After years of having only a handful of episodes on video (and only in the European video format) and edited episodes on Nick at Nite, TV Land, TBS and local stations, the first season of “The Munsters” comes to DVD with great anticipation. Watching and going through the 38 uncut episodes of season one reveals a vast change and evolution of the series from its beginnings. While some series start out weak in their early episodes and first season, “The Munsters” started out right away with great writing, direction, cast members, set design, cinematography and of course, Jack Marshall’s music. This is an overall great set with hardly anything to be upset about, besides perhaps the lack of extras.
The Packaging: The DVD’s come in a case with a flip-top, instead of the usual kind where the inner part slides out of the side. Opening up the inner case reveals the three two-sided discs. The images of Grandpa, Lily and Eddie behind the discs look great in adding to the whole green, spooky look. Both the outer case and inner case feature a picture of the family as they appear in the third pilot. Bizarrely, the designers did not use the original heads of Eddie and Herman from this photo. In the original photo, Eddie did not have his widow’s peak, so instead they have used an oversized head of Eddie from another photo. The head they chose for Herman is actually proportional to the heads of Lily, Grandpa and Marilyn, but comes from much later in the series. Why they didn’t simply use another family photo that wouldn’t need to be altered is a mystery.
The Menus: The menus are easy to use and navigate. The opening animation that starts each disc is fun to watch. It would have been nice to have varying backgrounds and animations, but it’s definitely not a big deal. Most of the photographs used appear to be colorized, giving everyone except Herman a natural skin color for some reason.
The Film Quality of Episodes: The episodes are great. Although, if you’re seeking absolutely pristine and flawless prints of each episode, then this set may not be for you. None of the flaws seem to last enough to be distracting, although a few episodes border on annoying. ‘Lily Munster- Girl Model,’ has dots going across the screen for much of the beginning, and ‘Autumn Croakus’ features a giant lightning bolt scratch across the screen at one point. One sad problem with the clarity of these episodes on DVD is that strings holding up things to float are much more obvious. The stark and utter realism of the series may be shattered for some fans from this.
One thing that I believe is actually unacceptable in the release is the replacement of music. Some music featured in ‘The Sleeping Cutie’ (the sleeping beauty music), ‘Far Out Munsters,’ and ‘Dance with Me, Herman’ (the music coming from phonographs) has been replaced. While this likely has to do with copyrights and Universal not wanting to spend the money, it doesn’t exactly fit with “the complete first season.” Syndication prints do use the original music, so this may be the only reason to save your taped-from-TV Land videos of episodes.
The Extra (Color Pilot): While the color pilot, or “presentation,” is the only extra, it’s a wonderful extra. It’s the full length copy compared the usually available five minute color version, and I’ve never seen the color so good before. The only other version with such good color seemed to be the clips featured on the A&E Biographies on Gwynne, De Carlo, Lewis and the actual series.
I’m probably in the minority of Munster fans who think the series could have been wonderful in color, especially after seeing this pilot. While I do believe the black and white film adds to the spooky, old movie feel, I feel that this is wasted as season one moves along and the lighting used in scenes becomes brighter. It was always disappointing that so little of the original set was shown in color in Munster, Go Home! but the pilot at least features a good view of Grandpa’s lab.
With a fresher view on season one, I found some of these to be the best episodes of the season:
‘A Walk on the Mild Side,’ ‘Tin Can Man,’ ‘Knock Wood, Here Comes Charlie,’ ‘Eddie’s Nickname,’ ‘Munsters on the Move,’ ‘Lily Munster- Girl Model,’ ‘Herman’s Happy Valley,’ ‘Hot Rod Herman,’ and ‘Yes, Galen, There is a Herman’
The best part of all may have been seeing scenes cut from episodes in syndication, most of which I had never seen before. As cliché as the phrase is, this is a must have for any Munsters fan. Unless you’re a total perfectionist in your DVD purchases, this one should be a nice addition for any classic TV fan.