Munster, Go Home!
Dir: Earl Bellamy
1966’s Munster, Go Home!, the Munster’s first feature-length incarnation, was produced and released in order to introduce the characters and concept to foreign audiences, as it came in advance of international syndication for the film's source material, the television series that comprised of 70 episodes and gained a global cult following. I was always more of a fan of The Munsters than its similarly-themed rival The Addams Family and one thing it had to its advantage was that it enjoyed a couple of decent film outings with 98% of the original cast included. The Addams Family have enjoyed big screen success twice now but with a completely different cast to the original, and sadly both beloved programs have suffered some of the worst re-makes ever to have been made. While Munster, Go Home! Isn’t exactly a masterpiece, I feel very warmly about it. The jokes are old fashioned but always enjoyable and it was nice to see the family taken out of their natural habitat, a typical format for feature-length versions of popular sitcoms but handled rather well in this instance. Its big selling point at the time was that it was the first time the family would be seen in glorious Technicolor and the transition from black and white was very successful. The huge added bonus for film fans however was the casting of the legendary Terry-Thomas. T-T plays a distant relative of the Munsters, the son of Herman’s great uncle who has left him his manor in England as well as his title of Lord of Shroudshire. The Munsters travel, by boat, to their inherited home and find that while their relatives are as feared as they are but they’re not quite as nice and loveable. The British Munsters are upset that their father has left their home and title to the American Munsters and stop at nothing to rid themselves of their cousins. Lily has a fling with a local boy she met on the journey over but is looked down upon by his Munster-hating parent and Herman somehow enters a drag race. The story feels like three unrelated episodes pasted together, and I wonder whether that is genuinely the case, but it is all part of the Munster charm and very much in keeping with the mad-cap style of the television show. Earl Bellamy had directed many of the episodes so he was part of the family and knew what needed to be done, he changed very little of the original format and made an authentic film version, something other shows always seemed to struggle with. I think it was a shame that Pat Priest didn’t return as Marilyn for the film, and I don’t think Debbie Watson quite fit in with the rest of the cast but after Beverly Owen left the series the part always seemed like the least important. What I loved most about the original series was the chemistry between Herman and Grandpa. Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis were great friends and had worked together for some time and the pair made for quite an iconic double act. Thankfully this chemistry is nurtured in the film, the pair sharing most of the stand-out scenes. Terry-Thomas isn’t given the best script in the world but he is brilliant with what he is given. My favourite part of the film is the final sequence that sees Herman enter a race in a dragster made from an old coffin and painted gold. It’s the handy work of Grandpa in the film but the now famous DRAG-U-LA was designed by the famous auto customizer genius George Barris who also designed the Munster’s family car (known as Munster Koach) and the famous 1966 Batmobile. I loved the scenes whereby the Munsters travel incognito across the Atlantic but Herman’s race is the concept at its cartoonish best. The film is a treat for fans of the series and is one of the rare occasions where a sitcom leaps from small screen to big screen without losing any of the charm or appeal that made it popular in the first place.