Universal // 1964 // 966 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 22nd, 2004
America's first family of fright in the first season of their classic sitcom!
Meet The Munsters...the oddest family you'll ever encounter! The Munsters never quite understand why strangers and neighbors flee whenever they're in sight. It could be because Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) is a mammoth Frankenstein's monster and Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) is his bride! Or maybe because their son, Eddie (Butch Patrick), is an elementary school kid obsessed with his double life as a werewolf child! Or, maybe it's the fact that their elderly patriarch, Grandpa (Al Lewis), works in their basement laboratory concocting strange potions, weird machines...and is always trying to suck everybody's blood! If you haven't caught on yet (and if not, you're as dense as hemoglobin), the Munsters are really monsters! Though they look frightful, Herman and his clan are really gentle, misunderstood citizens who have hearts of gold (with a slight black lining). Throw in their niece, the attractive Marilyn Munster (Beverly Owen) -- the only "normal" one of the family -- and you've got yourself one strange family unit. Come on in and sit a spell in the house at 1313 Mockingbird Lane...you'll have a horrifically good time!
Included on this three-disc set are the following episodes from the first season:
* Munster Masquerade
* My Fair Munster
* A Walk on the Mild Side
* Rock-a-Bye Munster
* Pike's Pique
* Low-Cal Munster
* Tin Can Man
* Herman the Great
* Knock Wood, Here Comes Charlie
* Autumn Croakus
* The Midnight Ride of Herman Munster
* The Sleeping Cutie
* Family Portrait
* Grandpa Leaves Home
* Herman's Rival
* Grandpa's Call of the Wild
* All Star Munster
* If a Martian Answers, Hang Up
* Eddie's Nickname
* Bats of a Feather
* Don't Bank on Herman
* Dance with Me, Herman
* Follow That Munster
* Love Locked Out
* Come Back, Little Googie
* Far Out Munsters
* Munsters on the Move
* Movie Star Munster
* Herman the Rookie
* Country Club Munsters
* Love Comes To Mockingbird Heights
* Mummy Munster
* Lily Munster, Girl Model
* Munster the Magnificent
* Herman's Happy Valley
* Hot Rod Herman
* Herman's Raise
* Yes, Galen, There Is a Herman
I wish I could tell you that The Munsters holds up well after 40 years. I really, really wanted to write in this review that the show is still fall down funny and filled with witty one-liners and plotlines that are the stuff of great comedy. Unfortunately, I'd be lying if I said any of that. The truth is that The Munsters isn't half as good as I remembered it to be. As a kid, I used to delight in the antics of Herman Munster and company, so different from all the other family units that dotted the television landscape. If I could time travel to 1982 I am sure I'd catch myself whooping it up over reruns of The Munsters on Fox. Ah, the innocence of childhood tastes...
And yet here I am, many moons later, writing that my inner child must have keeled over somewhere in the ensuing years. While I won't say that The Munsters is a terrible show -- because it is, at the very least, watchable entertainment -- it's often filled with groan-inducing dialogue, shoddy effects, and either stiff, corpse like acting or hammy gags that make Paul Lynde look like Charles Grodin. Did we actually find this stuff highly entertaining years ago? The Munsters is proof of how far we've come in TV since the format's inception -- watching this show made me feel like I was going backwards in the realm of entertainment evolution.
First, I'd like to say what I liked about The Munsters. The key to the film's success, I think, was Fred Gwynne's portrayal of the warmhearted Herman Munster. While Herman looks imposing, he's really a pussycat at heart. Watching the late Gwynne stomp around his house in a fit of anger (and sometimes excitement) while the camera shakes steadily did get me chuckling a bit. And Gwynne's patented facial expressions (often child-like and goofy) are the stuff of comic gold. If the show was low on good writing and acting, at least its lead character was more than endearing to the audience.
Yet Gwynne's presence on the show doesn't mask the fact that the whole thing feels like a one-note joke stretched past its breaking point. How many horror puns can one viewer listen to before finally turning the station to see what's happening on reruns of Dallas? Only a few, I'd guess, which is exactly how I felt only a few episodes into the first season (and to think, it lasted almost five years). Al Lewis's Grandpa just shrugs a lot and mugs for the camera, while De Carlo plays straight man to Gwynne's bumbling Herman. Most of the peripheral characters and guest stars have only two objectives: look really, really scared whenever they come face to face with any of the Munsters and run away in film footage whose speed has been cranked up ten notches. Obviously, this gets old very quickly. Though the show sometimes pays a well-meaning homage to such classic Universal horror films as Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man, it's not enough to sustain an entire television series.
Recently I wrote a review of the 1980s comedy serious Diff'rent Strokes with fond affection. When push comes to shove, neither of these "classic" shows was really very good. Yet something in me loved Gary Coleman's antics time after time, while Herman's family quickly began to bore me. If you grew up with The Munsters on your TV, this set may be something that you'll cherish. As for this review, I'll stick with the classics that inspired the series any old day.
Each episode of The Munsters is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, the show's original aspect ratio. Each episode is in black and white and looks better than expected. While there are a few minor imperfections in the image (including some dirt from time to time), overall Universal has done a fine job of cleaning up each print. Though the show won't win any awards for transfer quality, fans will be happy to see the show looking far better than the old TV reruns they'll remember.
The soundtracks are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in English. There isn't a whole lot to say about each mix -- the dialogue, music, and effects are all well heard. Mono is fine -- certainly The Munsters was not a show that required a hefty 5.1 remix. Also included on these discs are English and Spanish subtitles.
Fans of this series will be sorely disappointed that there isn't a single extra feature to be found, save for some boring previews of other upcoming Universal TV shows on DVD and an unaired pilot (in color!) that isn't very good. Hey, Al Lewis and Butch Patrick are still around -- why no interviews with the two of them? Feature wise, this isn't a set to sink your fangs into.
Review content copyright © 2004 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 966 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Unaired Pilot Episode