Fans got a taste of what Universal Monsters comedy films would be like thanks to Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, but have you ever wondered what it would be like if the monsters were one big ghoulish family?
Universal Studios must have wondered too, because in the ’60s they produced The Munsters – a family full of characters influenced by the Universal Monsters. Since Universal Studios produced the show, they were able to use the monster makeup and design for the characters. Other studios could make a Frankenstein monster, werewolf, or Count Dracula of their own, but not with the same styling created by Jack Pierce because it’s under copyright.
The father, Herman Munster, was inspired by Frankenstein’s monster. The mother, Lily Munster, was inspired by the Bride. The grandpa, who is always just called “Grandpa,” was inspired by Count Dracula. The son, Eddie Munster, was inspired by the Wolf Man. And the niece, Marilyn Munster, was inspired by, well, a normal person. There’s even an uncle who pops in resembling the Creature and the Phantom.
The idea of a family of comical monsters was first suggested to Universal Studios in the late 1940s by animator Bob Clampett, who wanted to do a series of cartoons. The project didn’t start developing until the ’60s when the studio was trying to decided if they wanted to make it a cartoon or live-action.
The studio decided on live-action, and The Munsters debuted on September 24, 1964. It ran on CBS once a week and in black-and-white until May 12, 1966. Unlike the Universal Monsters movies during this time, The Munsters was a family friendly show.
The Munsters, though odd, consider themselves to be a normal working class family. Herman works at a graveyard while Lily takes care of the kids, makes most of the family decisions, and works random jobs here and there. Grandpa spends most of his time making inventions and causing trouble in his laboratory. Eddie goes to school and plays with his stuffed Woof Woof, and Marilyn spends her time trying to find a boyfriend that won’t get scared away. Many episodes include scenes where they do not understand why everyone is afraid of them because they believe they are perfectly normal.
The characters don’t just look like the Universal Monsters, but they embody some of their traits. Herman’s lack of intelligence and child-like innocence mimick the Frankenstein’s monster’s, along with him talking about the day he was “made” often. Grandpa is able to turn into a bat and a wolf, and fondly talks of his days in Translyvania. Eddie howls and growls like a wolf occasionally. But besides her looks, Lily doesn’t embody the Bride’s traits because the Bride wasn’t on screen long enough to develop distinctive traits.
The Munsters lasted for 70 episodes, which are available in a box set for around $44 on sites such as amazon.
Even though it was short lived, The Munsters still have a strong fan base, and there’s even rumors that a remake might be created.