Director – Earl Bellamy, Screenplay – Joe Connelly, Bob Mosher & George Tibbles, Producers – Joe Connelly & Bob Mosher, Photography – Benjamin H. Kline, Visual Effects – Albert Whitlock, Makeup – Bud Westmore, Art Direction – Alexander Golitzen & John J. Lloyd. Production Company – Universal.
Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster), Yvonne de Carlo (Lily Munster), Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster), Debbie Watson (Marilyn), Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster), Terry-Thomas (Freddie Munster), Robert Pine (Roger Moresby), Hermione Gingold (Aunt Effigy), Jeanne Arnold (Grace), Bernard Fox (Lord Moresby)
Herman Munster inherits the title of the Earl of Shroudshire in England. He and the rest of the Munster family cross the Atlantic to take up residence in the ancestral Shroudshire castle. However, the English side of the family is secretly using the castle to run a counterfeiting operation for the criminal mastermind known as The Griffin. Aunt Effigy is deeply disappointed that her son Freddie did not inherit the title of Earl and decides that Herman must be killed. Meanwhile, Herman decides that he must uphold the family name by entering a local car race.
The tv series The Munsters (1964-66) was clearly patterned after Charles Addams’ The Addams Family cartoons. The Addams Family was also adapted for tv, appearing one week before The Munsters premiered, in the famous tv series The Addams Family (1964-6). Tapping into the same gothic look of the Addams Family, the Munsters came clearly modelled on the classic Universal monsters of the 1930s featuring Fred Gwynne as a disarmingly lugubrious Frankenstein monster lookalike; Yvonne De Carlo resembling a pasty-faced Carroll Borland from Mark of the Vampire (1935); Al Lewis as the vampiric Grandpa; Butch Patrick as the werewolf son; and Beverly Owen, later Pat Priest and here Debbie Watson, as the perfectly normal teenage niece, hence grotesque to the family. The Munsters toned down the deadpan bizarreness that marked The Addams Family for more of a jolly eccentricity. Up until the Addams Family big-screen revival in the 1990s, remained the more popular in syndication, although with the various modern incarnations of The Addams Family, The Munsters tends to be less well remembered today.
This was the sole feature film spun off from the series.. It is a likeable knockabout farce. There is a rather witty script, which banters a clever series of one-liners – Lily’s advice to a lovelorn Marilyn “Dear, you’ve only had your heart broken. Wait until you’ve had a stake driven through it half-a-dozen times like I have.” Eddie comes running to his mother:– “What are to-mar-toes?” “That’s what they call to-may-toes over here,” “Well, that’s what they’re throwing at me.” Grandpa mutters: “Next time I steal a horse it’s going to have handles on it.” Or the charming scene where Herman and Lily sit up in bed applauding their cousins attempts to scare them away with a fake ghost.
Fred Gwynne’s mock seductive eyes and marvellously expressive face is, as always, a delight. Bud Westmore’s wonderfully supple makeup takes full advantage of the move into colour that the film adds over the tv series, which aired in black-and-white. The last quarter tries to emulate the 1960s genre of Looney Races films – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1962), The Great Race (1965), Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965), Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1967) et al – of which the casting of Terry-Thomas (a regular in most of these films) is particularly conspicuous. The race sequences go on far too long but the rest of the film remains surprisingly likable.
Most of the cast were reunited for a later tv movie The Munster’s Revenge (1981). The Munsters Today (1988-91) was an attempt at revival with an entirely new cast and lasted on air for three seasons, although was generally agreed on by fans as lacking the original spark. A different cast yet again appeared in the further tv movie Here Come the Munsters (1995), while yet another cast line-up appeared in the tv movie The Munster’s Scary Little Christmas (1996). Mockingbird Lane (2012) was a further one-hour pilot for a new version, directed by Bryan Singer, although this failed to be picked up as a series. The Munsters (2022) was a film remake of the tv series from Rob Zombie.