Munsters: Two Movie Fright Fest
Universal // Unrated // $19.98 // September 26, 2006
Review by Ian Jane | posted September 18, 2006
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Graphical Version
The Movies:

Although CBS' The Munsters stopped airing in September of 1966, the series did live on through a few feature length movies, two of which Universal Studios has compiled for this release, The Munsters: Two Movie Fright Fest.

Munster Go Home! (1966)

In this first ever feature length Munsters film, we learn that Herman (Fred Gwynn) was actually created by Doctor Frankenstein and then later adopted by an English family named The Munsters. When one of Herman's distant English relatives passes on, he inherits the title of Earl Of Shroudshire and off he and his family go to England to take on a new life in castle that accompanies Herman's new title.

Once the family arrives in Shroudshire they're delighted to find that the family castle is full of all the trappings of home – there are ghosts, skeletons, bats and all manner of creepy things in abundance. What they don't realize is that some of Herman's English relatives are actually trying to scare them off with these horror show tactics, not knowing that Herman, Lily and the rest of the crew actually adore the macabre. When Herman's greedy relatives figure out that the spookshow technique isn't going to get them anywhere they begin to try out a few other ideas to try and get rid of Herman and his family so that they can take over the castle for themselves – this time they want to enter Herman in a car race and sabotage his vehicle (the coolest TV car ever… Dragula!) so that he'll be killed. While all of this is going on, there's a sinister character known only as The Griffin trying to use Herman and his family to scare off the locals who seems to have some sort of connection to his English relatives as well as an ulterior motive.

If you were a fan of the television series, then the odds are pretty good that you'll enjoy Munster Go Home! as it follows the same formula of innocent bumbling comedy and bad puns. Though the writers work in a cute Car 54 reference for Gwynn and there are definitely some clever touches here and there, for the most part this is simply a feature length episode of the TV show with a London setting. It doesn't really tread any new ground at all or do anything specific to make use of the longer format (the main difference, running time aside, is that there is no laugh track for this feature). That being said, there are a few fun guest appearances in here to look out for. John Carradine has a small part as does Richard Dawson of all people.

What makes Munster Go Home! work is the same thing that made the television series work and that's the charisma that Fred Gwynne shows as Herman and the chemistry that he had with Yvonne De Carlo as his wife Lily. Al Lewis seems to more or less play himself as Grandpa (though he and Gwynne do have some really good bits together here and there throughout the movie) and Butch Patrick is fun here as always but it's the presence that Herman and Lily have that made The Munsters so much fun and much of that spills over into this movie.

The Munster's Revenge (1981)

The 'official' reunion of The Munsters was this 1981 made for TV movie that sadly failed to capture very little of the magic that made the series it was based on so popular. The original cast was back together for the most part (Butch Patrick was too old to be seen in the role so K. C. Martel plays Eddie and Jo McDonnell replaced Debbie Watson as Marilyn) but this one feels like little more than a cheap attempt to cash in on nostalgia.

In a plot not too far removed from that of Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park, a mad scientist named Dr. Diablo (Sid Caesar) has built himself a bunch of killer robots and two of them just happen to look a whole lot like Herman and Grandpa. Diablo sends these robots out to do his evil bidding and commit some daring robberies while the real Munsters are celebrating the opening of a wax museum exhibit where wax replicas of them are going to be put on display.

As Diablo's crime spree continues it isn't long before people start to think that Herman and Grandpa are the ones out committing all these crimes. When the cops come calling and attempt to bring them in, it's up to the Munsters to clear their good name and put a stop to Dr. Diablo's evil ways once and for all.

Some of what made the series fun is here, but it's in such miniscule amounts and so diluted by Sid Caesar's completely horrible overacting that it's hard to take. Yvonne De Carlo and Fred Gwynne still have that charm and Grandpa still has some good lines but the plot is completely contrived and too much of this is just not funny. Unfortunately, while Herman and Grandpa have a lot of screen time together, Herman and Lily do not and that strangely sweet romance that was always part of their relationship never really gets to shine in this revamping and the movie suffers for it.

The DVD

Video:

Munster Go Home! is presented in a nice anamorphic 1.85.1 widescreen transfer and the framing and image quality looks quite good. Color reproduction is strong and while there are a few scenes that are just a little bit soft, for the most part the image here is pretty detailed and free of any major flaws. There isn't any print damage save for the occasional speck and some fine grain and there are no issues with mpeg compression artifacts nor is there an overabundance of edge enhancement. The Munster's Revenge is presented widescreen and again, the framing and image quality looks fine on this DVD and the image quality is roughly on par with that of the first feature.

Sound:

Both movies hit DVD in English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtracks with optional subtitles in French and optional closed captioning in English. While the range here is obviously a bit limited, the dialogue is always clean and clear and easy enough to follow. There are no problems with distortion of any kind and while a small amount of background hiss pops up once or twice in the earlier feature that's really all that there is to complain about.

Extras:

Aside from a static menu and chapter selection, this double feature DVD is completely barebones and there are no extra features to speak of whatsoever. The cover art is nice, however.

Final Thoughts:

While Munster Go Home! is a fun spin off that stays in tune with the TV series that spawned it, The Munster's Revenge is pretty horrible and not particularly funny. Universal's DVD looks and sounds fine but the lack of extras don't really help things at all. Completists will no doubt want to add this one to their collection but everyone else is best served with a rental first before shelling out any cash for The Munsters – Two Movie Fright Fest.



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