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Rob Zombie's The Munsters
Written and directed by Rob Zombie, the 2022 incarnation of The Munsters was the subject of almost instant internet scorn the moment the trailer was released online a few months back. Now that the movie is out on Blu-ray and on Netflix, making this the first of the director's films to not get a theatrical release, the movie proper can be evaluated, making some wonder... was it really deserving of all the scorn it received when the trailer dropped?
Yes and no.
The movie, which is essentially a prequel to the TV series that inspired it, is extremely light on plot. What little story there is starts in Transylvania and revolves around how Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Brake) and his assistant Floop (Jorge Garcia) created Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips) who then moved away from his creators and found new life as a rock n roll star. From there, we learn how Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie, of course), who goes on a date with Orlock (Pete Steele would appreciate that), fell in love with him and how they wound up together. While their romance develops, Grandpa (Daniel Roebuck) and his assistant Igor (Sylvester McCoy) square off against his rival Zoya Krupp (Catherine Schell). Along the way, characters from the show - like Lester (Tomas Boykin), Uncle Gilbert (Renáta Kiss), Zombo (Phillips again) and The Tin Can Man (voiced by Butch Patrick, which is a nice touch) - pop in and out of the movie. We also get a fun, albeit brief, appearance from none other than Cassandra Peterson as a character named Barbara Carr and Dee Wallace Stone has a cameo in the movie as the announcer on the Good Morning Transylvania TV show that is shown in the movie. Pat Priest also does some voice work in the movie as an airline announcer.
As far as the narrative goes, The Munsters is a misfire. While the idea of giving us an expanded origin story for Herman, Lily and the rest isn't a terrible idea in and of itself, Zombie's movie doesn't really give us enough of a storyline there for us to latch onto. Things just sort of happen for an hour and forty minutes until they wind up in the house on Mockingbird Lane and that's it. This is less a cohesive story and more a series of vignettes and extended sight gags, some of which, admittedly, work quite well, and some of which do not. The humor in the movie, which is kept at the PG level as it should be, is uneven to be sure, but there are a few decent laughs scattered throughout. Mostly though, it's fairly bland, with Zombie seemingly unsure what do to with these classic characters.
Full points, however, for the visuals. Some will understandably take issue with the look of the movie, it's a very drastic change from the black and white TV show, but the bright, garish color scheme employed here looks like a cartoon brought to life and more often than not, the look of the movie is interesting and weird enough to work. The movie is also fairly well cast, with Phillips doing a genuinely good job as Herman and Sheri Moon Zombie is better than most are going to expect as Lily. Given that Rob Zombie puts her in all his movies, the desire to crap all over this casting choice is understandable, but she's not bad here. Roebuck is a little off at times in his role but the supporting players are generally fun to watch.
It's a shame that there really just wasn't much of a story here or that the humor wasn't more consistent than it is. Despite the calling for Zombie's head when the trailer came out, the project did have potential but the script is weak and the direction, for the most part, meandering and inconsistent.
The Munsters comes to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080pi high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc with the hour and fifty minute feature using up just over 34GBs of space. Say what you will about the movie but the transfer on this disc is great. Shot digitally, there are no problems with any print damage, dirt or debris, the picture is spotless. Black levels are strong and there's very strong detail in pretty much every frame. There are no issues to note with any compression artifact problems and the color reproduction on display looks fantastic.
The 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, which comes with optional subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish, sounds excellent. The disc also contains A Spanish language DTS 5.1 Surround Sound track and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo option. The lossless 5.1 mix is a good one, spreading out the score and the effects quite effectively throughout the feature. Dialogue is always easy to understand and follow and the levels are properly balanced from start to finish. No problems here, the DTS-HD mix is really strong.
The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with director Rob Zombie. He starts by talking about wanting to use the old school classic Universal logo, wanting to make the movie in the tradition of the Universal Horror movies, wanting to do more with the movie than make a two hour episode of the TV show, casting the actor who played Tinky-Winky on the Teletubbies in the movie, the different Hungarian locations that were used for the shoot, how the art team built everything from scratch, casting the film and some of the reasoning behind his decisions in that regard, what went into writing the script, when and where he decided to use Steadicam in the movie, the freedom that making a comedy allows a director, decisions behind the use of color in his attempts to adapt a black and white TV show, how much time and work went into the makeup, details on shooting specific scenes like the Sonny And Cher musical number, incorporating CG effects with practical effects, having to build a small American suburn in Hungary for the Mockingbird Heights scenes and ending the movie with his homage to the opening of the classic TV series. This is a genuinely interesting track that covers a lot of ground and offers up a lot of details about the making of the movie and the motivation behind it.
The Munsters: Return To Mockingbird Lane is a sixty-two minute featurette that takes us behind the scenes of the making of the movie. There's loads of behind the scenes footage in here as well as make up test footage for Herman, make up test footage for The Count, make up test footage for Lily, set construction footage, location scouting footage, plenty of wardrobe test footage, clips from various production meetings and lots of footage shot on the set during the making of the movie. Along the way we get a feel for what it was like on set, for Zombie's directing style, what the different cast and crew members brought to the production, the effect that Covid-19 had on the production, how the lighting and effects work came together and how the cinematography came together.
The Munsters isn't the absolutely unwatchable disaster some would have you believe, but it is pretty mediocre. The script and direction lack focus and while the look of the movie and some of the casting is pretty strong, the story doesn't wind up delivering much of… anything. The Blu-ray looks and sounds very good and Zombie's commentary and the featurette are both pretty interesting, but it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to watch this more than once.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.