Starring: Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Beverley Owen, Pat Priest, Butch Patrick
- All thirty-eight first season episodes
- Unaired fifteen minute pilot episode in color
Released by: Universal
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format
My Advice: Fans should own.
Meet the Munsters. Poor Marilyn (Owen, then later Priest). She’s the black sheep of the family, since she’s the only mehum of the bunch. Healthy skin tone, blonde hair–her family feels so sorry for her. Her uncle Herman (Gwynne) is ostensibly Frankenstein‘s monster. Her aunt Lily (De Carlo) is the Bride of Frankenstein, while Grandpa (Lewis) is a descendent of Dracula. Herman and Lily’s son, Eddie (Patrick), is a delightful little wolf-boy. So yes, poor Marilyn. But happy us, for such easy pickings for comedy.
[ad#longpost]Yes, that’s The Munsters for you. One of two very famous sitcoms starring creatures and the only one so far to not be translated into a major motion picture…but they’re working on it. The premise of the show is fairly simple. If the monsters live among us, what happens? Well, misunderstandings, lots of ordinary folks getting scared and whacky “hair-raising” effects all around. At the time it came out, I’m sure it did well, but sadly, like most sitcoms, it can get old fairly quickly. The penchant to fall back on monster-related puns and one-liners is ingrained in the show, and it was the easy way out to pull comedy from this premise–a shame that they did so so often.
Gwynne is obviously the focus of attention, not just because he’s the patriarch of the household but also due to the fact he’s so freaking large. His gentle mannerisms and malleable expressions sell the part and make him so remarkably affable. It’s his work that makes the series work as much as it does. The real standout of the series for me, though, is Al Lewis. He gets the best bits, has the best lines, and works them like a champion. Even when the show gets tiresome and you feel like you’ve seen all the gags before, everything with Lewis in it still feels fresh.
The set is not exactly stacked, but the one item it does have to offer is a boon for fans. The fifteen minute pilot included here is what originally sold the series to CBS and never aired. It’s a very different piece of work. First up, the characters are different. The Lily character was originally called Phoebe (played by Joan Marshall), and she was a very Morticia-like character, very different from the Lily we know. Also, Happy Derman played Eddie, and apparently had been directed to act like a wolf-brat instead of a wolf-boy. The character begs to be punted off the screen.
By far the weirdest part of watching the pilot is that it’s in color. The Munsters in color is wrong in a way that I can’t quite explain to you. It’s not just that the series we’re used to was in black and white, it’s that the characters look like crap. Herman, for example, is bluish and it’s glaringly obvious where his real forehead ends and the prosthetics begin. Maybe that was the inspiration for the They Might Be Giants song. Who knows. Luckily, CBS agreed with me, and shot the thing in black and white instead.
The set is for fans, pure and simple. I believe at this writing it’s airing on TV Land, so if you just want to catch the episodes, that might be your best bet. If you are a fan, though, the clarity of the video will draw you into this, as well as the chance to catch the unaired pilot.