As a kid I was crazy about “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” and watched them every year. But it wasn’t till I was grown up that I saw “Mad Monster Party,” a movie my husband grew up watching every year because where he lived it was always broadcast as an alternative to the World Series. (That’s right, some manly men aren’t sports fans.) He introduced the movie to me when we met, and I was hooked right away.
Gris Grimly, “Late for the Monster Party,” watercolor and ink on paper.
In “Mad Monster Party,” Frankenstein’s monster and his mate, along with the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, Dracula, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Mummy, attend a party held by Dr. Frankenstein, who wishes to reveal the secret of complete destruction that he’s discovered. Also at the party are Dr. F’s busty assistant, Francesca; his creepy lackey, Yetch (who looks and sounds like Peter Lorre); and his geeky nephew, Felix Flankin (whom the Doctor favors to become his mad-scientist successor one day). Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller were among the voice actors. The character designs that were made into figurines for animation were designed by hugely popular “Mad” magazine and EC Comics illustrator Jack Davis, and the script was written in part by “Mad” creator Harvey Kurtzman.
Emilio Loza, “On Cloud Nine,” Sculpey.
How could a movie with a premise, character designs, script, and voice actors like these fail to become a cult classic? Well, it couldn’t fail, and it didn’t. And it’s now being commemorated as a classic by a large group of artists at the Van Eaton Galleries, which are galleries dedicated to animation art.
Curated by Phillip Graffham, an artist who has exhibited widely in the LA area and worked with Disney and Warner Bros., the “Mad Monster Party” show pays tribute with art that sometimes very accurately represents the original character designs and storyline and at other times reinterprets the characters and puts them in new imaginary settings. Many of the artists in the show are professionals in the animation industry. Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt was signing copies of his book “The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass” at the show’s opening.
Dawn Schiller, “The Mummy,” mixed media.
Even visitors who have never seen “Mad Monster Party” are likely to enjoy this show’s visions of science gone silly, beautiful red-headed assistants nearly bursting the seams of their tight dresses, and all their favorite classic monsters tipping back cocktails and dancing to a band of skeletons with Beatles haircuts. But if you’re one of those uninitiated visitors, I’d strongly recommend getting yourself the 2009 DVD release of the movie. (It has good special features, so you’ll get the backstory of the movie too.)
Mark Bodnar, “Pulling the Fangs,” acrylic on canvas.
The “Mad Monster Party” tribute group show is on view through October 31 at Van Eaton Galleries, 13613 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks 91423. For more details, call the galleries at (818) 788-2357 or visit http://vegalleries.com.