Wednesday, April 1, 2020

MUNSTER, GO HOME! (1966) Blu-ray Review

Munster, Go Home! (1966) d. Earl Bellamy (USA) (96 min)

Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) inherits a mansion in England (and a lordship in the process) and sails across the ocean with the entire Munster family in tow: his loving vampire wife Lily (Yvonne De Carlo), her mischievous fanged father Grampa (Al Lewis), their werewolf son Eddie (Butch Patrick), and their “abnormal” human niece Marilyn (Debbie Watson). Upon arrival, they encounter their European relatives, Lady Effigie (Hermione Gingold) and her two conniving offspring, Freddie (Terry-Thomas) and Grace (Jeanne Arnold), who are understandably disgruntled at having been cut out of the Munster will. Soon, there are schemes devised and plots afoot and hijinks aplenty, all the more complicated when Marilyn falls for the son of a rival family, the dashing Roger Moresby (Robert Pine).

Being a monster kid of a certain age, I first caught up with the ghoulishly goofy gang on syndicated television in the 1970s and immediately fell head-over-heels in love with the cartoonish antics of the Frankenstein’s Monster patriarch and his crazy clan. As I grew older, I appreciated the sly wit of The Addams Family a bit more, but at the time Herman and Co. hit me right in the sweet spot.

I later caught their feature film debut (released mere months after the series was canceled, following its two-year run – the same time span as the Addams’) running on the Saturday matinee movie, and even though I wasn’t enamored with the Technicolor green splashed across everyone’s faces, the enthusiasm and manic energy was still in place, with added production value thanks to the English countryside, er, the Universal backlot kicking things up a notch. But as TV moved into the cable era, the movie (and the show) were shown less and less, so the announcement that Shout! Factory was bringing the First Family of Fright to Blu-ray generated a huge wave of pleasure and nostalgia for yours truly.

The good news is that the aforementioned broad slapstick still holds up over fifty years later, with the cast comfortably settled into their roles (with redhead Watson taking over for series regular Pat Priest) and playing well off their big screen co-stars Thomas (The Abominable Dr. Phibes), Arnold, and Gingold, as well as supporting appearances by Richard Dawson, Bernard Fox, Arthur Malet, Maria Lennard (looking like she stepped right out of a Hammer movie) and genre legend John Carradine as the butler Cruikshank.

Directed by TV veteran Bellamy, who later became the head of production for Universal Pictures Television, things move along at a dizzy clip, culminating in an all-stops-pulled cross country road race that sees Herman blazing trails in his custom-built “Drag-u-la,” involving horses, sidecars, and any number of piles of straw (with passionate young folks necking inside).

The attraction of seeing small-screen faves in “spooky color” is still lost on me, since the entire family’s features seem to be painted with the same green cake-frosting palette as one another (shouldn’t the vampires be pale white, and why is Eddie the werewolf green?), but I always appreciate the opportunity to hang out for an entire feature film (with no commercials!) and how, much like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the whole enterprise captures the spirit of an extended and epic television episode.

Shout! Factory sweetens the deal by not only including the complete (if wildly inferior) 1981 made-for-TV The Munsters’ Revenge as a supplement, but also having Patrick and horror fan extraordinaire Rob Zombie (who wrote his hit song "Dragula" based on the roadster introduced here) join Justin Beahm for a rollicking, trivia-packed audio commentary.

The film, according to Patrick, was originally created to help generate a syndication deal (after Batman knocked it out of the running in the 1966 ratings contest), that the entire film was shot in five weeks, Gwynne used to have to spend two hours in makeup, and that Watson (who was a contract player at Universal) was brought in to replace Priest in order to boost her popularity in preparation for a new series the studio was developing, a decision that created no end of dismay for Priest and fans.

Trivia: Robert Pine is the father of none other than Captain Kirk himself, Chris Pine!


Bonus made-for-TV feature film: The Munsters’ Revenge (1981) – NEW 2K Scan (1.33:1)

NEW audio commentary with actor Butch Patrick and musician/filmmaker Rob Zombie, moderated by Justin Beahm

Vintage cast radio interviews

Radio spots

Theatrical trailer

Extensive still galleries for both films, behind-the-scenes photos, movie stills, and posters

Munster, Go Home! is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:

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