The Munsters: Season One

The Munsters

The Munsters began in 1964 and ran for only a couple of years but as unlikely as it may seem it continues to have quite a fan base.

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Not all television shows have to make sense at all; in fact some of the most beloved shows of all time have been nonsense. Definitively one series that is in this category is the Munster series. The show began in 1964 and ran for only a couple of years but as unlikely as it may seem it continues to have quite a fan base. The premise is simple, take a loving, close knit family and populate it with monster movie favorites. There is the head of the family, Herman (Fred Gwynne) a Frankenstein’s Monster, his wife Lily (Yvonne De Carlo), an Elvira look alike, their son Eddie (Butch Patrick), a wolf-boy and Grandpa (Al Lewis), the original Dracula and mad scientist. Oh yes, there is also a cousin, Marilyn (Beverley Owen) who is seen by the family as horribly plain but is actually an all American beauty. Despite the outer appearance of most of the family there is a real love between them. Ironically, this is one of the most functional families depicted on television.

The plots are extremely light hearted; no serious topics are to be found here. Usually, Grandpa invents some potion or device that results is mirthful havoc or Herman, in his good natured way will bumble into trouble. In all cases the family rallies around and pulls together to resolve the problem. What may be a big part of the appeal here is this is an idealistic family. The series was popular during one of the most turbulent times in American history. The Viet Nam war was ramping up to deadly proportions, the civil rights movement was becoming violent and the country was still reeling from political assignations. With all this tumult surrounding the nation the audience was not really in the mood for serious television. What was required was something to forget the horrible images on the evening news and just forget for a half an hour. The Munsters where one of the series on television that provide that sorely needed break from the troubles of the day.

Following a recent trend the studios are now releasing television shows like this on DVD. The natural market demographic is obviously those of the generation that remember sitting in front of the tube when these shows first aired. Now a new generation is also faced with a turbulent time and thanks to DVDs like this are finding the same relief as we did some forty years ago. Yes, the show is outright silly but after a day of watching CNN what is wrong with a laugh or two.

The cast of The Munsters was a mixture of well know television character actors, film stars and unknowns. Fred Gwynne had just come off a successful run in the popular Car 54 Where are You and the Phil Silvers show. He had also been in On the Waterfront opposite Marlon Brando. Yvonne De Carlo was already well known for some sixty films including The Ten Commandments when she took on Lily. Al Lewis was another alumni of Car 54 when he took his place in this cast. Beverley Owen was only Marilyn for the first season. She came from one popular soap opera before the Munsters and returned to the soaps soon after she left.

All 38 episodes of The Munsters first season are presented in this box set. This naturally includes the now famous episode Hot Rod Herman which introduced the souped up hearse and drag racing coffin on wheels. These two vehicles are two of the most famous cars ever on television ranking up there with the Batmobile.

The Munsters box set’s covers present green tinted portraits of the lead characters, very reminiscent and an obvious spoof on Universal’s popular horror film classic sets. Also included is the never before seen original pilot used to sell The Munsters show to the studio executives. While not really a complete episode it is notable for a couple of reasons. It was filmed in color, unlike the series black and white format. It also featured two different actors in lead roles. Instead of Lily Herman’s wife was named Phoebe played by Joan Marshall. Happy Derman took on the role of Eddie playing him more as a feral character than Butch Patrick took the role. It is interesting to see just how The Munsters series was pitched to the people in charge. While several changes where made before production the core heart of the show was there from the start.

The Munsters shows hold up well from a technical standpoint. The black and white video does show some signs of age but are typically clear. There are some flecks in most episodes but after all The Munsters is a forty year old television show. The mono audio was remixed to two channel Dolby. Over all the sound was clear and the dialogue always understandable.

For those like myself that remember The Munsters back in 1964 it is a trip down memory lane. I have seen the episodes so many times back then it was like revisiting an old friend. For newer viewers tired of the constant reruns on television The Munsters : Season One will be a source of some good laughs.

Movie Review of The Munsters: Season One by Doug MacLean of

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