The Munsters

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The Munsters
The Munsters title card.png
Season One opening from The Munsters
Format Horror comedy
Sitcom
Created by Allan Burns
Chris Hayward[1]
Developed by Norm Liebmann
Ed Haas
Starring Fred Gwynne
Yvonne De Carlo
Al Lewis
Beverley Owen (1964)
Pat Priest (1964–1966)
Butch Patrick
Theme music composer Jack Marshall
Bob Mosher (unaired lyrics)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 70 (List of episodes)
Production
Producer(s) Joe Connelly
Bob Mosher
Location(s) Universal Studios, Universal City, California
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 24 minutes
Production company(s) Kayro-Vue Productions
Universal Television
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Broadcast
Original channel CBS
Picture format Black-and-white
Audio format Monaural
Original run September 24, 1964 (1964-09-24) – May 12, 1966 (1966-05-12)
Chronology
Followed by The Munsters Today

The Munsters is an American television sitcom depicting the home life of a family of benign monsters. It stars Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster and Yvonne De Carlo as his wife, Lily Munster. The series was a satire of both traditional monster movies and the wholesome family fare of the era, and was produced by the creators of Leave It to Beaver.[2][3] It ran concurrently with the similarly themed The Addams Family.

The series originally aired on Thursday at 7:30pm on CBS from September 24, 1964, to May 12, 1966; 70 episodes were produced. It was broadcast weekly on BBC1 in the UK. It was cancelled after ratings dropped to a low due to the premiere of ABC's Batman, which was in color.[4] Though ratings were low during its initial two-year run, The Munsters found a large audience in syndication. This popularity warranted a spin-off series, as well as several films, including one with a theatrical release.[5]

On October 26, 2012, NBC aired a modern reimagining of The Munsters called Mockingbird Lane as a pilot. The series failed to be picked up by NBC despite success with Munster fans and good ratings.

A 90min documentary film titled Our Munster Memories was announced in May 2014 set to be directed and produced by award winning UK film maker Frank McGowan, a noted fan of The Munsters and in particular its '80s revival series The Munsters Today.[citation needed]

Plot[edit]

The Munsters live at 1313 Mockingbird Lane in the city of Mockingbird Heights, a fictional suburb in California. The running gag of the series was the family, while decidedly odd, consider themselves fairly typical working-class people of the era. Herman, like many husbands of the 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 the "head of household," Lily makes many decisions, too. According to the episode in which Lily and Herman Munster were both trying to surprise one another for their anniversary, they were married in the year 1865. Despite the novel approach of the family being (mostly) supernatural creatures, the show followed the typical family sitcom formula of the era  – the well-meaning father, the nurturing mother, the eccentric live-in relative, the naive teenager and the precocious kid.

There are some superficial similarities between The Munsters and Addams Family in that both were shows with a Gothic look that featured families of horror-movie characters incongruent with their mainstream suburban communities. However, the two shows were quite different in tone and characterization. Overall, the characters of The Addams Family were wealthy eccentrics who generally stayed at home, while the Munsters were a blue-collar and generally outgoing 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 was thus able to use these copyrighted designs, including their iconic version of Frankenstein's monster for Herman.[6] Other studios were free to make films with the Frankenstein creature, for example, but could not use the costume and style of makeup originally created by Jack Pierce for the 1931 Universal Studios film Frankenstein. The make-up for the show was created and applied to the actors by horror make-up legend Bud Westmore, who pioneered many make-up effects and designs for many of the Universal Monster movies.

Cast[edit]

Regulars[edit]

Character Actor/Actress
Herman Munster Fred Gwynne
Lily Munster (née Dracula) Yvonne De Carlo
Grandpa (Count Sam Dracula) Al Lewis
Eddie Munster Butch Patrick
Marilyn Munster Beverley Owen (ep. 1–13)
Pat Priest (ep. 14–70)
The Raven Mel Blanc
Bob Hastings
Spot
Kitty As himself

Recurring guests[edit]

Character Actor/Actress
Dr. Edward H. Dudley, MD Paul Lynde (ep. 4, 6, 19), Dom DeLuise (ep. 55)
Mr. Gateman John Carradine
Clyde Thornton Chet Stratton

Production notes[edit]

The idea of a family of comical monsters was first suggested to Universal Studios in the late 1940s by animator Bob Clampett, who wanted to do a series of cartoons. The project did not see development until the early 1960s, when a proposal for a similar idea was submitted to Universal Studios by Rocky & Bullwinkle writers Allan Burns and Chris Hayward. The proposal 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.[6]

Pitch episode[edit]

1964 cast photo with Yvonne DeCarlo as Lily and Butch Patrick as Eddie.

The first presentation was 16 minutes and in color (later cut to just over 13 minutes) and was used to pitch the series to CBS and its affiliates. It never aired, and the script was reused 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. Although the same house exterior was used in the actual show, it was changed to make it look more gothic and "spooky". Changes included adding the tower deck and Marilyn's deck, a new coat of paint, and enlarging the living room. Although Grandpa had the same dungeon, Herman did not have padding in the pitch episode and was broad but thin. The most noticeable difference was his somber expression, compared to his comical silliness during the series.[7] All characters, except Marilyn, had a blue/green tint to their skin. The biggest character difference was that Eddie was portrayed by Derman as a nasty brat.[8]

The title sequence had light happy music (picked up from the Doris Day movie, The Thrill of it All)[9] 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 also decided that Joan Marshall looked too much like Morticia Addams[9] and that Happy Derman was too nasty as Eddie, so both were replaced.[9] 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, Butch Patrick's Eddie appeared with a more "normal" look, although his hairstyle was later altered to include a widow's peak.

Producers[edit]

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[edit]

While its humor was usually broad, the series was visually sophisticated. The Munsters' home was a crumbling Second Empire Victorian mansion, riddled with smoke, filthy with dust and cobwebs. As a running gag, parts of the house would often be damaged (mostly by Herman's tantrums or clumsiness), but the damage would be missing later. Although many episodes featured scenes outside of the house, much of the action took place within the walls of the home.

Originally conceived as a color show, The Munsters was ultimately filmed in black-and-white as the network felt that the color version was too garish and scary for children. Over the course of season one (completed by Season 1, Episode 7 “Tin Can Man”), makeup for Herman, Lily, and Grandpa was changed. Some of the changes included Lily's hair becoming all black instead of having a gray/white streak on the right side of her head, a change of jewelry to a bat instead of a star, and angled eyebrows. Grandpa was given more exaggerated makeup and heavier eyebrows, and Herman's face was widened to give him a dopier and less human appearance. He also added a stutter to bolster his character whenever he was angry or wanted to make a point, and frequently left his mouth open, adding to the effect of a more goofy, less frightening, figure.

Mansion[edit]

Main article: Munster Mansion
Herman and Lily in the kitchen.

The Munster family's multi-level Victorian home had the fictional address of 1313 Mockingbird Lane in 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 Angeles, California. Leo Durocher, who was then coaching with the Los Angeles Dodgers, guest-starred as himself in one episode, further hinting the show was set in or near Los Angeles). The exterior shots were filmed on the Universal Studios backlot. The house was originally built in 1946 for the movie So Goes My Love, and then put into storage for several years.[citation needed] Sometime in the 1950s, it was assembled with other homes on the backlot. Until production of The Munsters in 1964, the house could be seen as a backdrop on many shows, including Leave It to Beaver.[10] It was also the home of the family in Shirley (ABC, 1979–80) and has appeared in other TV shows such as Coach and most notably (after a remodel) Desperate Housewives. The interiors for the Munsters' mansion were filmed entirely on an enclosed sound stage.

Herman and Lily's bed[edit]

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, a series featuring a married couple who were played by actors who were also married to each other, 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.

Munstermobiles[edit]

The Munster Koach and DRAG-U-LA were designed by Tom Daniel and built by auto customizer George Barris for the show. The "Munster Koach" was 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," a dragster built from a coffin (according to Barris, a real coffin was, in fact, purchased for the car), which Grandpa used to win back "The Munster Koach" after Herman lost it in a race (footage of this drag race was later included in Rob Zombie's horror film House of 1,000 Corpses).

Theme song[edit]

The instrumental theme song, titled "The Munsters' Theme", was written by composer/arranger Jack Marshall.[7] The theme song's lyrics written by the sitcom's co-producer Bob Mosher did not air on CBS. Described by writer Jon Burlingame as a "Bernard-Herrmann-meets-Duane-Eddy sound",[7] the theme was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1965.

Surf band Los Straitjackets recorded the song for the 1998 compilation album Halloween Hootenanny. Butch Patrick released a 1983 single, "Whatever Happened To Eddie?" which used the melody with lyrics added ("You might wonder why I have a dragon for a pet/ He's just there to keep me company on the set"). The New York band The Comateens also released an instrumental version of the theme in the early 1980s.

Episodes[edit]

Merchandise[edit]

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.

Other merchandise included a set of rubber squeak toys, Colorforms, and an Aurora model kit of the living room and family. AMT produced model kits of the Munster Koach as well as Drag-u-La. The Aurora model of the living room featured Herman in his electric chair, Eddie squatting in front of the fire, Lily was knitting and Grandpa was hanging, bat like, from the rafters. Marilyn was not included. ERTL later produced a very detailed 1:18 scale diecast of the Munster Koach. Mattel issued two Herman Munster Dolls, one was a talking doll and the other was a hand puppet (both having chatty rings that you could pull to make them talk utilizing Gwynne's actual voice) that were issued from 1964 until around 1968.

A video game based on the Munsters was published by "Again, Again" (a division of Alternative Software) in 1989. It was available for the Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, MSX and DOS, but was heavily criticized by gaming press at the time because of its short length and lackluster game play.[11]

Ratings[edit]

DVD releases[edit]

Between 2004 and 2008, Universal Studios Home Entertainment 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
re-released February 5, 2013
October 17, 2005
  • Original un-aired pilot
  • Dual-Sided Discs (Region 1 only)
Season 2 32 October 25, 2005
re-released February 5, 2013
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 (Region 1 only)
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" – colorized Version
  • Munster, Go Home
  • The Munsters' Revenge
  • 12 Single-Sided Discs
The Complete Series (Closed Casket Collection) 70 N/A October 8, 2007
  • 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
  • 12 Single-Sided Discs

The "Family Portrait" episode in color, which was absent from the season 1 and 2 standalone box sets, was released on a standalone Region 1 DVD.

Repeats[edit]

Reruns of this series aired on Nick at Nite in the 1990s. It also aired on TV Land from 2000 to 2008.

Since 2011, Boomerang has aired the show each October since 2011 as part of the network's Halloween programming.

Remakes and spinoffs[edit]

Television[edit]

The Munsters Today[edit]

Main article: The Munsters Today

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 their new surroundings. 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.

Mockingbird Lane[edit]

Main article: Mockingbird Lane

A remake from Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller, was developed for NBC. The show was to be a reboot as a one-hour drama with "spectacular visuals".[12][13][14]

NBC ordered a pilot episode,[15] and announced in January 2012 that it would be called Mockingbird Lane, a reference to the Munster family address at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.[16]

NBC ultimately cancelled plans for Mockingbird Lane to be produced as a weekly series, but later announced the pilot episode would air in late October 2012 as a Halloween special.[17]

Films[edit]

Main article: The Munsters (movies)

Several Munsters movies were released, three featuring original cast members.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fox, Margalit (December 19, 2006). "Chris Hayward, 81, TV Writer and a Creator of ‘Munsters,’ Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  2. ^ "The Munsters: The Complete First Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  3. ^ "The Munsters: The Complete Series". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  4. ^ Fred John Del, Jr., Bianco (2012). 50 Favs of the '60s '70s '80s: A Look Back at Three Dynamic Decades. AuthorHouse. p. 58. ISBN 1-468-56111-1. 
  5. ^ Decaro, Frank (October 26, 2008). "A Neighborhood Where Every Day Was Halloween". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  6. ^ a b The Munsters: America's First Family of Fright (Television production) (in English). 2003. 
  7. ^ a b c Cox, Stephen (2006). The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane. Random House Digital, Inc. pp. 35–36. ISBN 0-823-07894-9. 
  8. ^ Cox, Stephen (2006). The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane. Random House Digital, Inc. pp. 36, 38. ISBN 0-823-07894-9. 
  9. ^ a b c Biography, "The Munsters," 1998
  10. ^ Ingram, Billy (2002). Tvparty!: Television's Untold Tales. Bonus Books, Inc. p. 228. ISBN 1-566-25184-2. 
  11. ^ The Munsters at World of Spectrum
  12. ^ NBC, Bryan Fuller Remaking The Munsters
  13. ^ Exclusive: The Munsters Back in Development at NBC
  14. ^ NBC Picks Up Munsters Reboot Pilot From Pushing Daisies Creator
  15. ^ http://tv.yahoo.com/blogs/the-set/nbc-orders-munsters-reboot-pilot-165508698.html
  16. ^ Jeffery, Morgan (February 2, 2012). "NBC's 'The Munsters' becomes 'Mockingbird Lane'". Digital Spy. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  17. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (October 11, 2012). "NBC’s ‘Mockingbird Lane’ Pilot To Air On October 26 As Halloween Special". Deadline. Retrieved October 24, 2012. 

External links[edit]