is available through most online venues.