At a glance, the television series The Munsters could be considered nothing more than an Addams Family rip-off, but the key difference between those two shows was that although the Munsters looked like monsters, they acted like people, while on the other hand, The Addams Family looked like people and acted like monsters, making this show a rather complementary entry in the genre. Sadly, The Munsters only managed to last two seasons – crushed in the ratings by the Adam West Batman show – but when the network wanted to spice up a possible syndication deal, they created a theatrically released Munster movie, and thus, the world was treated to Munsters, Go Home! and for the first time, we saw this odd family in glorious technicolour.
The basic premise of the series was that these rather benign versions of the Universal Monsters had moved to a suburb in California and they considered themselves to be a fairly typical working-class family – they either didn’t notice or would become perplexed when the average neighbour would run away in terror at the very sight of them. But with Munsters, Go Home! that familiar structure was altered somewhat as most of the story takes place in England among a family of nefarious criminals who are even odder than the Munsters.
The plot of Munsters, Go Home! kicks off with Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne ) learning from his wife, Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) that an uncle of his had recently passed away and, according to the will, Herman has now inherited an English manor known as Munster Hall in Shroudshire, England. Their son, Eddie (Butch Patrick) is at first confused by this windfall, “Mom, how come Pop inherited an English title? I thought he was made in Germany.” It turns out that after he was created, he moved to England and was adopted by a family called Munster, who gave him their name. So I guess we’re to assume Doctor Frankenstein was a terrible father figure and Herman ran away from home. Excited with the prospect of becoming “Lord Munster,” Herman packs his family into the Munster Koach and soon they are aboard an ocean liner bound for England.
The section of the movie that takes place aboard the American transatlantic ocean liner SS United States comes across as rather poor filler, padding the film’s run-time to feature length, with the only element of consequence being Herman’s niece, Marilyn (Debbie Watson) encountering a new love and suitor onboard the ship in the form of Roger Moresby (Robert Pine), a rich motorcar enthusiast who will have more bearing on the plot once they get to England.
Now, I’ve always had a bit of a problem with the character of Marilyn as to the fact that the Munsters consider her unattractive, with her actually being quite normal looking and them decidedly not, but that she believed them never made sense to me. She’s not imprisoned in the Munster house so she must be completely aware that it’s her adoptive family that is not the American norm. Does she even watch television or go to the movies? When Roger calls her beautiful and her response is to think he is being sarcastic, one must wonder how much of a mess the Munsters made of this girl’s poor mind.
The movie kicks into gear when they finally reach Munster Hall because, as it turns out, the British Munsters are unsurprisingly not too keen on their American counterparts taking the title and holdings of the Munster family. Cousins Grace (Jeanne Arnold) and Freddie Munster (Terry-Thomas) are furious that these American Munsters are getting the manor and that Herman will be Lord Munster instead of Freddie. Their mother, Lady Effigie Munster (Hermione Gingold), is a little more restrained, insisting that with the planning of the mysterious Griffin, they will easily be rid of these interlopers. Unfortunately, the first plan involves trying to scare the Munsters away with chain rattling, ghostly moanings, and sliding doors that reveal skulls and corpses with Freddie dressed in a white sheet. Needless to say, this is not the way to get rid of a Munster as it actually makes them feel right at home.
Things get even more complicated when Herman and Grandpa (Al Lewis) discover a hidden passageway that leads to a secret room where they find a printing press and a crate full of counterfeit pound notes. Instead of immediately contacting the police, Herman stupidly confides in Lady Effigie, who denies all knowledge of the counterfeiting operation located beneath her very home and assures him that she will inform the police immediately, which allows her and the Griffin to plot another way to get rid of Herman and his family. This next “brilliant plan” is to con Herman into entering the annual Shroudshire Road Race where he would have a fatal “accident,” and this plan is only slightly less stupid than Freddie prancing around in a white sheet.
• The Last Will and Testament states that Freddie Munster’s father disowned him so the title “Lord Munster” would pass to Herman, but for a title to transfer beyond the next in line it would take an act of Parliament.
• If the counterfeiting operation was in the basement of Munster Hall why were the henchmen sneaking crates of fake money into the basement?
• When the counterfeiting operation is discovered, Herman calls out, “Car 54, where are you?” a reference to an earlier sitcom that starred both Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis.
• The plan is to kill Herman Munster during the race, making it look like an accident, but what were they planning to do with Lily and Grandpa Munster tied up in the basement?
• Both the Munster Koach and the Drag-U-La were designed and built by George Barris, the man behind the Adam West Batmobile.
• For a pair of vampires, Lily and Grandpa seem to have very little problem with the sun.
Munsters, Go Home! is a rollicking fun comedy with a cast of characters you can’t help but fall in love with. Fred Gwynne is pitch-perfect as the towering patriarch of this Norman Rockwell family from Hell and though the film’s plot is paper-thin, the wonderful comic antics keep things going at a good clip, so we’re never given a chance to get bored. Surprisingly, one of the best elements of this movie was that of the Marilyn love affair subplot, with her discovering that Roger’s family hates the Munsters and they stand in the way of their love, which led to a nice heart-to-heart with her aunt Lily, “You’ve only had your heart broken; wait till you’ve had a stake driven through it a half-dozen times as I have.” It’s this kind of humour that is the staple of the Munsters and is what makes the show and this movie timeless. Munsters, Go Home! is a must for fans of the series or even just fans of the Universal Monsters and goofy comedy in general.
Munsters, Go Home! (1966)
Movie Ranking - 6.5/10
As silly horror-comedies go you find a better example than Munsters, Go Home! and one that makes a great double bill with the Don Knotts film The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis, and Yvonne De Carlo are simply fantastic in the roles that have made the television legends.