THE MUNSTERS **** USA 2022 Dir: Rob Zombie. 109 mins
Firstly, I am coming at this as a huge fan of the original series which I bought on DVD when it was released in two parts. I also own the 1966 film Munster, Go Home that I saw in the theatre on release. That film was the first time I saw the Munsters in color as the series was in black and white. To the current reboot by Rob Zombie, I say he got it right with a few minor hiccups.
This is a film for the generation of Monster Fans known as ‘Monster Kids’ of which I am one. The “codgers’ delight in saying they read Famous Monsters of Film Land magazine and accompanying Warren Publications that like it or not influenced a wide variety of careers and interests.
Rob Zombie’s reboot begins rather slowly, picking up speed into what should have been the pace of the whole film. The picture features countless moments of Universal Monster history and even a nod to Hammer Films in sequences. The film opens with the delightful black and white Universal Studios logo from the thirties which is out of place as the references in the finished print are from mostly the Forties.
Zombie has the trademark Universal studios fog on the ground and tilted grave markers. Doctor Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Brake) and his hunchback assistant Floop (Jorge Garcia) are on their way to rob a grave to create the Man that will eventually become Herman Munster. This is an origin story that works since it was not hinted at in the series or the films. Details of the story are not important as the moment is shot like the opening from Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman (1943). The comedy gets in the way as Zombie tries too hard with some of the one-liners by Floop. The over-the-top line delivery by the Doctor recalls Colin Clive (Frankenstein, 1931) and Gene Wilder in the abysmal overrated Mel Brooks film Young Frankenstein (1974).
The creation sequence in all neon and flashing lights with the monster bound up in a metal coil setup is like The Evil Of Frankenstein (1964). The body of the creature is wrapped like Christopher Lee and those that played the monster in the Hammer Film series.
Of course, there is a brain switch by Floop resulting in Herman which is not his original name becoming a type of psychobilly rock star.
Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie) lives with The Count or Grampa as he will later be known played by Daniel Roebuck. Lily is lovelorn in search of a husband, so she goes on a date with Orlock (Richard Brake again).
Lily and the Count are in danger of losing their home to Zoya Krupp (Catherine Schell) who was previously married to The Count and seeks revenge. Zoya is set up in a Gypsy camp taken right out of The Wolf Man (1941). She has an assistant named Bela (Levente Törköly) made up to look like Bela Lugosi complete with a mustache and garb. Toss in Lester (Tomas Boykin) who is a werewolf made to look like a cross between Matt Willis in The Return Of The Vampire (1943) and Michael Landon in I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957). He also speaks in a contemporary style and is out to get people into his get-rich-quick schemes.
The film picks up speed when Herman weds Lily and becomes a member of the family who allows the Count to live with them. Of course, house troubles happen, and the quips between Herman and the Count change the tone of more of like in the series. The Munsters head to an ending that does set up a sequel or series of films in the future.
The Munsters (2022) features archival footage of the Universal monsters throughout as characters watch television. Some of the familiar jokes from the series are redone for today even to extend fast motion exits from scared people.
The actors on screen pretty much nail the original Munsters quite well as the film progresses. Sheri Moon Zombie has her Yvonne De Carlo hand movements and flowing walk and diction down. Jeff Daniel Phillips has his Fred Gwynne in his child-like gaze although his laugh is not robust. Add to these numerous cameos appearances like Cassandra Peterson as a realtor, and original Munsters second Marilyn Pat Priest as the voice of Transylvanian airlines, Butch Patrick, the original Eddie as the voice of the Tin Can Man from the television series who marries Lily and Herman. Dee Wallace is the voice of Good Morning Transylvania. Lost in all this in a thankless role is Sylvester McCoy as Igor, the Count’s faithfull servant.
All huge positives especially in the later part of the film when a panicked Herman finds the neighbourhood, not in Halloween mode, run into the house and shouts “Car 54, Where are you?” which is a phrase Fred Gwynne says in Munster, Go Home (1966) as a homage to a series of that name he starred in before The Munsters. The Munster House is the same wonderful rendering as they move back to 1313 Mockingbird Lane in Hollywood.
Where the picture falls is in the first half which is bogged down with establishing characters and some poor verbal comedy choices. The film would have been spectacular in black and white yet from what I understand there was opposition to that from the studio. Zombie does give us a glimpse at the end with the wonderful black and white second season opening of the Munsters complete with the original music. If you can get by the vibrant colour through the film making it like a comic book you are in for a treat without a trick.
Missing and what really cannot be duplicated is the camaraderie and timing of the original Munsters in the persons of Al Lewis, Fred Gwynne and Canadian-born Yvonne De Carlo. These were seasoned show people with Lewis working in Vaudeville and Gwynne doing some early work. Yvonne De Carlo was a seasoned Hollywood female actor with many screen credits from Film Noir to Biblical epics and a former dancer in revues. This skill took the form of many of the comic moments from the television series being adlibbed and in some cases worked out between the performers. They all knew how to play off each other and pick up cues which is a lost skill
THE MUNSTERS (2022) is one personal vision of The Munsters that does succeed on some levels. Zombie has the knowledge and affection for Universal Films which he treats with reverence at the same time making fun of them which is lacking so much in many horror comedies. Next, we need Marilyn, Eddie, the Munster Mobile, the Dragula vehicles and the all-important toy Wolfie to comfort Eddie as he sleeps in the drawer.
Review by Terry Sherwood