Review – Herman, Lily, and Rob Zombie? (“The Munsters”)

After the Munsters TV series ended in 1966, there have been many reboots & remakes, like The Munsters Revenge (1981), The Munsters Today (1988), and The Munsters Scary Little Christmas in 1996. Needless to say, they pretty much all sucked. Will history repeat itself?

Everyone thought Rob Zombie’s first trailer for this remake wasn’t real. Laughable acting, terrible lighting, amateurish filming, and casting his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, as Lily. C’mon, it had to be some kind of a practical joke, right? Then we found out the truth. It wasn’t! Written, produced, and directed by Zombie, this exclusive Netflix movie is a prequel to the beloved TV series: how Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips) met Lily. We start in 1950’s Transylvania and some dopey graverobbers: ego-maniac mad-scientist Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Brake), and his dim-witted hunchbacked assistant, Floop (Jorge Garcia). Together they build a Frankenstein-like monster, but accidentally use the brain of a failed stand-up comedian. They name their new creation Herman Munster.

Meanwhile, Count Dracula (Daniel Roebuck) keeps sending his lovely daughter, Lily, out on blind dates to find a husband, but to no avail. After meeting the swingin’ vampire, Orlock (Brake again), Lily is through with dating. . . until she sees Herman on TV and is instantly smitten. Overnight, Herman becomes a rock star/comedian/beat poet with Floop as his manager, thus making Lily an instant groupie. Oh, and there’s a third side plot where Lily’s conniving werewolf brother, Lester (Tomas Boykin), is in debt and plans to have Lily’s magnificent castle signed over to him.

Anyway, Herman and Lily fall madly in love with each other, much to the ire of the Count, and are soon married. After Lester’s sneaky plans work, Lily, the Count, and Herman take off for Hollywood to seek fame and fortune, but find something far different. Shot on location in Budapest, it looks like it was filmed with a Sony video camera and by college students. Glaring lights, bright, jarring colors, magnificent costumes & set designs, plus some really nice make-up effects, make this a bizarre mixture of sitcom nonsense and one of those silly, ridiculous Disney Channel shows like The Suite Life or Dog With A Blog.

This is nothing like the stuff Rob Zombie normally gives us, like his gory, blood-filled Halloween movies, House of 1000 Corpses, and more. This film is more for kids, chock full of dad jokes, twisted camera angles, old-school backgrounds, goofy sound effects, and scenes that go nowhere. Many scenes play out with great timing, humor, and made me laugh. I could easily see this being a family stage comedy musical. If you look at this like a Melodrama (the kind I used to be in on stage), it works! Just lose that third plot with Lester, okay? It wasn’t needed and slowed the pace.

Zombie, a vocal die-hard fan of the Munsters TV series, does pay homage with his casting. Phillips looks and acts like a younger Herman and made me laugh several times, while Roebuck was very good as well. I wasn’t crazy about Sheri Moon as she tried too hard to earn her Lily wings. My favorites were by far Dr. Wolfgang (Brake) & Floop (Garcia), who stole the movie every time. Their scenes were the best parts of the movie, but sadly, the smallest. Also, look for a fun scene with Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) as a real estate agent. Yeah, you’re gonna hear that this movie is awful, terrible, sucks lemons, etc. but I liked it for what it was and what Zombie was going for. 

*Now streaming on Netflix and other VOD

Munster, Go Home! (1964)

Hey, if the popular 1966 Batman TV series made a theatrical film of their show, why not The Munsters? Well, that’s exactly what they did! In 1964, a full-color movie (the TV series was in black & white) was released starring the entire cast, with one exception.

The excitable patriarch of 1313 Mockingbird Ln, Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) and his lovely wife, Lilly (Yvonne DeCarlo) get some crazy news one day: they’ve just inherited Munster Hall, an English manor in Shroudshire, England! Quicker than you can say, “Plot device”, Herman, Lilly, their pre-teen son Eddie (Butch Patrick), ‘Count Dracula’ grandfather (Al Lewis), and human niece Marilyn (Debbie Watson), pack for a cruise to jolly ‘ol England. On the ship, Marilyn meets-cute Roger Moresby (Robert Pine, looking like Cary Elwes), the car racing son of prominent British Squire Lester Moresby (Bernard Fox).

Meanwhile, at Munster Hall, the current occupants are planning Herman’s demise. It seems that psychotic man-child and furious Freddy Munster (Terry-Thomas), along with his equally bizarre sister, Grace (Jeanne Arnold), want this American usurper dead! Their conniving mother, Lady Effigie Munster agrees and plans to get the mysterious ‘Griffin’ to help, but their plans of scaring the Yanks don’t work on the Munsters. They love it! As they settle into their posh castle life, The Munsters find their presence in town isn’t welcome. There’s talk in town of “the secret of Munster Hall”, so Herman & Grandpa decide to investigate.

After they frighten some local goons (Richard Dawson, Arthur Malet) one night deep inside the castle, they discover what the “secret” is. . . counterfeiting! But reporting this will have to wait as the big annual Shroudshire Road Race is coming up and Herman wants to enter. Thanks to mechanical genius Grandpa, Herman gets some spectacular new wheels: a souped-up gold dragster made out of the family car and a coffin, nicknamed “Drag-U-La”. But the Griffin (Maria Lennard) switches places with Roger before the race with the intent of killing Herman and making it look like an accident. Oh-no! In the end, Herman and his family go back to the USA ’cause, well, they still have a TV series to make.

Written by Joe Connelly, Bob Mosher, George Tibbles, and director Earl Bellamy, this is just like watching an extended episode of the TV show, which made sense as all four writers (and director) pretty much wrote all the Munsters shows. This movie didn’t do well at the box office, as it was mired in controversy: producers Connelly & Mosher did not let Pat Priest play Marilyn, as she did in the TV series, instead hiring Debbie Watson for this movie. Why? They wanted someone younger! This infuriated not only Priest, but fans of the TV show who refused to watch the movie and boycotted it. After the movie came out, Watson was let go but managed to go on with The Virginian and Love, American Style.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.