Saturday, December 13, 2008


For our next blog on The MonsterGrrls' 25 Days Of Christmas, we bring you another little Yuletide treat that's also monster-friendly: The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas, which is the latest new item from the popular TV show The Munsters. Though it does not feature any of the original cast, this full-length movie special first aired on the Fox channel in November of 1996.

The lot has fallen to me to review it, though. None of the Grrls are particularly big television watchers (they love DVDs mainly because you can pause them in the middle and pick up where you left off later), and they are also not fans of The Munsters. While they understand that The Munsters is from a different era and generally presents a positive view of monsterkind, they find certain aspects of the show a bit demeaning (Frankie in particular has had a big problem with Herman's childishness and stupidity, and maintains that Creatures generally don't behave like that when they have reached his age), and thus none of them felt that they could give a particularly objective review.* So today your friendly neighborhood Mad Doctor is presenting this review for you. Here's the skinny:

Christmastime is descending upon Mockingbird Lane, and the Munster clan is looking forward to it, except for Eddie (Bug Hall), who is homesick for Transylvania and has a fairly serious case of the holiday blues. (Or maybe it's greens.) To lift Eddie's spirits, the clan decides to get involved in Christmas in a major way, and sets upon various schemes toward this end: Marilyn (Elaine Hendrix) plans a holiday party and invites all of the Transylvanian branches of the Munster family (all of whom are various takes on famous movie monsters), while Lily (Ann Magnuson) enters herself and Eddie in a house-decorating contest, pitting them against their snobby next-door neighbor (played with foam-mouthed gusto by Mary Woronov) and Herman (Sam McMurray) tries to get a part-time job to afford the perfect present for Eddie: the Marquis De Sade Action Dungeon Playset. (Wouldn't mind having one of those myself.) Meanwhile, Grandpa (Sandy Baron) attempts to make snow for Christmas in his basement dungeon/laboratory and inadvertently winds up trapping Santa Claus (yes, the Santa, played by Mark Mitchell) at the Munster manse. As the family races to get Santa back to the North Pole in time for Christmas, his rebellious and overworked elves (Arturo Gil and Ed Gale) plot to undo the Munsters' work in order to score some downtime for themselves. An additional subplot has Marilyn attracting the interest of a handsome rock-n-roll-playing biker (Jeremy Callaghan) who is the first suitor in Munsters history to not be cowed by her frightening family.

If you are a diehard Munsters fan who believes that none can or should take the place of original cast members Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis, Yvonne DeCarlo, Pat Priest/Beverly Owen and Butch Patrick, well, you're right about that, and you will probably be disappointed in this film. However, if accepted on its own merits (one of which appears to be a genuine desire by the filmmakers to do a well-created if not perfect Munsters Christmas film) this movie has some nice treats in store for you. Sam McMurray's portrayal of Herman downplays some of the grating man-child shtick employed by Gwynne to create more of a bumbling EveryCreature in his attempts to score a nice Christmas for Eddie, and Sandy Baron, rather than slavishly imitate Al Lewis, bravely puts his own spin on the character. Magnuson, Hall and Hendrix handle their characters fairly well, though Hall sometimes comes across as too depressed, which puts his character in danger of becoming unlikable. And the story, while full of goofy-ghouly slapstick, is a bit edgier than the original series, but not in a bad way. Plus, it's nice to see Marilyn finally get a real boyfriend in Callaghan, who might turn out to be a decent addition to the Munster clan! Their supporting cast, with Woronov's crazed performance, Gil and Gale's non-stop scheming and Mitchell's flustered but kindly Santa, does a good job too. It's very obvious that the cast and crew are all Munsters fans of old, and not just out for a fast buck, which definitely is in the Christmas spirit.

Pick this up if you want a little Halloween candy along with your Christmas peppermint, but as I said, if you're a serious Munsters fan, I suggest a rental. Also, I should clarify: the Grrls actually liked this film and found it miles better than other Munsters stuff they've seen. They just didn't want to review it because of the reasons I mentioned above, so fair enough.

We'll be back tomorrow for more of The MonsterGrrls' 25 Days Of Christmas, so join us then.

*Nevertheless, the Grrls have always admired the Munsters' house and their cars. --M.D.