The Munsters (1964)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Creature Film, Domestic Comedy, Sitcom [TV]  |   Run Time - 30 min.  |   Countries - United States   |  
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Synopsis by Hal Erickson

One of two "monster spoof" sitcoms debuting during the 1964-1965 season, CBS's The Munsters premiered September 24, 1964, one day before ABC's The Addams Family, and was canceled after two seasons on September 1, 1966 -- one day before The Addams Family. Filmed at Universal, The Munsters took advantage of that studio's stable of copyright horror movie "stars," reconfiguring them in a farcical fashion. A crumbly old mansion at 1313 Mockingbird Lane was the home of Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne), a seven-foot-tall dead ringer for the Frankenstein monster, right down to the flat head and bolts in the neck. Herman's spouse, Lily (Yvonne de Carlo, top-billed because of her stellar film career), was a cross between Elsa Lanchester's Bride of Frankenstein (note that white streak in her black tresses) and TV horror-show hostess Vampira (note the garish makeup, chalk-white face, and flowing, tattered gowns). Lily's grandfather Grandpa Munster (Al Lewis), a 350-year-old vampire who looked like a desiccated Count Dracula (and who, true to his batlike heritage, slept upside down, hanging by his heels) was a genially mad scientist -- he had "built" Herman centuries before -- whose various laboratory concoctions tended to blow up in his face. Rounding out the Munster clan was Herman and Lily's son, Eddie, a ten-year-old werewolf (but a nice one), and their gorgeous niece Marilyn, the only normal-looking member of the family -- who conversely regarded herself as abnormal and blamed herself whenever her potential boyfriends fled in terror after meeting the rest of the Munsters. Though the family spent most of their time around the house, tending to such family pets as their dragon, Spot, Herman had to make a living, so he worked as general labor at the Gateman, Goodbury & Graves funeral home. Despite his fearsome appearance, Herman was a gentle, timid, childlike soul; similarly, the rest of the Munsters were basically good-natured and goodhearted, though their personal habits and tastes were macabre to say the least. The series was sold to CBS in the form of a 15-minute pilot episode, lensed in color, in which Joan Marshall played the Munsters' beautiful niece (here named Phoebe) and Happy Derman played Eddie. By the time the series began, Beverly Owen and Butch Patrick had been respectively cast as Marilyn and Eddie. Having agreed to appear in the second pilot film but not the series, former beauty contest winner Beverly Owen left the show after 13 episodes; for the remainder of the series, Marilyn would be played by Pat Priest, whose chief claim to fame at the time was that she was the niece of former secretary of the treasury Ivy Baker Priest. Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis had previously co-starred on Car 54, Where Are You? Intriguingly, the unorthodox The Munsters boasted the behind-the-camera talents of several people who'd worked on the extremely orthodox sitcom Leave It to Beaver, including producers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher and director Norman Abbott. (The "Munster mansion" still stands on the Universal backlot -- right next door to the former home of Leave It to Beaver's Cleaver family.) In 1966, a theatrical feature based on the property was released under the title Munster, Go Home! Originally intended as a TV movie, this film featured the entire original cast, save for Debbie Watson, who replaced Pat Priest as Marilyn. Later Munsters spin-offs included a 1978 "retro" TV special and the syndicated The Munsters Today, which boasted a brand-new cast and aired from 1988 to 1991. Though filmed in color, this latter-day incarnation of The Munsters was later put into black-and-white to be compatible with the original reruns!



Dracula, Frankenstein, funeral-parlor, mad-scientist, vampire, werewolf