Director: Ian Emes
Release date: 1996
This was a further reimagining – in feature length format – of the Munsters. This was post the 90s series, the Munsters Today, and contained a whole new cast. Actually this is not entirely true as Sandy Baron, who took on the role of Grandpa, had been in the Munsters Today playing a character called Yorga… I wonder where that name came from?
This was not only a Munsters feature length but it was a Christmas special and it began with carollers coming to the door of 1313 Mockingbird lane. Herman (Sam McMurray) answers the door and offers them cookies, is met by screams (he assumes it is a James Brown encore) and the carollers run away. He later suggests the cookies went down like “Garlic bread at a vampire picnic” and this scene leads to an on-running gag that, be it nuns or carollers, Herman will not get to hear a carol to the end.
The basic premise of the film is that Eddie (Bug Hall) is being bullied and is not looking forward to Christmas as he is homesick for Transylvania. As such Eddie is much more central to the story than perhaps he was in other feature lengths and Bug Hall does a good job with the character. A four point plan is developed to cheer him up. Herman will buy him the Marquis de Sade’s Dungeon Action Playset – though it will necessitate finding more money, thus getting a second job. Lily (Ann Magnuson) will get him involved in the community house decorating competition, Marilyn (Elaine Hendrix) will invite the family over from the old country for a party and Grandpa will ensure it snows.
Grandpa fails in his mission as the spell he is working on actually accidentally teleports Santa (Mark Mitchell) and his elves Larry (Ed Gale) and Lefty (Arturo Gil) to the house. As Grandpa works on a way to teleport Santa back, the two elves – or primarily Lefty to be fair – hatch a plan to not go back and to have a holiday and, if possible, watch some mud wrestling. This involves a sleeping draft that goes wrong and turns Santa into a fruitcake.
If previous movies played to the grandpa and Herman characters – probably due to the leads of Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis – this one tended to sideline the two characters. We get a little bit of Herman, but the character is sparingly used. That said Sam McMurray did a great job, even if he didn’t seem quite as personable as Gwynne, his performance is a great tribute to the original Herman.
When it came to Grandpa he really was sidelined. Sandy Baron managed to get the voice and even some of the mannerisms down but there was something not quite right – partly the look to be fair. The vampire aspect of grandpa was fairly much played down also, and just his alchemist aspect was mentioned. As well as that, Eddie was fairly much relegated to wolf boy only rather than having both wolf and vampire traits.
Lily, on the other hand, refers to herself directly as a vampire. At one point Herman mentions her never say die attitude, Lily responds, “I’m a vampire dear, I can’t.” At another point she declares that she is so tired they could, “Douse me in holy water and I wouldn’t budge”. Seriously though, at times it was as though we were watching Yvonne DeCarlo and Ann Magnuson almost seemed made for the role. All that said perhaps it was unfair on the cast to expect something akin to the classic actors/characters but, as it was a one off and not a series, there was also less opportunity to make the roles their own.
Of course Elaine Hendrix had less of an issue given the number of actresses who have played Marilyn Munster, but she captured the role well. Both her character and that of Eddie had a feel of the original characters – rather than the too eighties versions in The Munsters’ Revenge. Of course Marilyn attracts a man (to her own incredulity), in this case Rock ‘n’ Roller and biker Tom (Jeremy Callaghan) and, nicely, comment is made about his lack of looks, by Hermann and Lily, as well as hers.
Being a Christmas show all comes right in the end and there is a sentimentality to this – that rather nicely involves Christmas being saved by bikers. But hey, it’s Christmas and so perhaps we should indulge in a smidgeon of sentimentality. There is also the Christmas party that means we get a plethora of monster characters appearing at the end. Witches, hunchbacks, the mummy, the creature from the black lagoon, the phantom of the opera… to name but a few, they all appear.
I actually enjoyed this more than the Munsters’ Revenge. Being a Christmas special it isn’t one to watch any day, but it has monsters (or Munsters) that can be injected into the Christmas holidays…
5.5 out of 10
The imdb page is here.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Director: Ian Emes