The first family of fright from the popular 1964-66 sitcom – Herman, Lily, Frandpa, Eddie, and Marilyn – Hits the big screen, as Herman becomes Lord Munster when he inherits sn estate from an English uncle. With spot guarding 1313 Mockingbird Lane, Herman leaves his job at Gateman Goodbury and Graves Morticians for Munster Hall, uncovers a couterfeit ring, and upholds the family honor by driving his Grag-u-la special in the annual road race.
Munster, Go Home! 4.75
eyelights: the relative cohesiveness of the plot.
eyesores: the lame performances. the pathetic humour.
“I want to go to the party and put on funny hats and be obnoxious and talk too loud and get stoned- uphold the American image abroad.”
I don’t like The Munsters. As a mega fan of The Addams Family, I once picked up the first season boxed set of ‘The Munsters’ television show on DVD, hoping to find a similar brand of twisted humour. Instead, I was treated to corny jokes, goofy characters, and pathetic plots.
Try as I might, I simply couldn’t get through the set. I watched one or two discs and conceded defeat. I eventually traded it for other DVDs, vowing never to return.
One day, though, I got the opportunity to pick up a DVD featuring the two Munsters movies featuring the original actors. The investment was so low it wasn’t much of a gamble, and I figured that maybe they would benefit from a fully-fleshed out script and better production values.
So I took a chance.
It was really weird seeing them in colour. The original show was in black and white, and I think they should have stayed that way; the Munsters’ blueish tone simply didn’t look very good. You’d think that a big screen budget would have offered them a better make-up department, but alas.
The fact is that a lot of it looked cheap, like TV sets but on a bigger scale. One shouldn’t expect the slick productions would would normally get from Hollywood with ‘Munster, Go Home!’; everything appears recycled, either from the original TV show or from other sets.
At least the story holds up somewhat: Herman Munster discovers that he is the inheritor of a small fortune, including a manor in England. He and the whole family pack their bags and journey across the pond to take residence and for him to take on the new title of Lord Munster.
However, little do they know that their distant relatives are upset that they were passed over and will do everything they can to prevent him from having the family fortune. The Munsters will therefore have to outsmart this dastardly clan as they try to scare them away.
…then, failing this, do away with Herman.
On their adventure, The Munsters will encounter all sorts of kooky characters – especially on the cruise ship, where they keep bumping into an amiable but incurably drunk man who mistakes Herman for his spouse. They will also discover and reveal the generations’ old secret of Munster Hall.
Even if this was better than the TV show, the writing is of television caliber, with the actors oftentimes forced to spew unsubtleties on top of their usual corny fare. What makes the humour even more challenging is that the story takes place in England, and many references are Brit-centric.
As I watched it, I wonder who the audience was supposed to be: it’s an American show, with an American format and humour, but most of the cast is British, with British accents and expressions. This must have been confusing to the simple-minded audience this is geared towards.
Because, let’s face it, The Munsters are clearly geared towards 6-year-olds: it’s chock full of absolutely corny humour, it’s simplistic, and features a clichéd story and development. Or perhaps it was designed for a less sophisticated audience, again leaving me to wonder what they were thinking.
It’s hardly surprising that the film was not a success at the box office. It looks to me like the filmmakers totally misjudged their audience. Perhaps they thought that Brits were risible and, thus, a great source of hilarity – but the Brit references were likely lost on most and, thus , an albatross on the picture’s neck.
The filmmakers even enlisted the help of Terry-Thomas as cousin Freddie Munster – an actor frequently found in zany ’50s and ’60s British comedies, but whom would only come off as a goofy cartoon to most American audiences. His Freddie is loud, obnoxious, annoying, and any comedy is bludgeoned to death by him.
Of course, this may have been intentional: The Munsters are hardly the perfect picture of nuanced comedy, and likely Terry-Thomas was meant to measure up to Fred Gwynne’s goofy performance as Herman Munster. Frankly, I could never stand Gwynne’s take on the character, who is claimed to be Frankenstein’s monster.
Gwynne and Al Lewis (who plays Grandpa), both make far too many “funny” faces for me to endure, but Gwynne always takes it one step too far, affecting a rubbery body language that is anything but scary or dignified – which makes one wonder why “regular” folks react to him the way they do. He’s annoying more than scary.
And that’s part of what makes The Munsters far less appealing than The Addams Family. With The Munsters, everything depends on their appearance, whereas The Addams Family are happily unusual on so many levels – one couldn’t help but be stunned by being in their presence. Especially in mid-’60s small town America.
Furthermore, The Munsters are far less interesting and/or clever characters. They are merely based on horror monsters, but don’t have particularly distinct personalities. The Addams are a complex and eclectic lot, which means that they have far more interesting family dynamics and interpersonal relationships.
Combine that with poor performances (and often slap-sticky at that!), and it makes The Munsters near-unwatchable.
‘Munster, Go Home!’ isn’t quite that bad, thankfully; it’s nothing too far removed from the type of family-friendly comedies one might have seen in cinemas in the ’60s. In fact, it was sometimes double-billed with ‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.’ Which is saying something, I think.
The one thing that bothered me about the picture, though, especially given that it’s geared towards children, is the amount of jokes that are centered around drinking alcohol and actual alcoholism – as though it were something to laugh at. I could understand a small reference, but the film is rife with them.
I don’t think that it’s a question of being politically correct, either. I know that this was put together by people one generation or two before me, and social mores were different, but there’s something as out of place about alcoholism as a source of humour – just as any addiction would have been.
I mean, there were no “fat” jokes, no overt racism or comments about gays or women. You’d think that a movie that has such a narrow understanding of moral issues would have crossed a few other lines, but no, not ‘Munster, Go Home!’: this film sticks to making alcohol funny – especially if drunk in overabundance.
Honestly, despite my low rating, it turns out that my instincts were largely right about the picture: The Munsters did benefit from having a bigger budget and a larger scope, as well as more time to flesh them out. It doesn’t change the fact that the humour is unbelievably dopey and the performances unfathomably horrid, unfortunately.
But the end result is far more watchable than the TV ever was – even if it pales in comparison to its obvious counterpart, ‘The Addams Family‘.
Date of viewing: September 28, 2013