Little known fact: After the series ended, Judge Kent Dixon's family adopted Spot and he's been a proud demon pet owner ever since.
Our reviews of The Munsters: The Complete First Season (published September 22nd, 2004), The Munsters: The Complete Second Season (published November 9th, 2005), The Munsters: Family Portrait (published October 16th, 2008), The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas (published November 9th, 2007), and The Munsters: The First Family Of Fright (published August 4th, 2004) are also available.
Lily Munster: "Herman tried to build a ship inside a bottle. We had to break the bottle to get him out."
Grandpa Munster: "Hmm. What smells so good?"
At a time when the sit-com was king, a loveable family of kind-hearted monsters moved into middle-class America, leaving their timeless mark for generations to come.
Facts of the Case
Herman (Fred Gwynne), Lily (Yvonne De Carlo), Grandpa (Al Lewis), Marilyn (Pat Priest/Beverley Owen) and Eddie Munster (Butch Patrick) are as normal as any other middle-class American family, experiencing the same triumphs and challenges. Oh, but did I mention that four out of five of them are monsters?
This release includes all 70 episodes of The Munsters, divided into season one and season two sets that sit together inside a larger box. The episodes are spread across 10 discs as follows:
Season One, Disc One:
Season One, Disc Two:
Season One, Disc Three:
Season One, Disc Four:
Season One, Disc Five:
Season One, Disc Six:
Season Two, Disc One:
Season Two, Disc Two:
Season Two, Disc Three:
Season Two, Disc Four:
The situation comedy has been a tried and true staple of North American television since the 1940s, when popular radio personalities like Jack Benny, and Burns and Allen, and film comedians like Abbott and Costello, adapted their acts for the new TV medium. By the 1960s, the sitcom really came into its own, with now-legendary shows like I Love Lucy paving the way. Desi Arnaz is often credited as one of the pioneers of the sit-com, and was the first to use multi-camera coverage and record all episodes for possible future use.
As a fan of comedic TV and entertainment trivia junkie for most of my life now, it has always amazed me that many of the most experimental and innovative sit-com concepts come from the 1960s. The '60s gave us the first animated primetime sitcom as The Flintstones brought their stone age antics into North American homes for six seasons and 166 episodes. Shows like My Favorite Martian, I Dream of Jeannie, and Bewitched incorporated more fantastical elements to liven up more traditional sitcom fare. It was an interesting twist, as it gave viewers an off-the-wall look at traditional middle-class life and everyday situations through the eyes of fantastical characters. This unique approach carried on into the '80s and '90s with shows like Mork and Mindy and Third Rock From the Sun but the real hey-day for these unique concepts seems to have really been anchored in the '60s.
For whatever reason, the '60s also saw a revival in the popularity of classic Universal monsters like Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein. So in line with the popularity of off-the-wall sit-com concepts and the revival of public interest in monsters, TV studios began giving serious thought to concepts that would marry the two. Although ABC was first out of the gate with The Addams Family, their live-action version of American cartoonist Charles Addams' characters that appeared in The New Yorker magazine, CBS was hot on their heels with The Munsters. A 15 minute unaired pilot episode, included in the extra features on this release, was used to pitch the show to CBS executives and the show was added to the primetime roster in September 1964. Luckily, since Universal produced The Munsters TV series, the production was free from any pesky legal issues that could have precluded them from using the copyrighted, and internationally recognizable Universal monster designs.
Although similar in many ways, the main distinction between The Munsters and The Addams Family was that while the Addams Family characters saw themselves as different from and often superior to their "normal" neighbors, The Munsters saw themselves as the same as their neighbors, with nothing unusual or shocking about themselves or their lifestyle. CBS should be congratulated for airing a show that indirectly addressed such important social issues as racial prejudice and fear of the unknown, pleasantly wrapped in a non-threatening and endearing package.
While viewer appetites for monster-themed sit-com fare started off strong in the early '60s, it wasn't long before new concepts like the campy and colorful Batman series took the wind out of The Munsters' sails, landing the series on the cancellation list, driving a stake into the heart of fans around the world. As is the case with many series since the '60s, The Munsters gained real cult status as the show entered syndication and fans still gather at conventions to celebrate one of the most unique and endearing series in TV history.
Although the unaired pilot episode was shot in color, the additional $10,000 expense to shoot the show in color versus black and white on a weekly basis wasn't in the budget, so the majority of the content include in this release is in the original black and white. Psycho, The Day The Earth Stood Still and The Creature From the Black Lagoon are three of my all-time favorite films, so I have no prejudices about black and white presentations, and given the nature of the show, black and white really does add to the overall flavor and appeal. There is a moderate amount of grain throughout the black and white material, and some minimal dirt and damage, but there's nothing so serious that it harms the overall viewing experience. Both the Munster, Go Home! and The Munsters' Revenge feature-length movies and the other featurettes are included in their original color, and I have no complaints with the picture quality.
Originally recorded in mono, the majority of the audio content is reproduced in mono here as well. I was amazed to find that even the original episode sound mixes have stood the test of time well, boasting clear dialogue, music and laugh track mixes (if the laugh tracks seem familiar, that's because you've heard them on both The Flintstones and Gilligan's Island). As can be expected from more recent productions, the featurettes deliver well-balanced and crisp audio as well. You won't find either reference quality audio or video here, but fans of the series will likely not expect that level of quality either.
Although there isn't a huge volume or variety of extra features, Universal had shown care in the choices they've made here, included on the two full discs that round out the set. The unaired pilot episode is a welcome treat, as viewers get to see the earliest incarnation of the show before some slight casting, theme music, and opening credit sequence changes cast the look and feel of the show in stone, and the season one episode "Family Portrait" is also included in color on disc two of the first season. The two feature-length productions Munster, Go Home! and The Munsters' Revenge returned to 1313 Mockingbird Lane (the Munsters' home address), with some slight cast changes and in glorious blue/grey-skinned full color. While little more than longer episodes of the series and not otherwise memorable, the color adds a welcome new dimension after watching the series' 70 monochromatic weekly episodes.
Sure to be a treat for true-blue Munsters fans, the "America's First Family of Fright!" featurette delves deeply into the show's history, from early concept development and casting to the merchandising and legacy of the show. The "Fred Gwynne: More Than a Munster," "Yvonne De Carlo: Gilded Lily," and "Al Lewis: Forever Grandpa" featurettes deliver in-depth looks at the lives and careers of the three actors who anchored the show and were arguably responsible for much of its broad appeal and longevity.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The real tragedy has nothing to do with this release specifically, but with the fact that Munsters mania reached such a fever pitch so quickly and burned out before its time.
Despite some attempts to reboot or modernize the concept, most notably the series The Munsters Today which ran for 72 episodes between 1988 until 1991, the original series is still the best. Available for just over $50 on Amazon, The Munsters: The Complete Series really is a monstrous (sorry!) value for the money. With all 70 episodes of the show's run, as well as two feature film releases, bonus episodes, and a wealth of extra footage included, fans of Universal monsters, sit-coms or The Munsters really can't go wrong buying this set.
Wisely timed to release just before Halloween season, The Munsters: The Complete Series is a treat of the highest order, with a few tricks thrown in for good measure. Villagers…put those torches and pitchforks down and let my Munsters go!
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Scales of Justice
• Unaired pilot episode
Review content copyright © 2008 Kent Dixon; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.