Universal // 1964 // 25 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // October 16th, 2008
A terrifyingly bad deal.
I may as well start this review out with some full disclosure: this is the first exposure I've had to watch of The Munsters, and I've never been a huge fan of classic television.
Now that's out of the way, let's talk about The Munsters: Family Portrait. The disc contains a single episode of the classic show, in both the original black and white and a colored version. In it, the Munsters have won a contest as the most average American family, and they need to get ready for the journalists to arrive. Unfortunately, Grandpa doesn't want any part of it, and they're afraid they will lose both the money and the honor.
There's no question that The Munsters came from a more innocent television era. It's a show that loves the classic Hollywood horror movies, and successfully creates a sitcom around them. This episode is filled with a heartfelt earnestness that does make it work still, as well as enough irony to prevent it from being totally mindless. You can almost imagine that the creators wanted to make a statement about racism with The Munsters, highlighting that appearances don't prevent others from experiencing the same American dream.
I don't want to talk much about the episode, though. After all, there's only one on the disc, so there isn't that much to talk about. Instead, I want to talk about the release of this episode as a complete package. A quick trip over to Amazon reveals some odd numbers. A full season of the show costs just under $20. This disc retails for almost as much, but it only contains one episode. Serious fans will argue that the process of colorization isn't cheap -- which is probably true -- but that's a lot of money to spend. While the back cover claims a running time of 51 minutes, they are counting both versions of the same episode, making it really only a 25-minute running time. They don't even bother slapping any extras on with it.
Compounding this problem is the whole issue of colorization. While the loyal fan base may not actually care, the series was shot on black and white, and was meant to be seen in black and white. As such, it replicates the look and feel of the classic horror films that it spoofs. The black and white version looks fantastic, with great black levels and contrast. It doesn't follow the usual high key lighting schemes of other sitcoms. As soon as it's colorized, though, that rich contrast is lost in favor of garish colors. Neither transfer is bad, really, it's just that the color changes the whole feel of the show.
In the end, The Munsters: Family Portrait isn't a very good bargain. Unless "Family Portrait" is your favorite episode of The Munsters and you don't really care about the rest of the series, I would recommend purchasing the whole season for $3 more. That way, you can enjoy this episode as it was meant to be seen, as well as 31 other episodes (at just over 9 cents each).
The Munsters: Family Portrait is guilty of trying to steal the hard-earned money of fans.
Review content copyright © 2008 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 25 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated