Directed by Don Weis
A wax museum owner (Sid Caesar) uses robot doubles of Herman (Fred Gwynne) and Grandpa (Al Lewis) for a jewelry heist and now they must clear their name.
This was the last outing for the bulk original cast of the classic series with Fred Gwynne returning as Herman, Al Lewis returning as Grandpa, and Yvonne De Carlo returning as Lily. The role of Eddie was taken over by K.C. Martel and Jo McDonnell became the fourth actress to portray Marilyn. We get Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis and Yvonne De Carlo back in their iconic roles one last time. They fall easily back into the parts here and basically we were given some comfort food. Martel and McDonnell do well enough in replacing their predecessors with little difference in what we saw before, and this was not the place to make it their own thing.
What we have here is basically a half hour episode of the TV show padded out into a two-hour television movie (that is with commercials). It is a sitcom (which the show was) plot and that is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think you could have cut out tons and been just fine. It would have been just as entertaining as a half hour special. The excess is not bad but too much of it is dedicated to Sid Caesar and I admit I am not a big fan of his.
Caesar was all stupid faces and annoying, stereotypical accents. That never went over well with me. I know he is considered legendary, but I do not get it. When he first started out it was cutting edge and different but at this point in 1981 it was just not that good anymore. I view him as the weakest link in terms of talent and character in this whole film.
It is still not clear to me if Caesar’s character of Dr. Dustin Diablo really was an immortal Egyptian or just a kook. The immortality portion came up about halfway through the movie and I remember watching this when I was younger and it not making sense and I fully accepted transforming sentient robots when I was a child so why didn’t an immortal jewel thief jive with me? Nothing illogical with those giant robots in the context of their established world yet the plot point about the golden chair being his just felt like it came out of left field. Caesar was known to adlib, and I think that bit of story came about because of that tendency and nobody told him “No!”
I also was not too keen on Glen Boyle (Peter Fox) and his father Police Chief Harry Boyle (Herb Voland). The dad was all huffing and puffing and I half expected the son to exclaim “Geewillikers!” He was edging towards Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) in incompetence but not in entertainment value.
Newly introduced one off family member Phantom of the Opera (referred to as “Phantom” and played by Bob Hastings) fit right in with the original series characters. He was just as obliviously ignorant of his horror appearance as the rest. Given his prominence during the film it was clear he was important to the resolution since he kept showing up in scenes but really contributing nothing to the story. Why include him so much if he does not do much? I just wish he had been more of a participant in things.
The magic of the original series was that the Munsters were monsters that thought of themselves perfectly normal and were placed in standard sitcom situations albeit with a supernatural spin at times. Occasionally the show would slip in social commentary and bits of pithy wisdom. While there are no bits of social commentary or pithy wisdom here they do play the characters as perceiving themselves as perfectly normal which makes the comedy elements in this film actually funny.
The story in The Munsters’ Revenge is kind of thin. And it was a bit nonsensical even by Munsters’ standards. I am not sure how using robot duplicates of Herman and Grandpa really makes sense. It is just adding extra steps to a heist. Dr. Diablo is trying to terrorize the city with robots to steal a getaway car for a jewel heist when he goes to the place in a vehicle anyway and somehow it all connects to a pizzeria. I am not even understanding why the pizza place was needed.
This movie aired on NBC on February 27, 1981 yet it is very Halloween centric which confuses me. The family is celebrating Halloween and the way they are acting about the holiday is like Christmas or Thanksgiving to them. The Munsters’ Revenge is an obvious Halloween special. At least it should have been given that the Munsters are comedic versions of Universal horror characters. Minor quibble here though.
Despite its flaws, The Munsters’ Revenge manages to be an entertaining piece of early 80s comfort food. It is fun to revisit the characters with the majority of the originals one last time. It is nothing too deep and it is nothing edgy, but it is still a fun time. Watch it and enjoy.