During my impressionable early childhood, the two things I like the best on television were old horror movies and sitcoms. Combining the best of both worlds were the two creepy sitcoms of the 1960’s- namely THE MUNSTERS and THE ADDAMS FAMILY, both of which kept that little kid I once was glued to the television set, every syndicated afternoon they were being broadcast. While sadly, THE ADDAMS FAMILY has yet to check in on DVD, I can honestly say I have been enjoying the opportunity afforded by Universal that has graciously made America's First Family of Fright AKA THE MUNSTERS available on DVD. Although regularly available in rebroadcasts on TV Land, watching THE MUNSTERS on DVD is really a more satisfying experience, especially with those horrifying commercials out of the way.
Utilizing the Classic Universal Monsters as the archetype, THE MUNSTERS placed said supernatural characters into a standard sitcom family mold ala FATHER KNOWS BEST or LEAVE IT TO BEAVER. Oblivious to their obvious differences, the Munster clan are just regular folks living in suburbia and partaking of the American dream. The Munster household is headed up by Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne), a loving family man who also happens to be Dr. Frankenstein’s slightly nitwitted creation with a heart of gold (real organs were probably harder to com by). Herman’s wife Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) is a typical housewife, even if she if of Noble European vampire decent- after all her father is a Count. Although Lily’s father goes by the moniker Grandpa (Al Lewis), one will never find Count Dracula in anything other than his formal evening attire, even when he is working in the basement laboratory of the family residence at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Edward "Eddie" Wolfgang Munster (Butch Patrick) is Herman and Lily’s son- your typical ten-year-old werewolf just trying to fit in with all the other kids. As for poor Cousin Marilyn (Beverley Owen followed by Pat Priest), she is the black sheep of the family, who has a devil of a time holding onto a boyfriend- all of her relationships seem to end the moment her suitors make it to the doorstep of the family home.
THE MUNSTERS THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON ($50) comes to DVD in a three-disc set that features all 32 episodes that were aired in the show’s sophomore year. Let me comment again that actors certainly worked a lot harder, for a lot less compensation back in the 1960s. The 32 featured episodes are as follows: Herman's Child Psychology, Herman, The Master Spy, Bronco-Bustin' Munster, Herman Munster, Shutter Bug, Herman, Coach Of The Year, Happy 100th Anniversary, Operation Herman, Lily's Star Boarder, John Doe Munster, A Man For Marilyn, Herman's Driving Test, Will Success Spoil Herman Munster?, Underground Munster, The Treasure Of Mockingbird Heights, Herman's Peace Offensive, Herman Picks A Winner, Just Another Pretty Face, Big Heap Herman, The Most Beautiful Ghoul In The World, Grandpa's Lost Wife, The Fregosi Emerald, Zombo, Cyrano De Munster, The Musician, Prehistoric Munster, A Visit From Johann, Eddie's Brother, Herman, The Tire-Kicker, A House Divided, Herman's Sorority Caper, Herman's Lawsuit and A Visit From The Teacher.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made all 32 episodes that comprise THE MUNSTERS THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON ($50) available on DVD in the proper full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. Image quality is quite good for a forty-year-old television series, thanks to the black and white film elements being in excellent shape. Sharpness and detail are generally terrific, with only an odd mildly soft shot showing up on occasion. Blacks are accurately rendered, as are the whites, plus the picture boasts a nicely varied grayscale. To reiterate what I stated above, the film elements are in excellent shape for their age, exhibiting few signs of wear and little appreciable grain. Digital compression artifacts are fairly well contained.
All of the episodes that constitute THE MUNSTERS THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON feature fine sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves a generally smooth sounding track. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. Fidelity has the expected limitations, but the familiar theme music always sounds good. No other language tracks are provided, but English, subtitles have been included.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as some really nice supplement that have been included on disc three. America's First Family Of Fright is a forty-three minute program that looks at the series creation, early success and its legacy. Fred Gwynne: More Than A Monster is a terrific forty-four minute biography of the actor, artist, children’s book author and the screen’s funniest Frankenstein monster. Yvonne DeCarlo: Gilded Lily is forty-four minute profile of the legendary beauty, whose best-remembered role actually detracted from her famous looks. Al Lewis: Forever Grandpa runs forty-four minutes and looks at the life and lengthy career of the TV funnyman, entrepreneur and occasional political candidate.
Universal’s release of THE MUNSTERS THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON offers a whole lot of classic sitcom fun, thanks to terrific presentations and thoughtful extras. Recommended.
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