This Halloween month of October I was finally able to finish a project that has eluded me for many years --- watch all of The Munsters. I picked up the episodes on DVD many years ago and have watched them off and on over the years, but never all the way through and never with a mindset to see the development of the short-lived series. The Munsters and its similar-themed competitor The Addams Family was a shout out by the producers of television to the "Monster Kids", the generation of Baby Boom youngsters who had rediscovered the classic monsters of the vintage Universal cycle thanks to the burgeoning medium of television.
The Munsters appeared all over the place at the time, such as TV Guide and especially in the pages of magazines like Monster World dedicated to bringing home the monsters in a limited way in those primitive days before home video was ubiquitous. Watching The Munsters it's easy to see how the series started, revved up into an exceedingly high and entertaining gear, and then slowly but steadily began to lose energy as the gags became repetitive. It would have worse by far for the series to have dragged on and subsequent attempts to mine the property have only proven this to be the case. The series was lightning in a bottle, great in its moment but not long for the world.
But that didn't stop folks from trying. Munster, Go Home was an attempt to get the property into the theaters on the big screen and in garish color. It failed because of some ham-handed handling, but also because the jokes again and again felt all too familiar. The talent involved in this show was mighty indeed, with the practiced duo of Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis providing outstanding moments of exquisite comedy timing.
The Munsters did find some traction in the other pop culture outlets of the era. A couple of novels from Whitman for youngsters were created sporting handsome covers by Arnie Kohn. I have the second one titled The Last Resort around here somewhere, and have had it since I was a boy. I need to get the other one, if only for the handsome cover art. Whitman's comic book branch of Gold Key tapped the characters for a respectable run which as was typical of the time sported photo covers.
The Munsters produced by the same fellows who gave the world Leave It To Beaver, was a product of its time, a time when monsters were so commonplace that they were seen as fit for humor. That hasn't gone away with movies like Hotel Transylvania and its sequels proving quite popular. But never forget that when it comes to a comedy riff on classic monsters, The Munsters was the original.