‘The Munsters’ Lacks Charm Of Original TV Show

When I first heard that Rob Zombie was going to make a feature movie based on The Munsters TV show from the mid-1960s, the question was what tone was he going to take. I mean it was pretty darn obvious his wife, Sherri Moon Zombie, was going to be in it. But was he going to shoot for the same 1960s camp effect? Was he going to make it a metafiction movie like The Brady Bunch Movie? Or was it possible he was going to go full hard R horror the way The Banana Splits Movie went?

I guess Zombie felt the need to do the original series he loved as a child some justice and make it for everyone. It’s got a PG rating which means there’s no gruesome gore we’ve come to expect from Zombie and there’s no potty mouch language which is odd considering that Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects had a record 224 usages of the “f—” word alone in it’s 109 minute (with credits) run. You can’t blame Zombie for taking a different approach to filmmaking and I think it would’ve increased his talents as a director.

Unfortuntately, he should have done two things here – hire a co-writer to write funnier material and cast actors who don’t normally find themselves in his movies. His wife, Sherri, takes on the role of Lily and I will give her props for taking it from a different angle than she has in previous movies. There’s an old-style way she delivers her lines like she’s from a different era. It kind of reminds me of how Uma Thurman handled the role of Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin. Considering that Fall Out Boy’s “Uma Thurman” uses the same guitar riff from the TV series, I thought this was more than a coincidence. And the movie does have the same look and feel of that 1997 superhero disaster movie.

As Herman Munster, John Daniel Phillips captures some of the goofiness that Fred Gwynne brought to the role. The best part is he’s not trying to impersonate Gwynne. He doesn’t have the innocence Gwynne did where he’d stamp his foot like a child screaming “Darn! Darn! Darn!” but he does manage to fit into the role. At 6-foot-4, he’s only about an inch shorter than Gwynne. But it’s really neither’s fault because the plot isn’t all there.

Lily is a 150-year-old lovelorn vampire who is searching for Mr. Right. And thankfully, a evil mad scientist Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Brake) and his bumbling hunchback assistant, Floop (Jorge Garcia) make him. But Wolfgang was wanting to make a man who was the smartest ever. In a TV news report, we hear that the world’s worst comedian Shecky Von Rathbone literally died after performing the same time as his smarter astrophysicist brother, Shelly, also died. Floop accidentally steals the head of Shecky from the morgue.

Realizing the new creation isn’t what he wanted, Herman becomes a musician and attracts the attention of Lily and they’re in love despite the criticism from her father, The Count (Daniel Roebuck). Eventually they get married in a ceremony performed by the Tin Can Man (Butch Patrick who played Eddie Munster in the TV series) and go on a honeymoon in Paris where they find their pet dragon, Spot. Yes, it’s a prequel to the series and fans of the series might like some of the jokes.

Unfortunately, a plot point is borrowed from The Addams Family movie and Brade Bunch Movie which is about debt and property disputes. The Count’s son Lester (Thomas Boykin), a werewolf, is heavily in debt to romani Zoya Krupp (Catherine Schell) who is also The Count’s ex. So, at the wedding, Lester gets Hermanm to sign over the rights to The Count’s castle in Transylvania to Zoya, turning it into a casino and hotel. With no home to go back to, they decided to move to southern California where they’ll live in Hollywood.

And that’s the story. Seriously, that’s all, folks. At 110 minutes with credits, this is a very long movie that goes nowhere. If you’re expecting some third act in which they get the castle back, then maybe that’s in the sequel if it ever gets made. I was surprised myself by how the movie seemed to do nothing really, which is sad because the style and set design looks great. Reportedly Universal Studios wouldn’t let Zombie film in black and white, so the set design has a color pallett that is bright and colorful. There’s even hints to Creepshow in some shots.

However, there’s no reason to have great sets and costumes if the story story isn’t at all interesting. I get the feeling that Zombie himself lost interest in the script while he was writing it. Dee Wallace does make an appearance as a host of Good Morning Transylvania which brings back memories of her role as a TV news reporter/anchor in The Howling. Cassandra Peterson, aka Elvira, appears as a realtor and Pat Priest, who played Marilyn on the show, is an airline announcer. But maybe Zombie should have shot for a movie that was an hour and a half long and a simpler plot.

The original TV series seemed to be both a parody of more traditional family sitcoms like Leave it to Beaver as well as the nuclear family archetype. The Munsters may have seemed like an odd family and most jokes in the series were how the rest of the world saw them as freaks or scary yet they just saw themselves as normal and no different. A short monologue delivered by Gwynne as Herman in the original has become popular spread over the Interent as Herman tells Eddie it doesn’t matter what we look like but what does matter is how we feel and treat each other through the strength of our character.

There is none of that here. Theres’ no charm and no little special chemistry between the actors. In the series, The Count and Herman may have disagreed but the relationship between Gwynne and Al Lewis made it work. And while the movie is family friendly, I’m sure many kids will be bored.And those who grew up or watched it in syndication, like I did, will feel let down. It doesn’t help that Zombie doesn’t have a good batting average on movies.

And this is another strike out.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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