TITLE: THE MUNSTERS - THE COMPLETE SERIES
DVD Release Date: October 7, 2008 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Number of Discs: 12
Number of Episodes: 70
Running Time: approximately 33 hours
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; English, Spanish, and French subtitles (not all languages available on all episodes)
Special Features: Original Unaired Pilot; Color Version of “Family Portrait” episode; “America’s First Family of Fright” featurette; “Fred Gwynne: More Than a Munster” featurette; “Yvonne DeCarlo: Gilded Lily” featurette; “Al Lewis: Forever Grandpa” featurette; Munster, Go Home! movie; The Munsters’ Revenge movie
You could be scared to death by monsters, but you’ll laugh to death when you watch The Munsters. And now, America’s favorite scary family (that is, for those that don’t prefer the Addams) is available in a set containing all 70 episodes of the series and a wealth of bonus features, including two feature-length films with the family!
The series premiered in 1964 on CBS, a year where the supernatural began to dominate airwaves. In the same season, Bewitched and The Addams Family made their premiere on ABC. The series My Favorite Martian had already premiered a year earlier, and more was to come later on. The Munsters took a family of “frightening beings” and put them in suburban America among others, where they did everything they could to blend in (and somehow believed they already did). Fred Gwynne and Yvonne DeCarlo star as husband and wife Herman and Lily Munster, and have one son, Eddie (played by Butch Patrick). Al Lewis plays Grandpa, and Beverley Owen (later replaced by Pat Priest) plays the normal (or as the family sees her, “ugly”) niece, Marilyn.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
The family gets invited to a masquerade party in “Munster Masquerade,” so how will they find an appropriate costume? Paul Lynde and Sid Melton guest star in “Rock-A-Bye Munster,” where some eavesdropping makes the family think that a little Munster could be on the way. In “Pike’s Pique,” the gas company wants to run a line under the Munster mansion, but it just so happens to have an obstacle--Grandpa’s laboratory! Grandpa may just find love in “Autum Croakus.” Gavin McLeod guest stars in “The Sleeping Cutie,” where Grandpa gives Marilyn a love potion that puts her to sleep until a prince kisses her. The Munsters get selected as the “average American family” in “Family Portrait.” Average? Just average?
In “Grandpa Leaves Home,” Grandpa decides to move out. How long will he remain out of the Munster house? Herman is mistaken for a college basketball player with great prospects in “All-Star Herman.” Eddie’s short stature gets the best of him in “Eddie’s Nickname.” Herman gets $18,000 from the bank after he is mistaken as a bank robber in “Don’t Bank on Herman.” Grandpa thinks that he has turned Eddie’s friend into a monkey in “Come Back, Little Googie.” A rock group holds a wild party at the Munster mansion in “Far Out Munsters.”
Herman may be on his way to being a baseball star in “Herman the Rookie.” Leo Durocher guest stars. Herman becomes a great dancer in “Herman the Magnificent.” In “Herman’s Happy Valley,” the family gets tricked into buying wasteland--which they actually adore. Herman becomes a race car driver in “Hot Rod Herman.” In “Herman’s Raise,” Herman loses his job, but how will he tell Lily? Or will he? Season One ends with “Yes, Galen, There Is a Herman,” where Herman saves a young boy’s life, but will his parents even believe that Herman exists?
Season Two begins with “Herman’s Child Psychology,” where Eddie becomes upset because the family isn’t cruel enough to him. Herman becomes part of a rodeo in “Bronco Bustin’ Munster.” Herman and Lilly face that question that we all face in “Happy 100th Anniversary,” what DO you buy somebody when you have been married to them for a century? Herman is mistaken for a patient while visiting Eddie in the hospital in “Operation Herman.”
Lily adopts Herman when he gets amnesia in “John Doe Munster.” Herman gets promoted to hearse driver in “Herman’s Driving Test,” but first he must pass a driving test. Herman Munster is a one-hit wonder in “Will Success Spoil Herman Munster?” The family pet, Spot, runs away in “Underground Munster.” Herman and Eddie must both face bullies in “Herman’s Peace Offensive,” an episode that was (for some time) left out of syndication.
Dom DeLuise guest stars in “Just Another Pretty Face,” where a lightning bolt from Grandpa’s lab makes Herman look exactly like... Fred Gwynne! The family has to find a way to deal with money that they inheirited in “The Most Beautiful Ghoul in the World.” Eddie has an idol from a TV show in “Zombo,” and Herman is jealous. Herman writes love letters for a co-worker to give to his admirer in “Cyrano de Munster.”
Marilyn sculpts a bust of Herman in “Prehistoric Munster.” Eddie wants a brother in “Eddie’s Brother,” so Grandpa builds him a robot that quickly gets all of Herman’s attention... let the sibling rivalry begin! Bonnie Franklin and Ken Osmond guest star in “Herman’s Sorority Caper.” Herman gets hit by a car and is offered a $10,000 settlement for the disfigurement done to his face in “Herman’s Lawsuit.” The series ends with “A Visit from the Teacher,” where Eddie writes about his family for school, and his teacher finds it all hard to believe.
The packaging for the set is pretty nice and simple, really. Basically, we have an outer box that contains a cast photo on the front cover and information about the set on the back. Inside, we have two digipaks, one for each season of the series. Basically, each digipak has three panels, each holding two discs (each single-sided, unlike the double-sided discs used previously). The digipak also lists all of the episodes on each disc. On the Season One part of the set, Disc 1 contains 6 episodes, Disc 2 contains 7 episodes, Disc 3 contains 7 episodes, Disc 4 contains 7 episodes, Disc 5 contains 7 episodes, and Disc 6 contains 4 episodes. On the Season Two part, Discs 1-4 contain 8 episodes each, Disc 5 contains special features, and Disc 6 contains the two feature-length movies. There really isn’t any artwork--we just have red discs with the show logo.
Menu Design and Navigation:
On the first eleven discs, the menus are pretty much the same. We start with the theme song playing, and the members of the Munster family walking around on the menu talking and saying different things. The options given include Play All, Episode Index, and Languages. The Season Two discs also have a Bonus Features option on every disc, but all it does is tell you that you can find the bonus features on Disc 5. Disc 2 of Season One also has a Bonus Features option for the color version of the episode “Family Portrait.” If you select Episode Index, you’ll get a wall with portraits hanging on it, and when you select an episode (by looking at the portraits), you get a menu that gives you an episode description, and options of Play, Scenes (Season One only), Episode Index, and Menu. All Season One episodes have chapters and a scene selection menu. Unfortunately, this wasn’t included for Season Two.
The other disc, Season Two/Disc 6, contains both of the movies, and has a VERY basic menu. Basically, you get a main menu that lists the two movies, and you select which one you want to watch. No animation, no music, and just a spider web background. Once you’ve selected the movie you want to see, you get choices of Play and Languages. There are no scene selection menus, but chapters are placed throughout.
Video and Audio Quality:
I don’t know what else to say about this except that the video and audio quality are EXCELLENT. It is amazing how well these old black and white TV shows shot on film clean up for DVD compared to those videotaped shows from the 70s and 80s that can be iffy. I did find a little bit of grain here and there, but it was not a very serious problem at all. What is even more amazing is the fact that the original pilot episode and the color version of the “Family Portrait” episode appeared to be flawless in all respects. These episodes, particularly the pilot, were not necessarily intended to be preserved, yet they were, and very well at that. The movie Munster, Go Home looked great as well, but the movie The Munsters’ Revenge didn’t look totally perfect (but didn’t look bad either). The audio, presented in Dolby Digital Mono throughout, is generally great. All episodes have English subtitles, but the subtitle situation for foreign languages changes throughout the set. Season one has Spanish and French subtitles, season two has just Spanish subtitles, and the two movies have just French subtitles.
Episode runtimes are fairly consistent throughout, with virtually every episode running in the 25:25-25:35 range.
This set has plenty of great special features! Some were seen on the previous releases, and others were not. On Season One/Disc 1, we have the original pilot episode (13:50), which is basically just an earlier version of the first scene of the episode “My Fair Munster.” It is presented in color and has a slightly different cast than what was used in the actual series. Basically, a different actress plays Herman’s wife (known as “Phoebe” in this pilot), and the character of Eddie Munster is also played by another person. But the Eddie Munster that we see here is MUCH different than the one we came to know and love! This one is a mean and evil kid that truly is a wolf, all the time... you almost expect him to be on a leash! Thankfully, he was recast after this pilot.
Season One/Disc 2 contains a color version of the episode “Family Portrait.” That is all you can really say about it--it is in color. It looks great in color, although I think that they were wise to keep the series in black and white. It somewhat loses the charm in color.
We have to go over to Season Two/Disc 5 to find the bulk of the remaining special features, beginning with “America’s First Family of Fright” (43:03), where we get a comprehensive documentary about the series, from the beginnings all the way up to today. This is very interesting to watch! It contains interviews with all of the cast members (except for Fred Gwynne, as he had already passed away a decade before this was even made).
Next, we have “Fred Gwynne: More Than a Munster” (44:00), where we learn about Fred Gwynne’s life, from the early days of acting up through his death. We have interviews, again, from the cast members as well as his wife. Very similar special features can also be found with “Yvonne DeCarlo: Gilded Lily” (44:00) and “Al Lewis: Forever Grandpa” (44:00). All of these originally aired on the cable network A&E.
Finally, we have on Season Two/Disc 6 two of the movies that were made relating to the series. We have Munster, Go Home! (96 minutes) and The Munsters’ Revenge (96 minutes). Munster, Go Home! is a 1966 box-office movie where the family takes a trip to England after inheiring Munster Hall, an estate that belonged to a deceased family member. But as they will quickly discover, England is not awaiting the Munster family! The Munsters’ Revenge is a 1981 made-for-TV movie that aired on NBC where the family discovers a family in an exhibit at a wax museum that looks exactly like them, except these Munsters come out at night and do horrible things--and the Munsters we love get blamed for those horrible things! It is a very weird movie, but definitely fun to watch. Neither of the made-for-TV movies that aired on Fox in the 90s are included, but I doubt anybody truly cares, because they weren’t too good.
This is an incredibly impressive set! I missed out on the season sets, but honestly, this set is probably better than those anyway, mostly because it is all-inclusive at a more than reasonable price. It is also nice to have single-sided discs as opposed to the cheap “flipper discs” that were used when the seasons were originally released. Also, the packaging used for this set is more appealing to those that prefer something that looks more consistant with other DVDs on the shelf. Simply put, this set compiles the entire series in a much nicer way than the season sets alone ever did.
The series itself is a great series. The last time I watched this series on a regular basis was over ten years ago when it was a part of the nightly lineup on Nick at Nite (although I did occasionally watch it on TV Land), and I had forgotten how funny and creative the writing was on this series. The show never had a chance to truly “jump the shark” as it only lasted two seasons, so every episode is great to see. Pick up this DVD set, and you’ll find yourself laughing like Herman does!
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 10/05/08
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