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The Munsters is a 1960s Americanmarker television sitcom depicting the home life of a family of monsters. The show was a satire of both traditional monster movies and popular family entertainment of the era, such as Leave It to Beaver. It ran concurrently with the The Addams Family. Although the Addamses were well-to-do, the Munsters were a more blue-collar family. The Munsters also had higher Nielsen ratings than The Addams Family.

The idea of a family of funny monsters was first suggested to Universal Studios in the late 1940s by animator Bob Clampett, who wanted to do a series of cartoons. He never got a reply.

In the early 1960s, a treatment or 'format' for a similar idea was submitted to Universal Studios by Rocky & Bullwinkle writers, Allan Burns and Chris Hayward. This format was later handed to writers Norm Liebman and Ed Haas who wrote a pilot script Love Thy Monster. For some time, there were executives who believed the series should be made as a cartoon and others who wanted to see it made using live action. Finally, a presentation was filmed by MCA Television for CBS, using live action.

The show aired at night once a week in black-and-white on the CBS Television Network from September 24, 1964 to May 12, 1966, for 70 episodes. It was cancelled after ratings dropped to an all-time low due to the premiere of ABC's Batman, which was in full color. The Munsters has continued in syndication ever since. It was popular enough to warrant a clone series and several movies.

Characters

The Munster family

The family, while decidedly odd, consider themselves fairly typical working-class Americans of the era. Herman, like many husbands of 1960s, is the sole wage-earner in the family, though Lily and Grandpa make (short-lived) attempts to earn a little money from time to time. While Herman is titular "head of household," Lily actually makes most of the decisions.

Despite superficial similarities of eccentric characters incongruent with their communities and a generally gothic look, this and Addams Family have some differences in the style of series, and the characters. Overall, the characters of The Addams Family were eccentric people with a gothic look, while the Munsters were a regular, blue-collar family of legendary monsters.

The costumes and appearances of the family members other than Marilyn were based on the classic monsters of Universal Studios films from the 1930s and 1940s. Universal produced The Munsters, as well, and thus were able to use these copyrighted designs, including their idiosyncratic version of Frankenstein's monster for Herman. Other studios were free to make films with the Frankenstein creature, for example, but could not use the costume and makeup originally created for the 1931 Universal Studios film, Frankenstein.

Regulars

Character Actor/Actress
Herman Munster Fred Gwynne
Lily Munster Yvonne De Carlo
Grandpa Al Lewis
Eddie Munster Butch Patrick
Marilyn Munster Beverley Owen / Pat Priest
The Raven Mel Blanc / Bob Hastings


Recurring guests

Character Actor/Actress
Edward H. Dudley, MD Paul Lynde / Dom DeLuise
Mr. Gateman John Carradine
Clyde Thornton Chet Stratton


Production notes

The pitch episode

The first presentation was 15 minutes long (later cut to just over 13 minutes) and was used to pitch the series to CBS and its affiliates. It was made in color, and though it never aired, it was re-shot and used as the basis for the episode, "My Fair Munster." The cast in order of appearance in the title sequence were: Joan Marshall as Phoebe (instead of Lily), Beverley Owen as Marilyn, Nate "Happy" Derman as Eddie, Al Lewis as Grandpa and Fred Gwynne as Herman. The same house (exterior) was used but before later changes were made to it to make it look more gothic and "spooky" (such as the addition of the tower deck and Marilyn's deck, a new coat of paint, and enlargement of the living room). Grandpa had the same dungeon. Herman did not have padding, and was broad but thin. The most noticeable difference was his somber expression, compared to his comical silliness during the series. Eddie was portrayed by Derman as a nasty brat. All characters, except Marilyn, had a blue/green tint to their skin. The title sequence had light happy music (picked up from the Doris Day movie, The Thrill of it All ) instead of the more hip surf theme that was to come. The episode is available on the complete first season of The Munsters DVDs.

It was decided that Joan Marshall looked too much like Morticia Addams and that Happy Derman was too nasty as Eddie, so both were replaced. On the basis of the first presentation, the new series, still not completely cast, was announced by CBS on February 18, 1964. A second black-and-white presentation was made with the new actors. In this version, Eddie (Butch Patrick) looked more "normal;" his hairstyle was later altered to include a widow's peak.

Producers

The show was produced by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, who were already known for creating the Leave It to Beaver television series. Prior to that, they wrote over 1,500 episodes of Amos 'n' Andy, a presence on network radio for nearly its entire history.

Production values

While its humor was usually broad, the series was visually sophisticated. The Munsters' home was a crumbling Gothic mansion, riddled with smoke, filthy with dust and cobwebs. Rich, shadowy photography echoed James Whale's expressionistic Frankenstein films, emphasizing the family's ghoulishness. The Munsters was filmed in black-and-white, though the never-aired pilot episode was filmed in color.

Herman and Lily's bed

Herman and Lily Munster are often mistakenly named as the first couple to share the same bed on American television, in the episode "Autumn Croakus" on November 26, 1964. In actuality, that distinction goes to Mary Kay and Johnny, in an episode aired on November 18, 1947 on the DuMont network. The first television couple to share a bed when the actors were not married to each other in real life was Samantha and Darrin Stephens of Bewitched, on October 22, 1964.

The Munster Mansion

The original Victorian home of the Munster family was at 1313 Mockingbird Lane in the fictional Mockingbird Heights. The town's location is not specified in the series, but in later incarnations is described as a small town outside of Los Angelesmarker, California. In reality, the exterior shots were filmed on the Universal Studios backlot. The house was built in 1946 for the movie So Goes My Love. It was then put into storage for several years. Sometime in the fifties, it, along with other facades, was assembled with other homes on the back lot to create "River Road." Until production of The Munsters in 1964, the house could be seen as a backdrop on many shows, including Leave It to Beaver. It was remodeled and featured on Desperate Housewives and located on Colonial Streetmarker in the backlot (which has now been officially dubbed "Wisteria Lane" by the studio). It was also the home of the family in Shirley (ABC, 1979-80) and has also appeared in other TV shows such as Coach. The interiors were contained entirely on an enclosed sound stage.

Munstermobiles

George Barris built two automobiles for the show: "Munster Koach", a hot rod built on a lengthened 1926 Ford Model T chassis with a custom hearse body. It was 18 feet long and cost almost $20,000 to build. Barris also built the DRAG-U-LA (which inspired a Rob Zombie song by the same name), a dragster built from a coffin, which Grandpa used to win back "The Munster Koach" after Herman lost it in a race. Footage of the drag race was included in Zombie's first horror film House of 1,000 Corpses. (According to Barris, a real coffin was, in fact, purchased for the car.) In real life, Yvonne De Carlo drove a Jaguar sedan fitted with custom-made "spooky" ornaments, for example spider webs on the rims. She had to give up on it, as the car was repeatedly vandalized by fans hunting for souvenirs.

Episodes

Spinoff series

The Munsters Today ran from 1988 to 1991 and lasted for 72 episodes. The unaired pilot episode, written by Lloyd J. Schwartz, explained the 22 year gap through an accident in Grandpa's lab that put the family to sleep. They awake in the late 1980s and have to adapt to modern life in the 80s. It featured John Schuck (Herman), Lee Meriwether as Lily, Howard Morton (Grandpa) and Jason Marsden (Eddie). Marilyn was portrayed by Mary-Ellen Dunbar in the unaired pilot, and by Hilary Van Dyke thereafter.

The show used many props and set pieces from the original series, and also reworked some old story-lines. From the second season onwards, the show developed a more modern approach, with colorful new costumes and more contemporary storylines, as the Munsters embrace their new lives. In the living room above the fireplace, there is a small picture and portraits of the original cast members.

Films

Several Munster films were released, two with the original cast.
  • Munster, Go Home! (1966). The Munsters go to Englandmarker to claim Munster Hall after the death of an old relative. The film starred the series' cast, with the exception of Pat Priest who was replaced by Universal Pictures by its teenage contract player Debbie Watson. Priest commented on the DVD interview that she was devastated at the producers' decision not to include the then-30-year-old actress. The film gave fans a chance to see the Munsters in color during their original 1960s run for the first and only time. The film also featured the DRAG-U-LA car. The film was created to cash in on the success of the Batman movie (1966) but did so poorly at the box office that other TV series canceled plans for theatrical releases, including Get Smart (the script for which was turned into the 3-part episode "A Man Called Smart").




  • The Munsters' Revenge (1981), a made-for-TV movie. The owner of a museum with a Munsters exhibit makes robots of Herman and Grandpa and uses them to rob a bank. Gwynne, De Carlo, and Lewis recreated their roles, but Eddie and Marilyn were played by K.C. Martel and Jo McDonnell respectively.


  • Here Come the Munsters (1995), another made-for-TV movie. The family search for Herman's brother-in-law Norman Hyde, only to find out that he has unknowingly turned himself into Brent Jekyll, who is running for Congress, and Grandpa must make a formula to change him back. The film featured a cameo scene of De Carlo, Lewis, Priest, and Patrick as a bickering family in a restaurant who were served by (the new) Herman Munster who was a waiter.




Future film

In August 2004, the brothers Keenen Ivory Wayans, Shawn Wayans, and Marlon Wayans negotiated a deal with Universal Pictures to produce a contemporary film adaptation of The Munsters. In September 2006, Shawn Wayans revealed that The Munsters would be produced and written by the brothers and that it was slated for a 2007 release starring Rose McGowan as Marilyn Munster. Shawn also indicated that the cast would not be all-black in the adaptation like The Honeymooners (2005), instead continuing to have a green appearance like its '60s predecessors. Shawn also reported that the film would be rated PG-13 in the United States to continue moving away from the R-rated comedies that attracted minors.

As of 2009 there has been no update on this movie. It was most likely canceled, and there is no record on IMDB showing that McGowan was ever involved in such a film.

Merchandise

Gold Key Comics produced a "Munsters" comic book which ran 16 issues from 1965 to 1968 and had photo covers from the TV series. When it first appeared, the Comics Code Authority still forbade the appearance of vampires in comic books. However, this was not a problem at Gold Key, because Gold Key was not a member of the Comics Magazine Association of America and therefore did not have to conform to the Comics Code. Lily and Grandpa appeared in the comics without controversy.

There was a sizable amount of merchandise produced for the show to capitalize on its popularity, like a set of rubber squeak toys, Colorforms, and a Aurora model kit of the house. AMT produced a model kit of the Munster Coach.

A video game based on the Munsters was published by Again Again in 1989. It was available for th ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and MSX.

DVD releases

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released the entire series on DVD in Regions 1 & 2.

DVD Name Ep# Region 1 Region 2 Additional Information
Season 1 38 August 24, 2004 October 17, 2005
  • Original un-aired pilot
  • Dual-Sided Discs
Season 2 32 October 25, 2005 May 1, 2006
  • America's First Family Of Fright
  • Fred Gwynne: More Than A Munster
  • Yvonne De Carlo: Gilded Lily
  • Al Lewis: Forever Grandpa
  • Dual-Sided Discs
The Complete Series 70 October 7, 2008 N/A
  • Original un-aired pilot
  • America's First Family Of Fright
  • Fred Gwynne: More Than A Munster
  • Yvonne De Carlo: Gilded Lily
  • Al Lewis: Forever Grandpa
  • Family Portrait Color Episode
  • Munster, Go Home
  • The Munsters Revenge
  • 12 Single-Sided Discs
Seasons 1 & 2 (Closed Casket Collection) 70 N/A October 8, 2007
Also, the "Family Portrait" episode in color, which was absent from the season 1 & 2 standalone box sets, was released on a standalone DVD.

Notes

  • Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher. (1964). The Munsters. Hollywood: Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).
  • Munsters, The Complete First and Second Seasons [DVD Commentary]. (2005). Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
  • The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane


References

External links





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