Here Come the Munsters, 1995.
Directed by Robert Ginty.
Starring Edward Herrmann, Veronica Hamel, Robert Morse, Christine Taylor, Mathew Botuchis, Amanda Bearse, Max Grodénchik, Judy Gold.
The ghoulish Munster family move from Transylvania to America to search for Herman’s missing brother-in-law Norman, only to discover that the mad scientist has transformed himself into congress candidate Brent Jekyll. As the family try and fit into their new surroundings it’s up to Grandpa to try and turn Jekyll back into Norman and bring the family back together.
Paying loving homage to the classic TV series from the 1960s, Here Come the Munsters is a 1995 TV movie that sees the spooky Munster family bursting onto the big screen in full colour and with a knowing wink to the audience.
Having become something of a target for the irate villagers in their Transylvanian home, the Munster family – lumbering dad Herman (Edward Herrmann – The Lost Boys), vampiric mother Lily (Veronica Hamel – Hill Street Blues), werewolf son Eddie (Mathew Botuchis – Letters From Iwo Jima) and the undead Grandpa (Robert Morse – Mad Men) – receive a letter from Herman’s niece Marilyn (Christine Taylor – Zoolander) in America. Mistaking Marilyn’s cry for help in finding her lost father Norman (Max Grodénchik – Apollo 13) as an invite to stay, the Munsters pack up and move to the US where they discover that it isn’t that easy to fit in. The family discover that Norman had been working on a potion that has transformed him from a mad scientist into slimy politician Brent Jekyll, hence his disappearance, so it’s up to wise old Grandpa to try and come up with a solution as Herman tries to adjust to getting a real job, Lily entertains the local housewives and Eddie tries to combat the school bullies without resorting to wolfing out, resorting in lots of fish-out-of-water hilarity.
Re-casting characters that are so beloved by audiences is the biggest problem you can face when remaking an old favourite but Here Come the Munsters gets it pretty much bang on. Edward Herrmann is a perfect replacement for Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster, his facial expressions, line delivery and comic timing all working to keep the character consistent with his original incarnation. In fact, go back and watch The Lost Boys after watching this and you can see the same thread of ghoulish humour in his performance there, and it isn’t too hard to connect the dots to this film. Veronica Hamel also nails the Lily Munster character to the point where you cannot see the differences between her performance and that of Yvonne De Carlo in the original, the same with the characters of Eddie and Marilyn. Robert Morse as Grandpa is probably the most different to his original incarnation, looking and sounding nothing like Al Lewis but still managing to bring out the wicked sense of humour that makes the character so likeable.
Speaking of the original cast, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Butch Patrick (Eddie) and Pat Priest (Marilyn) all make a cameo appearance as a family dining in the restaurant where Herman works, and for once it doesn’t come across as cringeworthy fan service but is genuinely funny and, if anything, shows how good the original cast were.
So the cast are all in place but what about the film itself? Well, if you’re an adult and not already a fan of the original series then Here Come the Munsters is unlikely to convert you as the humour is still silly and a bit slapstick. However, much like Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island or ParaNorman the film works as a wonderful introduction to horror movies for young kids, containing vampires, werewolves, corpses and mad scientists but nothing dark or to macabre that is likely to upset even the most timid of children. As with all the best family entertainment there are also a few sly jokes that adults will get but will fly right over the heads of little ones, which makes it perfect to put on at any time.
As for negatives, it must be said that being in full colour doesn’t really do the film any favours as it looks a bit too cartoonish and loses the gothic charm that being in black-and-white brought to it. It also shows up the flaws in the make-up and in some scenes you can clearly see the line where Herman’s green face paint stops and the actor’s real skin starts – you would have thought they would have applied it lower than the collar of his shirt. But small gripes aside, Here Come the Munsters is surprisingly good fun and seems to have been made with love and respect for its source material rather than just being a cynical cash-in. It doesn’t touch the majesty of the original TV show but as a modern(ish) redux of a classic it is leaps and bounds ahead of the awful The Munsters Today series from the late 1980s, and with the school holidays approaching it could be worth picking up to help keep the youngsters entertained.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★