When I was a kid, I wanted to live at 1313 Mockingbird Heights so badly, it wasn't funny. I became a fan in my childhood via the show's syndicated package of re-runs' uncanny ability to turn up.....like a bad penny.... (haw haw, there's an example of the type of punny one-liner humor the show capitalized on!) ...on local independent stations.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, the team behind Leave It To Beaver (who had also written the majority of the 1950s Amos n Andy television show), pitched the show to CBS in 1964. Oddly, the show plays like the exploits of the Cleaver family....if Ward was a re-animated corpse.
The Munsters debuted on the CBS network in September of 1964, and almost immediately became a cultural icon. The show's odd mix of macabre humor, slapstick comedy, and the occasional aforementioned punny one-liner evident in the first aired episode ("Munster Masquerade", 9/24/1964) set the pace for the show, which sadly only lasted one more season beyond the one contained on this wonderful 3 disc DVD set.
Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis (both Car 54, Where Are You? alumni) play the pair of family patriarchs: Herman Munster , a Karloff Frankenstein-like father figure and Sam Dracula (betcha didn't know that was Grandpa Munster 's given name...told ya I was a big fan) with the same "Mutt and Jeff" fervor they exhibited on Car 54. Yvonne De Carlo served as the inspiration for many a contemporary goth as Lily Munster, housewife of the undead. Butch Patrick shows the Connelly/Mosher influence the most, basically by portraying ragamuffin Eddie Munster as a "Beav" clone...only with fangs. The Munsters' "ugly duckling" niece, Marilyn, was at first actress Beverly Owen, who left the show after 3 episodes, with Pat Priest filling the role in late 1964, and continuing for the remainder of the show's 70 episodes.
Highlights of the set include the first episode, "Munster Masquerade", in which the Munster clan are invited by one of Marilyn's many terrified suitors to his parents' costume ball, and "Hot Rod Herman", a personal favorite of mine, which originally broadcast on 5/27/1965 , that introduced the world to the automotive wonder, the Drag-ula. This set includes all 38 episodes of the first season, as well as the un-aired 15 minute color pilot.
Clean, crisp picture....Universal definitely is a studio that knows how to run their vaults. Even the unaired 15 minute color pilot is sharp and showing no real signs of deterioration.
None to speak of, with the exception of plot summary pages at the beginning of each episode. But seeing as how the set contains a little over 16 hours of material, that can be forgiven.
Though not offered as a supplement of the set, but instead as part of the regular episode listings and scene selection, the unaired color pilot, titled "My Fair Munster" is of special interest (the second broadcast episode of the black and white series seems to be a reworking of this script). It features Joanne Marshall as Phoebe (playing the originally intended family matriarch with more vamp and sexuality than De Carlo's Lily), Beverly Owen as Marilyn, and Happy Derman as a more feral Eddie, reminding one almost of the Feral Kid from THE ROAD WARRIOR. It also features a completely different opening title sequence with what sounds to be Universal sound vault stock music. Plus, being the pilot for an unsold show, it looks to possess just a tad bit more production value than what is normally found in these types of things, even if it looks as if the final design for Gwynne's "Herman" make-up was still in the works. The appliances used in the pilot seem to be just a tad off, but this may be my Munster fanatic eye playing tricks on me. For a nice comparison, feel free to stop by this page, a site dedicated to a compare and contrast of the two versions of "My Fair Munster".
Created during the "monster craze" of the mid 1960s, and as endearing as ever today, The Munsters: The Complete First Season is a fun harkening back to an era when television sitcoms could be enjoyed by the whole family....even if they contained a little gruesome humor. Sure the jokes and laughs are corny and hokey....but they are BIG laughs, the whole-hearted kind that can only come from something truly endearing.
Anthony Conn, aka The Hong Kong Cavalier, 10/20/2004