I cannot recall a time in my life when I haven't been a fan of "The Munsters", television series that first ran for two seasons from 1964 to 1966. Only years later did I have the opportunity to see their feature length movie "Munster, Go Home" made directly after the second and sadly final season of the series in 1966. It is really a feature length continuation of all that was remarkable in the original series, outstanding makeup for all the characters who were based on the old Universal Studios classic monsters, the terrific comic chemistry between actors Fred Gwynne as Herman and Al Lewis as Grandpa and enough social commentary hidden in among the laughs to entertain adults as well as children. The only departure that the "Munster, Go Home", movie takes from the series is that for some inexplicable reason the powers that be saw it as a supposedly good move to recast the role of Marilyn, the Munster's "unfortunate" niece. The lovely Pat Priest had played Marilyn Munster for all but the first 13 episodes of the series (Three actresses ended up playing Marilyn during the run of the series and this movie), but the producers went for the younger Debbie Watson over the protests of the other Munster cast members. Apart from that however "Munster, Go Home", is a treat for fans of the series as we see our beloved family of spooks travel to England to claim a title and encounter many adventures along the way.
As the story opens we find Herman arriving back home after a hard day at the funeral Parlour to be greeted by wife Lily (Yvonne De Carlo), with a letter which states that Herman's great Uncle has died leaving him the sole beneficiary of his estate, Munster Hall in Shroudshire, England. Assuming the title of Lord Munster Herman packs up his family that includes wife Lily, his father in law Count Dracula affectionately called Grandpa by everyone, his wolf boy son Eddie (Butch Patrick) and Lily's unfortunate "plain Jane", niece Marilyn (Debbie Watson), and sets sail for England. Unfortunately the Munster's are not guaranteed a warm reception in England as some members of the family have been passed over in the will including lady Effigie Munster (Hermione Gingold) and her tantrum throwing son Eddie (Terry Thomas). On the boat over to England Marilyn has a shipboard romance with a young English gentleman named Roger Moresby (Robert Pine) who keeps seeing nighmarish monsters on board which are actually Marilyn's family! Once arrived at Munster Hall the family, after failing to be scared off by Lady Effigie's become the targets for far more deadly plans initiated by a mysterious person known only as the Griffin. Herman and Grandpa however begin to suspect that something strange is happening and when investigating the cellers come across a counterfeiting operation thus unlocking the "Secret of Munster Hall". Meanwhile the annual Shroudshire motor race is coming up and when Herman enters their car to uphold the family honour the English Munsters see a way to rid themselves of their hated American cousin for good. Knocking out Roger who is participating in the race the English Munsters replace him with a mysterious driver dressed the same so that a murder charge will be put onto him. After a hazardous race during which Herman is almost killed he ends up winning the race and exposing who actually the mysterious Griffin is and why they are out to kill him . Lady Effigie trying to escape with her butler Cruikshank (John Carradine), is apprehended by Lily when she dresses as the family chaffeur and proceeds to drive her straight to the police! All ends happily for the family with Herman donating Munster Hall to the township and Marilyn and Roger settling their differences that arose from the centuries old rivalry between the Munsters and the Moresbys.
"Munster, Go Home", would never win any awards but for long term fans of the series like myself this movie will always hold a special place in their hearts. One great benefit of this movie was that it was shot in colour unlike the original series so we get to see the sensational makeup and costumes for the actors in vivid colour. The main cast members of course were already well known and loved when this movie came about and each actor has forever after been identified with their character. Fred Gwynne and Yvonne De Carlo both already had long Hollywood careers when they took on the roles of Herman and Lily Munster and both are perfectly cast with Herman having a delightfully childish demeanour and Lily being the sensible more assertive one of the pair making an interesting variation on most husband and wives combinations in the 1960's. Al Lewis is the comic heart of the group as the lovable old vampire Grandpa and his screen chemistry with Fred Gwynne is magical in both the series and this movie. The pair had a long experience working in comedy together having both already starred in the earlier comedy series "Car 54 Where are you?". "Munster, Go Home", is really enhanced by the presense of several legendary supporting performers in english actors Hermione Gingold, Terry Thomas and also in veteran John Carradine who appeared in "The Munsters" series as Herman's boss but here plays the manservant, Cruikshank. These excellent veteran performers bring all their years of experience to their roles and make even the smaller parts most interesting.
"For fans only"???? Perhaps thats how you could describe "Munster, Go Home". I'd like to think it is humour from an earlier time that is great to revisit on occasion. The great effort and attention to detail that went into creating "The Munsters", was worlds removed from most of todays rushed television efforts and of course the highly likeable cast made the Munsters live on forever in viewers minds. Seeing the Munsters take on the class consious English in this effort is a treat and because it was made when the series had only recently finished ensured it was not a pale successor to the unique original effort. Spend some time soon with the first family of fright when they travel to England to claim a title and uncover a puzzling mystery.