Bonus Reviews: The Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters (1972) and The Wasp Woman (1959)
Horror Bulletin Bonus for Week 171
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at the cartoon ripoff of the excellent “Mad Monster Party” made by the same people for a lower budget: “The Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters” from 1972. We’ll also look at the ridiculous, but still very entertaining classic, “The Wasp Woman,” from 1959
Don’t forget, the first week of each month, we publish ALL our reviews, including the bonus content, in our monthly “Horror Bulletin” print magazine (also available as an ebook). If you don’t have time to read the website or email, here’s one more option for you! The February issue is out now!
The Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters (1972)
Directed by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Written by William J. Keenan, Lou Silverstone
Stars Allen Swift, Bradley Bolke, Rhoda Mann, Bob McFadden (Animated)
Run Time: 44 Minutes
We open on Baron Frankenstein and Egor driving to the castle. It seems the Monster plans to use this car for his upcoming honeymoon. Egor wants a woman too, so he picks up the boss’s book on monster making and turns to a page containing a dessert recipe. He runs all the lab equipment and ends up with a… cake. Meanwhile, the Baron sends out wedding invitations. Credits roll. It’s clear this is not serious horror. You’d think it was a cartoon.
Frankenstein has created a new monster to be the bride of the monster. “It’s almost as if they were made for each other!” The Baron and Egor go to town to the Transylvania Astoria to rent the ballroom for the wedding. They schedule Friday the 13th for the big day.
Harvey the mailman then has to deliver the invitations. The Creature from the Black Lagoon is first— yes, he has a mailbox. The Invisible Man, Claude, and his wife, Nagatha, are next. The mailman thinks he’s losing his mind but continues on to the museum to deliver to Mr. Mummy. Count Dracula is easy to find in his castle. Harvey has to see a psychiatrist before going to see Mr. Ron Chanley before the full moon comes out. The Wolf Man, like all dogs, chases the mailman. Harvey quits and takes a job at the hotel, where it’s going to be a much quieter job. Norman, the bellboy, swears he can handle everything.
The weird guests arrive at the hotel, and the sons of Dracula and the Invisible Man get into a fight. Some of the guests have very odd room requirements. Soon the monsters are the hotel’s only guests. Norman gets everyone’s autograph, paw prints, or whatever. Harvey faints but still thinks it’s all a hallucination.
Egor, however, still wants the girl and plans to stop the wedding. Nagatha complains about her husband's table manners, but the wolf man is far worse. There are a huge number of gags at dinnertime as they all reminisce about the Monster’s hijinks. At long last, the Bride appears before the guests. And the monsters all fight over her as the undead band plays. The Baron instructs Egor to take the Bride away until the wedding at midnight on Friday the 13th, which confuses the little guy. He hides her by dumping her in an active volcano where she is carried away by a pterodactyl. She’s eventually captured again by Mod Zilla.
The Wolf Man catches her scent, and they all follow the huge monster’s footprints. Suddenly, Mrs. Zilla shows up and yells worse than Nagatha. The Monster and the Bride finally embrace, causing an explosion.
It’s almost time for the wedding. It’s hard to get a suit and shoes in size 54. Harvey ends up officiating the wedding, since everyone else has vanished. When they kiss, sparks fly. She’s on AC current and he’s on DC— they aren’t compatible at all!
Harvey winds up back at the psychiatrist’s office, and the doctor suggests that he take up drinking. The doctor tosses one back, and we see that he’s Dr. Jekyll. Poor Harvey just can’t catch a break!
Baron Frankenstein looks and sounds like Boris Karloff, but Karloff was long dead by this time, so he was voiced by Bob McFadden. Most of the other characters are voiced by Allen Swift. It’s a large cast of characters with only four voice actors.
Don’t think too hard on this one, it’s a kid’s cartoon. I noticed in the first few minutes that the Monster was admiring his bride through the window as she combed her hair, and in the next scene, Frankenstein was just bringing her to life in the lab. How does that work?
There’s a reason this one isn’t usually grouped in with the more well-known Rankin-Bass productions. Much of the same team worked on the stop-motion “Mad Monster Party” in 1967, so this is in many ways just a less-interesting version of that film. Many of the creature designs are very similar, and I suspect there was some re-use of the ideas.
Of course, they go for silly monster hijinks rather than anything even remotely approaching scary, but it does have all the major classic monsters here, even a mish-mash of King Kong and Godzilla, sort of.
The Wasp Woman (1959)
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Leo Gordon, Kinta Zertuche
Stars Susan Cabot, Anthony Eisley, Barboura Morris
Run Time: 1 Hour, 3 Minutes
At Janice Starling Enterprises, Janice berates the board members for their falling sales. Bill Lane says the responsibility is hers. They’re a multimillion dollar cosmetics company, and she was face in all the ads up until a few months ago. She decided she was getting too old for glamor and substituted models to advertise. But the customer base all liked and trusted the company because of her. Now the clients don’t trust the brand so much anymore.
Janice doesn’t necessarily disagree, but there’s not much to be done about natural aging— is there? She brings in Arthur, a man who knows all about royal jelly, like what the queen bees use to stay alive, especially wasps. The science gets a little hazy, grouping bees and wasps together like they are the same thing. In fact, just disregard the science entirely for this one. He explains that the queen wasps are like black widow spiders, killing their mates then impanting their eggs inside their victim.
Eric Zinthrop has an appointment this afternoon. He claims that he can give her another fifteen years. He has a pair of sickly old Guinea pigs in a cage. He injects them with his serum, developed from wasps, and they get younger as she watches. He hasn’t tested the formula on humans yet, but she insists on being the first. She finances his new lab, so he gets right to work. Cue the experimentation montage.
Bill Lane thinks Zinthrop is a scam artist, preying on his desperate woman boss. Arthur thinks Zinthrop might be worse; he’s a dangerous quack.
Finally, Zinthrop is ready for Janice’s first injection. Mary, Janice’s secretary, calls Lane to report on all the money Janice is giving Zinthrop. She’s spying on Janice for him. Three weeks later, she’s not seeing much change and is starting to get impatient. Lane and Mary take some evidentiary documents to Arthur, who agrees that it’s all a scam. The three do genuinely want to protect Janice.
Impatient, Janice sneaks into Zinthrop’s lab at night and starts increasing her dosage to speed things along. Extra injections of a crazy, experimental serum must be a good idea, right? She doesn’t notice the deformed test subject in the corner cage. The next morning, Janice comes in looking like she’s twenty years old. She’s ready to start a new campaign called “Return to Youth.”
Zinthrop comes into the lab that morning and finds an aggressive, mutated cat that looks like it’s starting to grow wings.
Arthur still wants to know what Zinthorp’s doing; he’s still not convinced. He sneaks into the lab that night to look around. Later, Zinthrop is walking around in a daze after the cat attack and stumbles out in front of a car. Janice gets a P.I. To track down Zinthrop. She wants more serum, and she wants to mass produce it for the market. She can’t do that without Zinthrop.
They find him. He’s injured but alive. Janice goes to see Zinthrop in the hospital, and she hires all the best doctors to help him. In the meantime, she continues to shoot up with the serum, but there’s not an infinite supply. Arthur reads Zinthorp’s notes and wants to analyze the stuff. When he goes to the lab to get some, a horrible wasp-woman, still wearing high heels, attacks him.
At the next board meeting, Janice is having headaches. Zinthrop gets out of the hospital, and they take him right to the office, where they’ve set up a room for him. He’s still recuperating from his head injury. He knows there’s something important that he wanted to tell Janice, but he can’t remember what it was. She gets upset and turns into a wasp, killing his nurse, and the old man passes out.
Lane and Mary find Arthur’s pipe and figure out that he’s dead, somewhere in the building. They find a bloody spot where the nurse was killed, but Zinthrop is incoherent. Janice, meanwhile, is all of serum and stares longingly at the hive of bees. Mary and Lane call Janice about Zinthrop’s condition. Zinthrop warns of the dangers to Lane. While Mary runs up to Janice’s office and finds— Janice.
Mary explains things to Janice, who turns into a huge wasp and chases her around the office. Lane and Zinthrop run in and fight the monster. Zinthrop throws a handy bottle of carbolic acid sitting on the table at the wasp and then faints. The acid burns the wasp woman, who falls out the 40th floor window; this wasp can’t fly.
I love how the two Guinea Pigs turn into rats as they “de-age.” This is a mighty convoluted scheme to shame a makeup company because their spokeswoman is starting to get older.
The office decor and outfits make this look like “Mad Men with Wasps.” The aesthetic is identical— the Mad Men guys knew what they were doing reproducing this look.
The whole concept of getting younger through wasp jelly is just ridiculous. How did they even come up with that idea? Was anyone feeding those lab animals after Zinthrop went to the hospital? Still, it’s a fairly standard secret-formula-Jekyll-and-Hyde type story, just this time with a young woman instead of a stuffy old scientist.
It’s pretty solid, but extremely derivative of a hundred other films.
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