The Munsters
The Complete Second Season

Starring: Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo and Al Lewis
Universal Playback
RRP: 34.99
Certificate: 12
Available 01 May 2006

At 1313 Mockingbird Lane live the Munsters. Another typical American family. Father, Herman, is a Frankenstein monster. He lives in perfect familial harmony with his vampire wife Lilly, werewolf son Eddie, dragon Spot and Lilly's father, Grandpa. The only ugly misfit member of the family is their poor blond haired, blue eyed curvaceous niece Marilyn. Herman provides for his family by working in a mortuary and they all live as a normal happy family, kind off...

Although The Munsters, like The Adams Family, only ran for two seasons - from 1964 - the show has been successfully rerun so many times that it can seem that the Munsters had a much longer run. This six disc DVD box set contains all 32 episodes from the second and last season.

Most of the humour comes from subverting the '60s American sitcom format of a normal family getting into scrapes, the difference with The Munsters is that apart from Marilyn the rest of the family are a collection of monsters - not that they see themselves as such. The fact that they view the obviously attractive Marilyn as somewhat of an ugly duckling and the rest of humanity as a little incomprehensible just adds to the amusement.

Of course, Fred Gwynne's performance is central to making this show a much loved and oft repeated classic. Gwynne could have taken any aspect of Herman's personality for the show. What he chose to highlight was Herman's childlike delight in the most everyday simplistic things. For Herman his family is the centre of his universe. The cast are superb; of course Fred Gwynne, who plays Herman, and Al Lewis, who plays Grandpa, had already worked together in Car 54, Where Are You? Yvonne De Carlo had been a screen beauty prior to the show.

Although, some of the writing for the second season was a little below par, a problem that both Gwynne and Lewis highlighted, the show still feels fresh, maybe it's the black and white photography, or maybe it's because the show is so strange that it hasn't dated. Regardless of the reason, The Munsters remains as much fun today as it was in the early '60s.

There are way too many episodes in the box set to go through them all with a synopsis, as with any long running series there are shows that are better than others and I'm sure you will all have your favourites, but overall the quality surprisingly remains high.

The extras in the box set really do the show justice with some nice long features. First up is America's First Family of Fright, running at forty-three minutes. This looks at the history of the show. Included in this is colour footage from the original fifteen minute pilot show and the Munsters movie, a must for any true Munsters fan. Shame they didn't include the two pilots in their entirety.

Fred Gwynne: More than a Munster looks at Fred's life. Although he was not the usual good looking leading man Gwynne was a much underrated character actor and author. The main epitaph that most people use was that Fred was a good guy. Now that can't be bad. There is some repetition of material regarding The Munsters, but it's only a short section in a documentary which runs at forty-four minutes.

Yvonne De Carlo: Gilded Lilly, tells the story of De Carlo's difficult upbringing and her eventual success as a screen actress. As much as I liked the piece on Gwynne, much of the information was already known to me. De Carlo's featurette was different in that although I'd been aware of her work on the Munsters I hadn't been aware of just how many films I'd seen her in.

The last Documentary is Al Lewis: Forever Grandpa, which like the previous two features is a look at Lewis's work and life, a great character actor. Sadly Al Lewis who played the grandfather passed away this February (2006), he follows Gwynne who passed away in nineteen ninety-three.

Audio is mono, but hey this was the early sixties, luckily it's crystal clear as is the print of the show. If you're a fan of the series I'm not really sure what more you could ask for from a box set.

Charles Packer

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