"Maybe he wants his mummy!
Hahahahahahahaha! I kill me!"
Does a three-minute ditty really have enough content to sustain an entire feature film based on it? Sure, on the one hand we have Yellow Submarine and Alice's Restaurant, which are the shining examples of the genre. But the nasty replies to these successes are films like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Convoy, Purple People Eater, Love Potion Number Nine, and Ode to Billy Joe. The track record just isn't good.
Monster Mash: The Movie (or alternately, Frankenstein Sings!) is based on Bobby Pickett's 1962 novelty song of the same name. Most Americans know the first two lines of the song (I was working in the lab, late one night / When my eyes beheld a eerie sight), usually from the continuous radio play it receives in the U.S. around Halloween. The movie gives us the whole song twice, the famous part of it three times, and an unbearable number of inferior musical numbers in between. In keeping with the nature of the song, the movie is campy. Unlike the song, however, the movie is 83 minutes long, and despite the expanded running time it doesn't contain any more laughs than the source material. Of course, that assumes you found the song to be chuckle-worthy in the first place.
"Yes, the Olsen twins were actually
twins... don't you want to know
anything about me?"
It's tough while watching Monster Mash not to think of Rocky Horror Picture Show -- the film apes its predecessor in every way, even to the point of its origins as a stage play, entitled I'm Sorry The Bridge is Out, You'll Have to Spend the Night. But where Rocky Horror is hot sauce made from the spiciest habanero, Monster Mash is watered-down ketchup. Mash's jokes are stale, its music insipid, its inspirations all-too-transparent. It's like watching a chihuahua mimic the actions of the St. Bernard who also lives in the house. Rocky Horror was about rowdy sex and lusty violence; Monster Mash is what you'd expect if Bob Saget sat in for Tim Curry, and brought America's Lamest Joke Writers with him.
You don't think we pulled Saget's name from nowhere, do ya? Of course not. We pulled it from that painful portion of our pasts during which we were forced to watch episodes of Full House, which in turn came to mind when we saw Monster Mash's leading lady: Candace Cameron. Cameron, sister to Kirk (the overly-smug elder brother on Growing Pains), spent a number of years torturing us from the set of Full House with Saget, John Stamos, those pallid Olsen twins, and other actors too whitebread to remember. Now, as Candace Cameron Bure (she married NHL player Valeri Bure), she produces children (two so far, another on the way as of this writing) and TV movies with names like No One Would Tell and She Cried No. God help us if someone ever decides there's a video market for these television movies-of-the-week. We'd have to start new genre listings: "Ripped from the Headlines," "Date Rape," and "Fretful Mothers."
"Give me minute and
we'll have Crystal Pepsi."
Scott (Ian "Young Hercules" Bohen) and Mary (Cameron) are two fresh-faced teens on their way to a costume party when their car beaks down. The two make their way to the nearby creepy castle, where Igor (John Kassir, the voice of the Crypt Keeper) answers the door. Instead of turning around and trying another house, the kids enter the mansion and find that it is populated by a motley collection of pantomime versions of the Universal monsters, including Dracula (Anthony Crivello), a Bride of Dracula (Sarah Douglas), Dr. Frankenstein (Bobby Pickett himself!) and his monster, and the Wolfman (Adam Shankman), complete with gypsy mother (Mink Stole!). There are also three unnamed and quite muscular women who exist only to dance, slightly out of synch, in the background during various songs.
B-movie aficionados will notice the name Sarah Douglas in the credits. Far be it from us to malign her acting ability (we learned our lesson from that ugly Rutger Hauer incident), but she's been in a nearly uninterrupted stream of crap since Superman II. Two such films, Spitfire and The Stepford Husbands, can be found in the Stomp Tokyo archives. Peruse them at your leisure, but the lesson to be learned is this: If someone gives you the choice of watching a movie starring Sarah Douglas or having a rabid woodchuck gnaw on your genitals, ask to see the size of the woodchuck.
Speaking of the walking dead...
Also gracing the film is Jimmie "J.J." Walker, who appears in a series of cameos. As the pimp-attired manager of the mummified corpse of Elvis Presley, Walker's job is to collect a check and allow his name to appear on the back of the video box. This way, b-movie gluttons like ourselves will look at the cast list and exclaim, "Hey, it's got Jimmie Walker! We gotta see this!" This behavior would be more explainable if Walker were not the sort of actor who prostituted his bygone celebrity in a film every year, but if we didn't react this way, we would not be the sort of people who reviewed bad movies for your reading pleasure.
Before seeing Monster Mash, we thought that the worst Universal monster-related jokes were reserved for The Munsters. But the alleged comedy in Monster Mash makes Herman Munster look positively hysterical. Let's peek in on our movie already in progress:
(Dracula pines for his homeland.)
Dracula: Translyvania, where the words "you suck" are a compliment.
(Later, Igor tells Dr. Frankenstein that he wants Mary as his plaything.)
Frankenstein: Igor, this is a side of you I've never seen before.
Igor(indicating his hump): There are sides of me I haven't seen before.
(Mink Stole bemoans the trials of parenting a werewolf.)
Wolfman's Mother: He's going through a phase... like puberty, only the beard is heavier.
Mel Brooks he ain't.
The only small bit of mercy Monster Mash shows to its audience is the exclusion of a few of the more well-worn monster jokes. For instance, Dracula does not ask to make a withdrawal from the blood bank, and no one claims to want his mummy. If Jimmie Walker's mummy saw this film, she'd probably ask how large the check was. Upon seeing it, we like to fantasize that she would then beat him over the head and shoulders with an oversized purse. Lord knows that's what we'd do, if ever presented with the opportunity.
Many musical films are excused weak dialogue or acting if their song-and-dance numbers are exceptional. Let's see how Monster Mash stacks up.
I'm Sorry the Bridge is Out
This show stopping number stops the show quite well, taking a full five minutes to express the concept that the bridge is out and our main characters must stay the night. The effect is that of really creepy dinner theater. Given the movie's origins as a stage play, this probably isn't far off the mark.
Play Your Hunch
"Is this the Planet Houston?"
This inspirational song proves what we heretofore only suspected: that jokes about songs about hunchbacks are much more amusing than the actual songs. (See The Tall Guy or The Critic for examples.) Stretched out beyond the initial joke, the song wears out its welcome fast. Still, it may be the best pro-scoliosis song ever.
On a Night Like This
Monster Mash attempts a sort of love ballad a la Disney's celebrity soundtracks. Tim Rice has never been needed more:
Tonight we're Romeo and Juliet
Tonight, tonight we won't forget
This is exciting and new
This is all overdue
All that's missing is kissing someone like you.
Don't try this unless you check
to see if Dracula is circumcised first.
Horribly bad blues pop. And who knew that Dracula had a Brooklyn accent?
Things a Mother Goes Through
Sung by the werewolf's mother:
I wanted you to be a doctor
Nothing else would do
I sent you to Johns Hopkins to study
And they wound up studying you
I don't mean to be so bitter
But you're really quite a hound
Find yourself a mate, have a litter, settle down
So basically, she wants her son to marry a bitch.
We were privileged enough to draw Joe "Opposable Thumbs" Bannerman as our film mentor in the "Secret Santas" B-Masters Roundtable. It was Joe's job to provide us with the worst film he could find; something that would send us into paralytic shock and render us unable to hit the stop button on the VCR for sheer horror of the things unfolding on screen. We'll say that he came darned close. How to repay him, should we get the chance? Well, there's this little Pia Zadora musical involving aliens we've been saving for a rainy day....