Bring Home ‘Munster, Go Home!’ – A Review Of Shout! Factory’s New Blu-Ray

by Rachel Bellwoar

Is color really always better? Bewitched fans might remember being faced with this dilemma when the first two seasons came out on DVD and you had to choose between buying the show in black & white or in color. ABC has been making an event out of airing colorized episodes of I Love Lucy. Both of these series originally aired in black & white (Bewitched switched over to color in season three). So did The Munsters (which only lasted two seasons but in the 60’s that meant seventy episodes). Munster, Go Home! was a different story – a chance not only for the Munsters to appear in a feature-length movie but to appear in Technicolor for the first time.

The show was over. As Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster) explains in the commentary track for Shout! Factory’s new Blu-Ray release (where he’s joined by director, Rob Zombie, and moderator, Justin Beahm), the whole motivation for this movie was getting a syndication package, not creating more Munster movies down the line.
It all starts when Herman (Fred Gwynne) finds out his Uncle Cavanaugh has died. Instead of leaving everything to his son, Freddie (Terry-Thomas), Cavanaugh named his nephew, Herman, heir. That means Herman is the new Lord Munster and, since Munster Hall is in Britain, he and his family book passage on a ship to the UK. There they meet the British Munsters, who are none too happy to have been passed over for the inheritance.
Except for Marilyn (Debbie Watson), who was recast because the studio thought Pat Priest was too old (ugh), all of the original cast is back. Their costumes and make-up mirror the show’s lighter tone and, physically, the Munsters have never looked better (which isn’t to say they looked bad in black & white, but color really suits them). However, while it would make sense that not having a laugh track would take some adjustment, the absence of one shouldn’t be this noticeable. All of the performances by the cast are on par with the show but the script by Joe Connelly, Bob Mosher, and George Tibbles (who all wrote episodes of the show) isn’t up to snuff.
For one thing, director Earl Bellamy’s movie misses the opportunity to integrate the British Munsters in more with the regular cast (a hissing Jeanne Arnold is particularly wonderful as Grace Munster). Here are two families that are supposed to be feuding but even Herman confronting Freddie about the secret of Munster Hall is told to viewers secondhand. There’s also a mysterious figure known as the Griffin that the British Munsters are working for, but the eventual, Scooby-Doo-style reveal is underwhelming.
Shout! comes through big time in the bonus features department, however, by including Don Weis’ 1981 TV movie, The Munsters’ Revenge. This time both Munster kids are recast. While Patrick is more natural than K.C. Martel, Jo McDonnell has better material than Watson did as Marilyn, and since Eddie barely appears in the movie it doesn’t make or break anything. What does make this movie is Arthur Alsberg and Don Nelson’s script. Herman and Grandpa (Al Lewis) are arrested and have to prove their innocence. The real culprits are their wax figures from the wax museum. It’s zany, full of fun guest stars (including Bob Hastings as the Phantom of the Opera and Peter Fox as a love interest for Marilyn), and includes more verbal comedy, as well as some clever running gags. Curiously, while the make-up artists, Abe Haberman and Karl Silvera, are the same (if joined by make-up coordinator, Bud Westmore on Home and artists, Ken Diaz and Michael F. Blake on Revenge) the characters bare more of a resemble to their monstrous counterparts in The Munsters’ Revenge than they did in Munster, Go Home! The lighting is darker in Revenge as well, which could make a difference. Otherwise, Munsters’ Revenge is everything you could want from a Munsters movie. It may not be the film Shout! Factory is advertising but it is this Blu-Ray’s best kept secret.
Munster, Go Home! is available on Blu-Ray starting March 31st from Shout! Factory.

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