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HTF DVD REVIEW: THE MUNSTERS COMPLETE SERIES


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#1 of 13 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted October 06 2008 - 06:10 PM

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Studio: Universal
Year: 2008
Rated: TV-14 DLS
Film Length: 1,158 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish


Release Date: October 7, 2008

The Series
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“The Munsters” is a traditional family sit-com if the family members were Universal Studios monsters. Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne)is a 7-foot tall Frankenstein monster. Herman’s wife Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) is a vampire, as is her father Grandpa (Al Lewis). Herman and Lily’s son, Eddie (Butch Patrick) is a werewolf. Marilyn Munster (Beverly Owen, Pat Priest) is the black sheep of the family in that she is an attractive blonde a la Marilyn Monroe.
“The Munsters” premiered on CBS in 1964 at the same time as “The Addams Family” premiered on another network. Like “The Addams Family”, “The Munsters” ran for 2 seasons before being cancelled.
Much of the humor in “The Munsters” arises out of the irony of audience expectations. The only “normal” member of the family is considered to be ugly. The show also contains satire and social commentary, especially in early episodes in which other people in the neighborhood are concerned that the Munsters’ move into their town will harm property values. The Munsters are forced to deal with prejudice mirroring the civil rights movement of the mid 1960s. The opening credits in which Lily Munster greets her family is a parody of the opening credits of “The Donna Reed Show” in which the star sends her family off to work and to school.
Even though this show only ran for 2 years, it has been enormously popular in syndication markets in the years since it premiered. Some of that popularity is due to the screen chemistry of Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis, and Yvonne De Carlo. Gwynne and Lewis had previously co-starred together on “Car 54, Where Are You?” prior to that show’s cancellation in 1963.
Many fans are unaware that Yvonne De Carlo was the second actress cast as Herman’s wife. In the original pilot episode, Herman’s wife was played by Joan Marshall. The part was recast after network executives deemed Marshall’s physical appearance to be too similar to Carolyn Jones’ portrayal of Morticia Adams.

Video
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The video quality is excellent for a series shot primarily in black and white. The episodes are displayed in a 1:33:1 aspect ratio, as are the special features, except for the 2 Munster movies. The video quality on the individual episodes is good. There is occasional dust and debris on these episodes. The original unaired pilot episode, included on this set, was shot in color. The color palette on the pilot episode is extremely vibrant and the same can be said for the 1966 movie “Munster, Go Home.” “The Munster’s Revenge”, released in 1981, has a more muted color scheme which is attributable to the times, since color was no longer a novelty to promote on network television by the 1980s. It appears that most of the restoration efforts were applied to the color pilot episode “My Fair Munster” and to the “Munster, Go Home” theatrical feature since the video quality on these is outstanding.

Audio
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The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 sound on the series and on the special features. The sound quality is typical for a television show of that era and the studio has done an adequate job on these DVDs. I could discern a discrepancy in quality on one or two episodes that I can best describe as alternating between richness and hollowness in sound from one line of dialogue to the next, almost as though some lines had been re-dubbed after the fact. This is admittedly a rare occurrence, and sound quality is consistent for the most part.

Special Features
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The special features are somewhat spread out through the set, with most of them appearing on the final 2 discs. The special features include the following:

Color Pilot Episode “My Fair Munster” (13:51): This is the original pilot episode shot in color. Different actors play Eddie Munster and Herman’s wife (called Phoebe Munster here). It is fascinating to see how this series might have looked in color.

“Family Portrait” episode in color (25:28): This is a recently colorised version of the 13th episode from the first season, which featured Harvey Korman in a guest role. The color scheme and tones are excellent and are very consistent with original color footage shot at the same time in the original pilot episode and in the 1966 feature film “Munster, Go Home”. The fact that this series was shot in black and white was an economic decision rather than an aesthetic choice. Neither the network nor the studio was willing to put up the funds to shoot this series in color, which is why the original unaired pilot episode was shot in color but not the rest of the series. The colorisation efforts here are apparently to test the waters for releasing the entire series in color at some time in the future. I can say that many details are lost in black and white that stand out better in color. On the other hand, the black and white look of the series is artistically consistent with the monochromatic look of the original Universal monster movies. So long as the studio offers both choices in the future, and does not deprive fans of the option of seeing these episodes as they were originally shown, I would have no objection to seeing a series set released in color in the future.

America’s First Family of Fright (43:05): An excellent documentary by Kevin Burns on the history of this TV show.

Fred Gwynne: More Than A Munster (44:05): Biography of actor Fred Gwynne.

Yvonne De Carlo: Gilded Lily (44:05): Biography of actress Yvonne De Carlo. The Peter Graves narration leads me to believe that this documentary, and possibly the others on Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis, may have aired as episodes of “Biography” on the A&E Network.

Al Lewis: Forever Grandpa (44:05): Biography of actor Al Lewis.

Munster, Go Home (1:36:19): This is the only special feature displayed in a 1:78.1 aspect ratio, consistent with its original theatrical presentation. This color feature film was produced at the end of the series to promote the show for syndication in overseas markets. Video quality on this film is exceptional, and the restoration efforts are apparent.

Munster’s Revenge (1:36:10): This TV-movie appeared in 1981 as a possible pilot to a revival of the Munsters. It reunited Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis, and Yvonne De Carlo in their original roles. Sid Caesar also appears in this movie.

The documentary features are excellent, and Universal is to be commended for including both Munsters movies featuring the original cast on this set. I would have given the special features five stars out of a possible five, except for the obvious omissions. There is another pilot episode of “My Fair Munster” shot in black and white that was not included on this set. A clip from this version is included on the documentary “America’s First Family of Fright” and has Butch Patrick in a very different version of his makeup from that seen in the series. In addition, there are commercials and public service announcements featuring the original cast that might have been included in this set, as well as complete theatrical trailers for “Munster, Go Home”. Since all of this footage is available on a DVD currently available from another studio(!), it is curious that these extras were not included here. Perhaps Universal licenced that video footage to the other studio for its DVD but it does not make sense for this footage not to appear in this set as well.

Conclusion
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Universal is to be commended for correcting errors on the single season sets. Many consumers complained about the double-sided discs of the first and second season sets, and the studio produced this set entirely in single-sided discs. The inclusion of both movies in this set is also an excellent marketing decision. Consumers who supported the single season sets are not left out either, since the studio is releasing the 2 movies as a separate disc rather than forcing fans to double dip and buy the entire series a second time. Likewise, Universal is releasing separately a DVD of the color and black and white versions of the episode “Family Portrait” which is also beneficial to consumers who want to see the colorised episode without buying the entire series a second time. The documentary features are excellent, and I might have rated this set a full five stars out of five overall were it not for the obvious omissions mentioned in the special features. It is fortunate that those omitted features are available now on DVD separately, albeit not within this set. For the most part, however, this set is strongly recommended to fans of the series, and to anyone else who appreciates funny sitcoms or Universal monster movies, or both.

#2 of 13 ONLINE   JohnMor

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Posted October 06 2008 - 06:23 PM

Thanks for the review Timothy. I noticed that the colorized episode only runs 5.37 minutes. Did they not put the whole epiode on there?

#3 of 13 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted October 06 2008 - 06:32 PM

Hi John,
In fact, the colorised version of "Family Portrait" runs 25 minutes and 28 seconds. Thanks for pointing out my error. All of the episodes in this set appear to be the original network versions rather than shortened syndication prints.

#4 of 13 OFFLINE   Jeff-Wooten

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Posted October 07 2008 - 09:03 AM

I have to give Universal Studios some applause for making the bonus movies available for people who've already bought the season sets (even though I eventually decided to wait for this complete series set). Now if only some studios *cough*Paramount*cough* would take a hint. I really love this series, but I can't envision it in full-color (kind of like the B&W-to-color transition of The Andy Griffith Show--it just doesn't seem right). Can't wait to take a look at the set and see what you mean by the color making some things stand out. I've had it on pre-order from Amazon for what seems like forever.

#5 of 13 OFFLINE   MarcoBiscotti

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Posted October 07 2008 - 01:02 PM

I can't wait to pick this up tomorrow.

I guess we should all still hang onto the second disc of our Image Ent. "First Family" sets as the majority of supplements appear to not have been carried over.


Can you please confirm that all of the following remain exclusive to that set:



# "My Fair Munster"

* Presentation #1
* Presentation #2
* Play All

# The Munsters Main Title Sequence (Unaired Version With Portuguese Subtitles)
# Seven Wonderful Nights (CBS Special With Buddy Ebsen)
# CBS Network Promos

* CBS Network Promo #1
* CBS Network Promo #2
* CBS Network Promo #3
* CBS Network Promo #4
* Play All

# "Wayne and Shuster Take an Affectionate Look at the Munsters" (Munsters Segment)
# Marineland Carnival (CBS Special)
# "Big G, Little O"
# Munster, Go Home (Theatrical Trailer)
# Munster, Go Home (TV Spots)

* Munster Go Home TV Spot #1
* Munster Go Home TV Spot #2
* Munster Go Home TV Spot #3
* Munster Go Home TV Spot #4
* Play All

# Syndication TV Spots

* Syndication Spot #1
* Syndication Spot #2
* Syndication Spot #3
* Syndication Spot #4
* Syndication Spot #5
* Play All

# Universal Newsreel

* New Studio Center
* Santa's in Town
* Movie Munsters
* Play All

# "It's What's Happening, Baby" (With Murray the "K")
# Bonus Interviews

* Al Lewis
o Remembering the Munsters
o Fred Gwynne in the Foam Suit
o Play All
* Yvonne De Carlo
o Getting the Part of Lily Munster
o Playing It Straight
o Fred Gwynne and the Flu
o Losing Her Wig
o Teasing on the Set
o Milton Berle and Marlon Brando
o Play All
* Butch Patrick
o Getting Cast for "The Munsters"
o The Success of the Show
o Fireworks on the Set
o Al Lewis
o Makeup
o Yvonne De Carlo as Lily Munster
o The Only Kid at Universal
o Favorite Episodes
o On the Set With Al Lewis and Fred Gwynne
o A Strong Memory
o Al Lewis and a Sense of Humor
o The Munsters Strike a Chord
o Working Closely With Fred Gwynne
o Play All
* Beverley Owen
o Meeting Fred Gwynne
o The Actors and the Contract
o Camaraderie and Success
o Marilyn Munster
o Fred Gwynne's Makeup
o Play All
* Pat Priest
o Meeting Yvonne De Carlo
o Yvonne De Carlo's Custom Car
o Family Values
o One a a Kind
o The Tears of Al Lewis
o The Adorable Grandpa
o Al Lewis As Grandpa
o Color Vs. Black & White
o Joking With Al Lewis
o Getting Teased
o Play All
* Debbie Watson
o The Munster Originality
o School With Butch Patrick
o Fred Gwynne in Person
o The Car
o The Makeup Chair
o The Munster Movie
o A Wonderful Life
o Getting Recognized
o On the Set
o Fred Gwynne and Yvonne De Carlo
o Play All

#6 of 13 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted October 07 2008 - 05:24 PM

With the exception of the color version of "My Fair Munster", all of the extras on the Image set are exclusive to that set.
I am curious to see if other fans enjoy the colorised version of "Family Portrait" as much as I did. Even though I am a purist and prefer to see episodes the way they were originally shown, the colorised version makes me enjoy the same episode in an enhanced way.

#7 of 13 OFFLINE   David*P

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Posted October 07 2008 - 05:45 PM

Was anyone able to find the "Family Portrait" release available anywhere? I looked at two different Best Buys and an FYE and didn't see it.

I also am a little disappointed that the episode wasn't a "filmed originally in color" episode like I thought it was going to be. Seems like I didn't hear "colorization" used until the reviews came out. I still would like to see it though.

#8 of 13 OFFLINE   MarcoBiscotti

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Posted October 07 2008 - 10:11 PM

Having not yet seen the episode, I too thought that it was originally filmed in color. It seems like Universal's marketing department made that deliberate attempt to spin it as such with no mention in the press releases or elsewhere of the word colorized. I'm less interested in that feature now and don't understand why they wouldn't include the original b&w pilot version but I can tell you that if this is an experiment to determine whether there is a market for colorized Munsters releases... No thanks!!!

I need to track down disc two of Image's 'America’s First Family of Fright' DVD to add to this set. It's a shame they didn't include one more disc with all of these extras since the original release appears to be out of print now. I'm sure that would be further incentive to sell this as a "Complete Series".

#9 of 13 OFFLINE   Charles Ellis

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Posted October 08 2008 - 12:18 AM

My big gripe is that they put Beverley Owen (who did only the first thirteen episodes) on the front cover instead of Pat Priest, who played Marilyn for the rest of the series!!!!
Bring "The continuing story of PEYTON PLACE" home on DVD: the one that started it all- from Dallas and Dynasty to Desperate Housewives and Gossip Girl!!! Starting this May, see the legendary saga starring Mia Farrow, Ryan O'Neal, Barbara Parkins, and Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone on DVD thru...

#10 of 13 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted October 08 2008 - 08:20 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Ellis
My big gripe is that they put Beverley Owen (who did only the first thirteen episodes) on the front cover instead of Pat Priest, who played Marilyn for the rest of the series!!!!

That's fine with me, as I've always preferred Beverley Owen. Posted Image

#11 of 13 OFFLINE   MarcoBiscotti

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Posted October 09 2008 - 05:10 AM

For those who might've been planning picking up the single release of the color pilot... skip it! First of all, to those not familiar with the episode, it seriously sucks. There's just nothing to recommend. Also, when the end card appeared on screen I was certain that I had received a faulty disc because it feels like it's cut off halfway through and the episode is unfinished. It's really terrible and there is nothing worthwhile about the colorization either. Buying this standalone will just lead the studio to believe that there is interest in colorization of older shows and we may face further bastardization of classics on home video. I'd suggest you save your money and give it a rental if you think you might like it. I'm sure you'll quickly change your mind!

As for the complete series... I got mine for FREE yesterday evening when I brought both this and the Errol Flynn Westerns set to the cash and the woman scanned both and than charged me only $48!! She forgot to punch in the second set and I was shocked that the total price (which is less than the MSRP or the Munsters alone!) didn't raise any red flags with her! I just smiled, handed her 1/3rd of what I was prepared to shell out in hand and walked out as quickly as possible without looking back! Posted Image

Whatta score!

#12 of 13 OFFLINE   BobO'Link

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Posted October 09 2008 - 10:34 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy E
...Consumers who supported the single season sets are not left out either, since the studio is releasing the 2 movies as a separate disc rather than forcing fans to double dip and buy the entire series a second time...
Actually the release of the movies has been available for just over 2 years and appears to be identical with what's included with the new set. I already have it as well as the original season sets. The disk with a single episode colorized will have to be very cheap before I'll spring for it, if at all since it's really just a marketing gimick.

I'm trying to decide whether or not to "double-dip" to get rid of the horrible original packaging and get single-sided disks. After all, I can sell what I have to finance this a bit...

You did not mention how this is packaged... Mini amaray type cases in a box? Digipak? Stacker case (like the Soap full series)? Something else?

#13 of 13 OFFLINE   MarcoBiscotti

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Posted October 09 2008 - 08:51 PM

Two large and sturdy digipaks inside a heavy outer cardboard box. The inner packaging is designed quite nicely.