Time to get out the Halloween records and play them through the living room windows! These two classic monster recordings may not be window-worthy, but they’re important for their place in animation-related history.
MONSTER SHINDIG STARRING SUPER SNOOPER & BLABBERMOUSE
Hanna-Barbera Records HLP-1201 (Mono) Album Released in 1965.
CREDITS: Writer/Director: Charles Shows. Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Music: Hoyt Curtin. Cover Art Direction: Willie Ito. Cover Artist: Ron Dias.
Voices: Paul Frees (Super Snooper, Weirdly Gruesome, Count Dracula, Frankenstein Monster, The Wolfman, TV Announcer, Dr. Frank N. Stein, Fireman); June Foray (Blabbermouse, Phone Caller, Creepella Gruesome, Gobby Gruesome, Granny Witch); Danny Hutton and The Hanna-Barbera Singers. Running Time: 40 minutes.
Songs: “Monster Shindig,” Super Snooper,” “The Monster Jerk.”
This is the first in what I hope will eventually be a regular look at every Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Series LP, among the most beguiling and sought-after animation-related records ever created.
Monster Shindig was the first catalog number in the first wave of HBR releases, all of them featuring art by Ron Dias and design by Willie Ito, both legendary artists with phenomenal careers in print, film and TV with Disney, Warner, H-B and many others. Even if a particular HBR release isn’t your cup of tea, the cover art is always mighty impressive indeed.
This album might be described as a dramatization of Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s 1962 novelty hit, “Monster Mash.” The idea of multiple monsters having a celebration is a sure way to please both classic monster fans and kids—and the mid-60s were a time when monsters, both scary and comedic, reached a pop culture peak. Today we have zombies and vampires all over the big and small screen, but it’s not in the same vein (sorry).
As in one of their cartoons, Super and Blabber begin their adventure in their office and get a phone call from a neighbor of the Gruesomes, complaining of the noise (giving the sound editor the first chance to splice together three sets of sound effect mash-ups). We’re not supposed to care that the Gruesomes were from the stone age, since they’re ghouls anyway and could have lived for thousands of years (and besides, it’s Hanna-Barbera, so why sweat the logic of the premise?).
Creepella and Weirdly have gathered all the monsters for some dancing and mingling, but especially so Dr. Frank N. Stein can unveil his latest—and very mysterious—creation. Along the way, we get lots of goofy puns and always-delightful HB library music. Writer/Director Charles Shows, who is credited with every HBR Cartoon Series record, begins his penchant for running gags between record albums.
I always got a kick out of how the songs “Monster Shindig” and “The Monster Jerk” are heard whenever a character turns on a radio or TV on subsequent albums. On this record, we hear a funny reference to Magilla Gorilla (mentioning other H-B characters is another running gag). Snooper and Blabber’s “Blab we are the police, remember?” gag pops up on their James Bomb album, too.
The most discussed aspect of HBRs is the casting of actors for character voices. While Snooper and Blabber were both voiced on TV by Daws Butler, Monster Shindig comes as a bit of shock to fans when they hear Paul Frees as Snoop and June Foray as Blab. The speculation of why this occurred never seems to end (and you can hear and read much fascinating information about it at the archives at stusshow.com and through Mark Evanier at newsfromme.com).
Maybe it was a contractual issue that affected Butler’s tie to Colpix Records, or the fact that Butler wasn’t doing the volume of voices for H-B in 1965 as he was in the late 50s/early 60s. My guess is that Shows booked the recording times and brought in whoever was available to do multiple albums at once in the same sessions. The actors were likely given some audio reference and maybe watched a cartoon, and then recorded all the way through. Studio time is expensive and HBRs were made at a lightning pace with low budgets.
By the way, you can hear a snippet of Don Messick doing a doggie whimper at one point on Monster Shindig. I would imagine a “voice effect” did not offer residuals — that’s why you heard Howard Morris’s “Dyah-dyah-deeeya-duh” every once in a while on HB cartoons. Speaking of Morris, who was the original voice of Weirdly, he’s replaced on this record by Frees. Naomi Lewis originated Creepella’s voice, but it is done on the LP by Foray.
Casting issues aside, the performances of Frees and Foray are spectacular, doing literally every voice. I love it when they all say goodbye—and it’s just two people! They’re amazing, and it’s important to note that, even though some of their voices resemble others they have done elsewhere, they’re not the same. Creepella is not Natasha. Mrs. Gruesome has a sunnier attitude, as if she were a society matron in The Hamptons who loved to throw big bashes (and likes to roll up rugs). Granny Witch is not Witch Hazel, but a more zesty ol’ babe, reminiscent of the lively old lady on Fibber McGee and Molly (“Wa-HOO!”).
Paul Frees’ Weirdly is a cousin of the Peter Lorre impression that, when he did it for Spike Jones on the record “My Old Flame,” even impressed the real Lorre. But Frees’ Weirdly isn’t quite as bloodthirsty. He may go into fits at times, but it doesn’t have the degree of menace of his Lorre impression.
As for Frees’ and Foray’s takes on Snooper and Blabber, it’s interesting to hear how these pros interpret the characters. That’s how I look at it today anyway, even though when I was a kid, I actually returned the condensed 45RPM story version of Monster Shindig because it didn’t have “the real voices.” I’ve since come to terms with it and have grown fond of the album.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
One of the best of the HBR Cartoon Series, this catchy tune really could have become a perennial Halloween hit. It’s performed by Danny Hutton, who later found fame with the pop group Three Dog Night. “Monster Shindig” was the “B” side of Hutton’s minor hit, “Roses and Rainbows“. Read more about Hutton’s HBR days here.
MAD MONSTER PARTY
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack; Retrograde/Percepto Records FSM-80125-2 (Mono); Soundtrack Album Released in 1998; Film Released in 1967.
CREDITS: Original Album Producer/Composer: Maury Laws. Lyrics: Jules Bass. Mixers: Maury Laws, Andy Wiswell. Premiere Album Executive Producer: Taylor White. Associate Producer: Eric Singley. Creative Consultant/Liner Notes: Rick Goldschmidt. Chief Art Director: Doug Ranney. Cover Design: Reid Thompson. Digital Mastering: Daniel Hersch. Executive Producer: Lucas Kendall. Design Director: Joe Sikoryak. Feature Film Producer: Arthur Rankin, Jr. Associate Producer: Larry Roemer. Director: Jules Bass. Album Running Time: 37 minutes.
Voices: Boris Karloff (Baron Von Frankenstein); Phyllis Diller (The Monster’s Mate); Gale Garnett (Francesca); Title Song Sung by Ethel Ennis.
Songs: “Mad Monster Party,” “You’re Different,” “The Mummy,” “Our Time to Shine,” “One Step Ahead,” “Never Was a Love Like Mine.”
Instrumentals: “The Baron,” “Waltz for a Witch,” “Cocktails,” “The Bash,” “Jungle Madness,” “Mad Monster Party,” “The Baron Into Battle,” “Transylvania, All Hail,” “Pursuit,” “Requiem for a Loser,” “Finale.”
Since it has such a similar premise, it seemed fitting to include the landmark Rankin/Bass Animagic stop-motion feature along with Monster Shindig. I can’t speak as eloquently about MMP as Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt, who authored a book about the film, but this post will focus more on the soundtrack album.
Rankin/Bass composer/arranger Maury Laws may have been the only person on Earth who had a copy of the MMP soundtrack album. As the film credits proclaim, we were supposed to find the RCA Victor album in stores, but it was never released. What you hear on this disc is Laws’ mono test pressing. The songs sound about the same as you might hear them in the DVD and Blu-ray without sound effects.
The joy of hearing the sound track albums of Mad Monster Party and The Daydreamer is that the scores contain so much of the emerging Laws/Bass style and versatility. The Daydreamer vinyl Columbia LP has the classic fairy tale sound of Rankin/Bass musical fantasies with their trademark soaring strings, woodblocks and familiar Laws “hooks.” MMP offers the R/B jazz, adventure and comedy arrangements and songs, complete with tack piano, guitar twangs and bongos.
Boris Karloff talk-sings “One Step Ahead,” a track created on two continents, as described in Goldschmidt’s liner notes. In the unforgettable Jessica Rabbit-like role of Francesca, Gale “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” Garnett gets two songs. Phyllis Diller’s “You’re Different” was a special treat for her to record, as she was rarely given songs to sing and she hired a piano just to practice on her own. Sadly, Allen Swift, who voices everyone else in the movie (except for the title song by jazz singer Ethel Ennis), is not to be found on the album as none of his characters, even Felix Flanken, got their own song.
If you’re shopping for the Mad Monster Party Blu-ray, it looks pretty good. The figures and sets are easier to see and enjoy (Diller’s character has a tiny, detailed mouth!). However there are some scratches that were probably too costly to paint out digitally. If you still have the 2007 Anchor Bay DVD, you may want to hang onto it as well, because the extras differ and that package also has a booklet and postcards.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Waltz for a Witch”
Maury Laws may have created this bouncy background piece for Mad Monster Party, but many fans of Here Comes Peter Cottontail will also recognize it from the Halloween sequence. Enjoy hearing it as a complete musical piece without any dialogue or sound effects!