The Addams Family and The Munsters both ran for only two television seasons between 1964 and 1966. The Addams Family ran on ABC and (the higher Nielsen-rated) The Munsters ran on CBS—both shows airing for the same two seasons.
The cultural impact of both shows is astounding, considering they were both such short-lived programs. Legions of fans appreciate both shows 50+ years later, with individuals leaning towards one or the other as a personal favorite.
Me, personally, I’ve always been an Addams Family guy since religiously viewing both shows (in syndication) as a kid. My first crush was on Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams, and that crush basically informed my “type” until this very day. The Addams Family seemed relatable as a gaggle of offbeat weirdos with ghoulish quirks and passions—a concept which resonated with me, even as a child. The Munsters seemed like, well, some TV execs had a pitch meeting and said: “Wouldn’t it be CRAZY if a Dracula and a Frankenstein and a Wolfman LIVED TOGETHER?!”
Given the lowest-common-denominator mentality of most Americans, it’s not surprising that The Munsters was the ratings favorite.
Having a life-long obsession with all thing Addams, my curiosity was piqued when I ran across this 1964 vintage Addams Family hand-puppet.
These puppets were produced by the Ideal Toy company. Three puppets were produced in the line: Gomez Addams, Morticia Addams, and Uncle Fester. The Morticia is a bit odd with a strangely short hairdo. I guess Ideal skimped on the plastic for a full hair-length Morticia.
The rival show had a similar toy, produced by rival toy manufacturer, Mattel. Herman Munster was the only puppet produced for The Munsters, but the Mattel puppet had a string-activated voicebox, much like their G.I. Joe line. Frankly, the Herman Munster is the cooler toy.
See the Herman Munster toy in action, after the jump…
Most people dislike the colorization of old B&W films and photographs. I’m one of those people. The colors never look real enough to me and they add a certain “fakey” modernization to the film or photograph. That’s just my opinion. However, this is not the case with the colorization of the opening to the 1964 TV sitcom The Munsters. This one totally works. Perhaps it’s because it’s extremely well done or maybe it’s because the Munsters were such a colorful, cartoony family that it’s not offensive to see them in color. I don’t know.
Pop Colorture explains the painstaking process of getting The Munsters opening right:
I spent a day or two thinking of how I was going to approach colorizing hundreds upon hundreds of individual images and I finally streamlined a process. After importing all 1,317 frames of the 44-second opening, I broke them down into scenes. Each scene consists of an establishing shot of the character, followed by a quick zoom into a closeup. The establishing shots and close ups would be easy enough, but the zooms seemed like a challenge when coloring frame by frame. Using the same color palette for both parts of the shot did not work well, so I had to color each section (establishing and close-up) separately and find a way to transition the colors during the zoom.
I fully colorized several images, almost as key frames, throughout the entire segment, then adjusted for the small movements in between. I knew I would be working frame by frame, but I was not prepared for the sheer amount of time required for this adventure. In the end, I colorized every single frame by hand and even re-colorized the portions of Eddie and Marilyn when I decided on better color choices. In all, I colorized nearly 2,000 images over the course of 80 hours in one very, very full week.
That’s dedication. But like I said in the previous paragraph, it’s really well done. I don’t think you’ll hate it. I think you’ll dig it.
The curious thing about this clip of the Standells appearing on “Far Out Munster,” an episode of The Munsters from 1965, is that they’re playing a Beatles song when they’re obviously far more influenced by the Stones. I guess nothing, but nothing, was going to stand in the way of Beatlemania.
The rendition of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” isn’t especially interesting, and there’s waaaaaaaaaaay too much Grandpa Al Lewis in the clip. It’s almost surprising they got a real band to do the bit, they could have done just as well with actors, based on this clip anyway. Promoting LA’s own answer to Liverpool was worth something too, after all.
More fun in every way, and more typical, is “Dirty Water,” their hit from later the same year, which Red Sox fans will recognize as the serenade to the departing Fenway faithful after every Bosox victory. The song features the lyric “Oh, Boston, you’re my home (oh, you’re the number one place),” but the song makes for a strange love letter to the city, as it was inspired by a mugging and references the Boston Strangler.
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” on The Munsters:
An obviously lipsynced TV rendition of “Dirty Water”:
LONG POST: What with last week’s Kraken re-releasing, I’m reminded once again of the perils of adaptation, and how meddling with the stories we cherish as children is, in most cases, a doomed proposition.
Not so much because movies, regardless of their “faithfulness,” never fully capture the scope and detail of the books they’re sometimes based on (Dune, Harry Potter), or that the sheer act of turning words into images, states of mind into dialogue, necessitates a sacrifice of some kind when jumping from interior-minded Literature to exterior-bodied Film (The Hours, Atonement).
All those notions are valid, sure, but they presuppose something that rarely gets mentioned in the great Book vs. Movie debate: that despite the slippery slope we call Language, there’s such a thing as a universally experienced book to hold against a universally experienced movie in the first place.
In other words, when male friend X tells me, “Well, I liked Atonement, but it wasn’t nearly as good as McEwan’s book,” I’m always left thinking, “That’s great, but who am I to gauge your private experience of McEwan’s book?”
In fact, maybe my private experience of McEwan’s Atonement not only kicks ass over X’s private experience of it in terms of analytical sophistication, but the “good” things he found in it are the same things I found both “trite” and “manipulative?”
It’s also, along with Disney’s Song of The South, the first film I remember seeing in theaters. Directed by Chuck Jones, with a screenplay by Jones and Sam Rosen, The Phantom Tollbooth totally blew my then-puny kid gaskets. I remember stumbling out of the theater declaring it the best film (out of the total four, maybe) I’d ever seen. It was certainly the best film I’d ever seen starring The Munsters’ Butch Patrick.
I haven’t seen Tollbooth since, and it remains out of print, but, thanks to Vimeo (see above, below), I recently took some time to revisit it. And now…well, let’s just say Jones’s imagining of Milo’s adventures in the Doldrums and beyond no longer constitutes what I consider the best film I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s now maybe the opposite of that.
But why, though? Why, exactly, does Jones’s version compare so woefully to the beloved Juster book? Well, it’s not just the crude animation and unsophisticated storytelling. It’s something that leads back to the above-mentioned perils of adaptation and my own private experience of the book—a few pages of it, anyway. Jones mangles a particular sequence I found—and still find—incredibly resonant: Milo’s conducting of the sunrise.
The shorthand goes like this (for those of you with the book handy, it’s Chapter 11, Dischord and Dyne): during his quest to save Rhyme and Reason, Milo meets Chroma the Great, the conductor responsible for all the colors in the world. The beauty of trees and sunsets, of sunshine and fireworks, all stem from the movement of Chroma’s hands and the thousands of musicians playing silently around him.
Wanting to let Chroma sleep in a bit, Milo takes the next morning’s sunrise shift. One by one the musicians come to life: piccolo players summon the day’s first rays, cellists make the hills glow red. Milo’s overjoyed, “because they were all playing for him, and just the way they should.”
Joy turns to terror, though, when Milo’s musicians start playing louder and faster, the colors of the world becoming “more brilliant than he thought possible.” Milo tries to keep up, but soon the sky’s changing from blue to tan and then to red. Flowers turn black. “Nothing was the color it should have been, and yet, the more he tried to straighten things out, the worse they became.”
Or, to use another metaphor, one plate in the air. Then two plates. Soon dozens of plates. All moving in harmony. And then they start crashing down around you. In all of literature, I can’t recall a more compact or accurate description of the creative process. Or its possible dangers.
And while I’m pretty sure my kid mind didn’t grasp its meaning then, I’ve been returning to that passage ever since. Because that’s what metaphors do. The better ones, anyway. They hit you in the gut before you know how or why they’re useful.
If we’re lucky, we recognize it, maybe in the moment, maybe years later. Is it any wonder then that the book-to-movie process can be so fraught? One adaptor’s trash might very well be another reader’s treasure.
Which brings us to the version of this scene as imagined by Chuck Jones. It’s in Part II, 19 or so minutes in. As per the book, Milo meets Chroma, sends him to bed, and prepares to conduct the sunrise. And this is where things veer off course. Way the fuck off course.
Before those piccolos have a chance to breathe, celestial activities start going to hell, denying Milo – and the viewers – a single moment of pleasure. Not only does this rob Juster’s sequence of its poetry, but Jones turns the creative process into all danger, no joy whatsoever.
It gets worse from there. As the world unravels, Juster restores order by having Milo drop his hands, signaling the musicians to stop. What does Jones have Milo do? He has him retreat. Flee the scene. Act cowardly in the face of the forces he’s unleashed. Now, I ask you: what kind of metaphor for the creative process is that?! Not one I’d ever expose a child to, that’s for sure.
Jones’s Tollbooth might fail me now as a metaphor for the creative process, but it does say something about growing up, growing older…
If that process can be boiled down to the saying goodbye to everything we hold dear, maybe it’s a relief that some of those things we hold most dear aren’t worth holding on to so tightly in the first place.