Though it has been over 55 years since the original Munsters TV series aired, Hollywood still can’t seem to get over them. New versions of the show or movies about this macabre clan have been made over and over again, but rarely, if ever, have they been able to capture the magic of the original.
The first Munsters debuted in 1965. Now, 57 years later, this ghoulishly goofy family will be back in new feature film directed by Rob Zombie. Sure, there have been rumors of a reboot for a long time now, but this time it appears that this movie is going to really happen since Zombie posted on Instagram this week a photo of three of the movie’s principle characters in front of the iconic home outside the gates of 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
The new movie stars Jeff Daniel Phillips as Herman Munster, Sheri Moon Zombie (Rob’s wife) as Lily and Dan Roebuck as Grandpa. The rest of the characters and the plot remains a mystery. However, we do know that the movie is set to be released in the fall of 2022 in theaters and will stream on NBC/Universal’s Peacock.
As a huge fan of the original series, I’m excited for this new project, but nervous as well. Zombie is most known for his writing and directing violent horror movies like The Lords of Salem, the 2007 reboot of Halloween and its 2009 sequel, not family-friendly material. The original show was a wholesome show about a family as kind the Leave it to Beaver, Cleaver family.
Running up against ABC’s The Addams Family (also filmed in black & white), The Munsters starred Fred Gwynne as Herman, Yvonne De Carlo as Lily, Al Lewis as Grandpa, Butch Patrick as Eddie, Beverley Owen as the first Marilyn and Pat Priest as the second one. The two actresses were so similar in looks and line delivery that some people don’t even know that there were two.
The Munsters only aired for two season on CBS even though it was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best TV Series. However, the ratings for the show was poor coming in the 18th spot during its first year and down to 61st during second. But the show has remained popular, if not even more popular, with the syndicated reruns.
After filming the second season of the show, Universal Pictures produced the color movie, Munster, Go Home which was released in the U.S. on August 6, 1966 featured the original cast with the exception of Marilyn who this time was played by a red-haired Debbie Watson. It didn’t do especially well either and that was that.
Then, in 1981, a magical thing happened. A made-for-TV movie, The Munsters’ Revenge aired on NBC which reunited three of the original show’s stars. Now too old for the roles, Marilyn was played by Jo McDonnell and Eddie was portrayed by K.C. Martel. While great to see the family again, the storyline didn’t do the movie any favors.
In 1988, a new syndicated series debuted. Called The Munsters Today, the new series starred John Schuck (Herman), Lee Meriwether (Lily), Howard Morton (Grandpa), Jason Marsden (Eddie) and Hilary Van Dyke (Marilyn). The show was meant to be a continuation of the original family where after being asleep in Grandpa’s homemade sleeping chambers for 22 years, the family had to get used to living in the late 1980’s. Not nearly as clever as the original, this version surprisingly featured an impressive list of guest stars and the show itself lasted one season longer on TV than the original.
In 1995, another made-for-TV movie, Here Come the Munsters, was made featuring yet another cast including Edward Herrmann (Herman), Veronica Hamel (Lily), Robert Morse (Grandpa), Mathew Botuchis (Eddie) and Christine Taylor (Marilyn). This movie aired on FOX and was actually better than the other remakes. What made it special though was a short scene that featured Yvonne DeCarlo, Al Lewis, Butch Patrick and Pat Priest as family dining at a restaurant. Fred Gwynne did not appear since he passed away two years prior.
A year later, yet another made-for-TV movie was made called The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas and even though it also appeared on FOX, it also starred a whole new cast: Sam McMurray (Herman), Ann Magnuson (Lily), Sandy Baron (Grandpa), Bug Hall (Eddie) and Elaine Hendrix (Marilyn).
In 2004, Keenen Ivory, Shawn and Marlon Wayans had made a deal to create a version, but that didn’t happen. In 2012, Bryan Fuller, creator of Pushing Daisies tried his hand for a reboot for NBC. Called Mockingbird Lane, the show didn’t make it past the pilot stage but was shown as a one-time-only Halloween special for the network.
With a tone way too dark and even disturbing at times, Mockingbird Lane did show some promise with its casting of Jerry O’Connell (Herman), Portia de Rossi (Lily), Eddie Izzard (Grandpa), Mason Cook (Eddie) and Charity Wakefield (Marilyn). However, O’Connell was too good-looking for the role looking more like a regular human, Eddie was a werewolf attacking people when the full moon was out and Grandpa wanted people over for dinner. (Read that last sentence again.)
Creating a Munsters show or movie that is equally as good as the original has proved to be a difficult task. So many attempts and yet each of them are equally forgettable, and still people keep trying. As recently as 2017, Seth Meyers announced that he was working on a new version that would put the Munster family in Brooklyn, New York. That might have been fun.
It’s pretty amazing how treasured this fictional family is to so many. We can only hope that we won’t be disappointed again.
Main Image: Fred Gwynne as Herman (Wikimedia)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.