Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)

General Information

Directors: Terry Morse and Ishiro Honda

Writers: Takeo Murata and Ishiro Honda

Cast: Raymond Burr, Takashi Shimura, Momoko Kochi, Akira Takarada, Akihiko Hirata, Sachio Sakai, Fuyuki Murakami, Ren Yamamoto, Toyoaki Suzuki, Tadashi Okabe, Toranosuke Ogawa, and Frank Jwanaga

Composer: Akira Ifukube

Release Date: 4/27/1956

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

 

Overview

While visiting Japan, reporter Steve Martin (Raymond Burr) investigates a series of ship explosions occurring along the main coast. Before long, Martin is confronted with a 400-foot-tall, Jurassic-age monster known to island natives godzilla-king-of-the-monstersas Godzilla. Only Dr. Serizawa, a scientist with a powerful but deadly invention, can stop Godzilla from destroying the entire world.

Godzilla, King of the Monsters! should be commended for introducing the Western world to Godzilla. For American viewers in particular, this production adds a familiar element (i.e. Perry Mason actor Raymond Burr) to an otherwise foreign tale.

 

Pros

Though regarded as superfluous by many critics, the framing narrative in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! may allow English-speaking audiences to personallygodzilla-king-of-the-monsters connect with the Japanese characters. Especially worth praising are the newly filmed interactions with Professor Yamane, Emiko, and Dr. Serizawa, which provide Steve Martin with a direct involvement in the original story. (There are instances, however, when Burr’s presence in the film serves only as a distraction. For example, the sequences featuring Godzilla’s rampage are quite heavy on exposition, causing Martin to overstate the obvious on more than one occasion.)

 

Cons

In the Japanese version, a line of dialogue explains that Dr. Serizawa had discovered the oxygen destroyer by accident—a detail that, though seemingly minor, godzilla-king-of-the-monstersestablishes the context for Serizawa’s hesitancy to ever use the device. Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, on the other hand, downplays the accidental nature of the discovery, possibly giving the impression that Serizawa had set out to create a weapon while performing his initial research. When considering this ambiguity, first-time viewers may struggle to understand why Serizawa (in the American version) would construct the oxygen destroyer only to withhold it from the world for ethical reasons.

 

Analysis

godzilla-king-of-the-monstersA common criticism of Godzilla, King of the Monsters! is that virtually all references to nuclear testing were omitted from this version, thereby sanitizing the film for American audiences. Nevertheless, this watered-down version of Gojira manages to maintain, if unintentionally, the parallel between Godzilla’s demolition of Tokyo and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—a key aspect of Ishiro Honda’s social commentary.

 

Concluding Comments

The Americanized version of Honda’s original classic, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! should be viewed as an introduction to Toho’s daikaiju series of films. Gojira purists, however, may wish to avoid this offering for reasons indicated earlier.

 

Overall Quality: 8/10

 

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Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

General Information

Director: Motoyoshi Oda

Writers: Takeo Murata and Shigeaki Hidaka

Cast: Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayamaminoru, Minoru Chiaki, Takashi Shimura, Masao Shimizu, Seijiro Onnda, Sounosuke Sawamura, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Mayuri Kitakumi, Tatsunosuke Yamada, Yukio Kasama, Sennkichi Omura, Kan Yamamoto, Shin Otomo, Hirotoshi Tsuchiya, Takeo Oikawa, Soukichi Maki, Shouichi Hirose, Shin Yoshida, Junpei Natsuki, Teruko Mita, Katsumi Tezuka, Haruo Nakajima, and Miyoko Hoshino

Composer: Masaru Sato

Release Date: 4/24/1955

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

 

Overview

While searching for large amounts of tuna fish, pilots Koji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki) and Shoichi Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) are temporarily stranded on godzilla-raids-againa body of rocks near Iwato Island. Upon landing, Tsukioka and Kobayashi discover a second Godzilla along with the monster Anguirus—an akylosaurus with extremely hostile tendencies. Attracted to a fire started by escaped convicts, Godzilla and Anguirus eventually finish their battle in the city of Osaka.

Godzilla Raids Again is a mediocre sequel to Gojira. Fans of the kaiju eiga genre may, however, enjoy this film for its riveting monster action, the technical details of which are among the best in the entire Godzilla series.

 

Pros

Though primitive by today’s standards, the final showdown between Anguirus and Godzilla benefits from a (somewhat) convincing manner of choreography. Especially worth godzilla-raids-againpraising is the ferocity with which Godzilla and Anguirus attack each other, giving Godzilla Raids Again a more realistic atmosphere than daikaiju films of a similar nature. (For instance, Godzilla’s fight with King Kong seven years later comes across as overly fluid and rehearsed. The match with Anguirus, on the other hand, consists primarily of clawing, scratching, and biting, with no regard for stance or technique—exactly what one would expect of two Jurassic-age monsters locked in mortal combat.)

 

Cons

In order to compensate for a lack of plot substance, Godzilla Raids Again contains a number of sequences that are drawn out to the point of tediousness. godzilla-raids-againFor example, the frozen island climax takes far longer than necessary to resolve, thereby lessening the tension that should result from Godzilla’s confrontation with a swarm of fighter jets. (The problems with pacing are even more abundant in the Americanized version, distributed under the title of Gigantis the Fire Monster. Specifically, Gigantis the Fire Monster complements the Japanese film with a superfluous amount of stock footage and voiceover narration, exacerbating the issues that were present in the original Toho release.)

 

Analysis

By emphasizing creature antics over penetrating social commentary, Godzilla Raids Again fails to deliver a lasting impact. This film does, however, godzilla-raids-againmaintain the serious tone that defined its predecessor, allowing audiences to accept the central conflict as real and genuine—an important aspect of every classic monster movie.

 

Concluding Comments

A generic but watchable installment in the Godzilla franchise, Godzilla Raids Again will likely appeal to the most passionate of monster movie enthusiasts. Casual fans, in contrast, may wish to avoid this entry for its languid pacing and forgettable character interactions.

 

Overall Quality: 6/10

 

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Godzilla (1954)

General Information

Director: Ishiro Honda

Writers: Takeo Murata and Ishiro Honda

Cast: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Fuyuki Murakami, Sachio Sakai, Toranosuke Ogawa, Ren Yamamoto, Hiroshi Hayashi, Senjiro Onda, Takeo Oikawa, Keiji Sakakita, Toyoaki Suzuki, Kokuten Kodo, Kin Sugai, Tamae Sengo, Shizuko Azuma, Tsuruko Mano, Tadashi Okabe, Ren Imaizumi, Masaaki Tachibana, Ichiro Obi, Yasuhisa Tsutsumi, Jiro Suzukawa, Saburo Iketani, Katsumi Tezuka, and Haruo Nakajima

Composer: Akira Ifukube

Release Date: 11/3/1954

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

 

Overview

When several ships mysteriously explode along the coast of Japan, paleontologist Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) travels with his daughtergodzilla Emiko (Momoko Kochi) and assistant Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada) to Odo Island, where a 50-meter-tall monster named Gojira (translated to “Godzilla” in English) is rumored to live. Having been awakened by nuclear testing, Godzilla later wreaks havoc upon a defenseless Tokyo. Only the secret invention of Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), Emiko’s fiancée, can stop Godzilla from destroying the entire world.

For employing science fiction as a vehicle through which to explore a potential nuclear holocaust, Godzilla should be praised by fans of the giant monster subgenre. Exceptionally relevant is the solemn framework from which this topic is examined, allowing Godzilla to overcome the technical flaws apparent in its execution.

 

Pros

godzillaThough frequently criticized, the rubber suit used to portray Godzilla occasionally works to the advantage of this film. Specifically, the limited range of motion, static appearance (e.g. lack of eye movements), and clumsy gait exhibited by Godzilla hardly make him a creature with which one can easily sympathize. Rather, viewers will undoubtedly perceive the title monster as nothing more than a force of nature, heightening the inevitable aspect of Godzilla’s destructive path.

The dated special effects of Godzilla can also be forgiven in light of the serious, perhaps even haunting, tone that accompanies Ishiro Honda’s narrative. godzillaNotably, the protagonists in Godzilla express the combination of awe, respect, and unfathomable terror that one would expect a giant, aggressive creature to elicit from its victims—a stark contrast to the cartoonish, one-dimensional characters featured in follow-up films (e.g. King Kong vs. Godzilla, Son of Godzilla, etc.).

On a related note, Honda’s characters are developed enough to thoroughly immerse the audience in their struggle. Especially terrific is the love triangle involving Ogata, Emiko, and Dr. Serizawa, which further accentuates the poignant quality of Godzilla’s climactic scene. Professorgodzilla Yamane’s conflicted feelings on the decision to exterminate Godzilla should also be commended, mostly for adding a personal component to Honda’s social commentary.

 

Cons

There are times when the model buildings, civilian vehicles, and military craft appear unconvincing, thereby failing to complement Godzilla’s devastation of Tokyo with an air of realism.

 

Analysis

By offering a statement on the dangers of nuclear testing, Godzilla earns its reputation as the quintessential daikaiju (giant monster) film produced duringgodzilla the Atomic Age. Worth noting in particular, the anti-nuclear sentiments following World War II are more evident in Godzilla than in similar productions that came before it, establishing a precedent for giant monster movies released throughout the latter of half of the 20th century. (Certain parallels can even be drawn between Godzilla’s rampage and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with both incidents, one real and the other fictional, resulting from the perversion of scientific discovery—the very thing that Dr. Serizawa seeks to prevent).

 

Concluding Comments

A classic Japanese monster film, Godzilla delivers a powerful impact over sixty years after its original release. For Godzilla enthusiasts and series newcomers alike, this one will not disappoint.

 

Overall Quality: 10/10

 

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Mighty Joe Young (1949)

General Information

Director: Ernest B. Schoedsack

Writer: Ruth Rose

Cast: Terry Moore, Ben Johnson, Robert Armstrong, Mr. Joseph Young, Frank McHugh, Douglas Fowley, Denis Green, Paul Guilfoyle, Nestor Paiva, Regis Toomey, Lora Lee Michel, and James Flavin

Composer: Roy Webb

Release Date: 7/27/1949

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

 

Overview

As a child, Jill Young (Lora Lee Michel and Terry Moore) purchases a baby gorilla from two African traders. Having grown substantially over the next twelve years, “Joe” attacks a nearby camp established by promoter Max O’Hara (Robert Armstrong) and mighty-joe-youngsidekick Gregg (Ben Johnson). Impressed, O’Hara offers to make Joe the main attraction at an extravagant Hollywood nightclub. Despite accepting O’Hara’s proposal, Jill regrets her decision when Joe, forced to live in a cage and perform degrading acts before an audience, openly despises the new arrangement.

Conceived by the same crew responsible for King Kong, Mighty Joe Young is a classic tale of friendship, sacrifice, and redemption in a family-friendly setting. Possibly the most remarkable aspect of this film, Joe’s involvement with Jill, O’Hara, and other humans will tug the heartstrings of those with a sensitive disposition.

 

Pros

mighty-joe-youngThough extremely dated, the stop-motion cinematography of Ray Harryhausen continues to impress in one regard: the eye movements of Joe convey a wide variety of emotions, allowing him to elicit compassion more effectively than King Kong ever could. Highlights include rage (evident during Joe’s terrifying outburst at the nightclub), sorrow (when Joe struggles to embrace captivity), and desperation (displayed during Joe’s rescue effort at the burning orphanage), which provide Joe with an almost human complexity to complement his animalistic ferocity.

 

Cons

On a technical level, Mighty Joe Young is hampered by one significant flaw: the bodily proportions of Joe differ tremendously from one scene to the mighty-joe-youngnext. Supposedly done for dramatic effect, Joe’s inexplicable variations in size may irritate viewers with a keen eye for detail.

Also problematic is the wooden acting of a young Terry Moore. Specifically, Moore’s lack of range at the time prevents Jill, a woman whose plight should firmly resonate with animal lovers, from convincing the audience of her concern for Joe. In one scene, for example, Jill’s tearful response to an imprisoned Joe comes across as incredibly forced, thereby lessening the impact of an otherwise powerful sequence.

 

Analysis

Similar to King Kong, Mighty Joe Young contains a commentary on the human tendency to exploit nature for profit. In this movie, however, redemptive themes mighty-joe-youngtake central focus in the final act, with Max O’Hara (fittingly portrayed by Carl Denham actor Robert Armstrong) aiding in the escape of Joe after subjecting him, if unintentionally, to indignities that no creature should ever experience—a poignant and commendable twist on the giant monster trope.

 

Concluding Comments

By putting an original, heartwarming spin on the King Kong legend, Mighty Joe Young earns its status as a true family classic. Exceptionally worth praising is Joe’s ability to love and care for people, a characteristic that Kong typically fails to possess.

 

Overall Quality: 9/10

 

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The Son of Kong (1933)

General Information

Director: Ernest B. Schoedsack

Writer: Ruth Rose

Cast: Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack, Frank Reicher, John Marston, Victor Wong, and Ed Brady

Composer: Max Steiner

Release Date: 12/22/1933

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

 

Overview

Avoiding legal and financial ruin, Carl Denham leaves New York with comrades Capt. Englehorn and Charlie the Chinese Cook (Victor Wong). Having alsothe-son-of-kong picked up Norwegian skipper Nils Helstrom (John Marston) and Hilda (Helen Mack), a young woman whose father was killed by Helstrom, Denham and company embark on a return voyage to Skull Island. Shortly thereafter, the Venture crew members encounter a new surprise in the form of “Little” Kong—the benign, white-colored offspring of Kong.

A lighthearted sequel to King Kong, The Son of Kong offers plenty of good, clean fun for people of all ages. There are instances, however, when family-friendly antics hamper an otherwise terrifying concept (i.e. humans trapped on an island with dinosaurs and giant apes).

 

Pros

the-son-of-kongAs opposed to King Kong, The Son of Kong spends a great deal of time acquainting the audience with each main character. Particularly worth noting is the development of Denham, who, now stricken with remorse, exemplifies a much softer, more sympathetic manner than in the previous film. The addition of Helstrom’s character should also be praised, especially for providing a realistic, human antagonist to complement writer Ruth Rose’s fantasy-themed conflict—yet another area where The Son of Kong excels over the original King Kong.

 

Cons

Having stripped away the mystery from Skull Island, The Son of Kong fails to recapture the compelling sense of danger that defined its predecessor. The low threat level facing Denham, Hilda, Charlie, and Englehorn becomes most apparentthe-son-of-kong during Little Kong’s battle with a giant bear, the details of which border on comedic at times—a stark contrast to the riveting monster action for which King Kong is known.

Also problematic is the film’s climax, which suffers from an abrupt, hackneyed execution. Specifically, Skull Island is washed away too quickly for viewers to absorb the impact of Little Kong’s sacrifice, thereby undermining the emotional effect that the climactic scene attempts to convey.

 

Analysis

The Son of Kong contains a worthwhile message on the value of redemption. Notably, Denham initially evades the consequences of his actions, choosingthe-son-of-kong to flee the country instead of confronting those whom Kong had injured in the prior installment. By taking Little Kong under his wing, however, Denham compensates for any past crimes committed against nature—a heartwarming gesture for which he is rewarded at a later time.

 

Concluding Comments

The Son of Kong is a decent, if unremarkable, sequel to one of the most iconic movies ever made. Kong enthusiasts may therefore enjoy this effort, which poignantly combines human drama with monster mayhem.

 

Overall Quality: 6/10

 

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King Kong (1933)

General Information

Directors: Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (Uncredited)

Writers: James Creelman and Ruth Rose

Cast: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Frank Reicher, Sam Hardy, Noble Johnson, Steve Clemento, James Flavin, and King Kong

Composer: Max Steiner

Release Date: 4/7/1933

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

 

Overview

Having recruited Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to star in his latest picture, film producer Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) embarks on a voyage to Skull Island, unsure of what to expect. Upon arrival, Denham and his shipmates—John Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), king-kongCapt. Englehorn (Frank Reicher), and several others—encounter a giant, aggressive ape known as Kong (later nicknamed “The Eighth Wonder of the World”). When Kong kidnaps Ann—presented as a sacrifice by the island natives—and returns with her to the jungle, Driscoll and his crewmates are forced to battle many incredible, albeit extremely dangerous, creatures while searching for their female passenger.

A “modern” retelling of Beauty and the Beast, King Kong should be viewed by monster buffs and classic movie fans alike. Especially commendable are the contributions of Willis H. O’Brien, whose stop-motion cinematography would inspire numerous filmmakers (e.g. Ray Harryhausen) in the years following 1933.

 

Pros

king-kongDespite remaining absent until the halfway mark, Kong is made into a mysterious, nightmarish figure by the rumors and speculation of Denham, Englehorn, and members of the Venture crew—a rare case of expository dialogue working to build and maintain suspense. As the characters approach Skull Island, a creepy, impenetrable fog layer serves to embody the unknown essence of Kong, still considered a thing of legend at this point in the story. Also praiseworthy is the haunting score of Max Steiner, which, when coupled with the aforementioned use of fog, establishes an eerie atmosphere leading into the introduction of Kong himself.

king-kongWhile terrorizing New York City later in the narrative, Kong will undoubtedly perturb those of a claustrophobic nature. Possibly the most horrifying scene ever showcased in a giant monster movie, Kong’s train assault preys upon a primal fear shared by all humans: to be trapped by a predatory animal. A similar effect is induced by Kong’s theater rampage, during which crowd members are trampled by one another while attempting to escape—a brilliant, surreal, and terrifying use of the fish-out-of-water trope.

 

Cons

king-kongKing Kong is marred by wooden performances and one-dimensional protagonists. A lack of character development becomes particularly problematic during the Skull Island sequences; specifically, viewers are given no reason to root for Denham, Driscoll, or any of the Venture crewmen as they struggle to protect themselves from dinosaurs, giant lizards, and other remnants of a prehistoric era.

 

Analysis

By endowing Kong with human features, director Merian C. Cooper succeeded in crafting a beast with whom the audience can sympathize—a defining aspectking-kong of almost every classic monster movie. It should be noted, however, that Kong never hesitates to attack, often viciously, anyone foolish or unfortunate enough to stand in his way. As a result of this, Kong—like Frankenstein’s monster and the Gill Man—evokes compassion only in small doses; and certainly not to the detriment of his fearsome characteristics. (The same cannot be said of Peter Jackson’s Kong, whose anthropomorphic qualities are overplayed to the point of sappiness.)

 

Concluding Comments

king-kongFor blending adventure/fantasy themes with commentary on the human condition, King Kong earns its reputation as the greatest giant monster film ever made. Notably, Kong’s enslavement, escape, and iconic demise atop the Empire State Building make a chilling statement, however subtle, on the human tendency to both exploit and despise that which cannot be explained by conventional science.

 

Overall Quality: 10/10

 

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The Munsters Episode 58: Grandpa’s Lost Wife

General Information

Director: Ezra Stone

Writer: Douglas Tibbles

Cast: Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Pat Priest, Butch Patrick, Jane Withers, and Douglas Evans

Composer: Jack Marshall

Air Date: 2/3/1966

 

Overview

While reading a detective magazine, Herman locates a reward advertisement from Pamela Thornton (Jane Withers)—a person claiming to be Grandpa’s the-munsters-grandpas-lost-wifelong-lost wife. Grandpa initially denies having known Pamela, but later decides to humor the woman in order to access her inheritance money.

By portraying Grandpa as a despicable old man (more than usual), “Grandpa’s Lost Wife” serves to undermine the positive family relationships at the heart of this series. That being said, certain comedic devices (e.g. the explanation behind Pamela’s ruse) will no doubt satisfy fans of The Munsters.

 

Pros

Hoping to collect the reward on Grandpa, Herman writes a message to Pamela detailing the whereabouts of her “husband.” Despite a last-minute changethe-munsters-grandpas-lost-wife of heart, Herman misplaces the letter before it can be destroyed. Infuriated, Grandpa threatens to “go right through the ceiling” if the paper is not recovered. After Eddie admits that he had mailed Herman’s letter by accident, Grandpa makes good on his promise to fly through the roof—a hilariously bad special effect that, when complemented by fast-motion cinematography, will appeal to those who enjoy the kooky, zany antics for which the Munsters are iconic.

 

Cons

(Spoilers beyond this point)

the-munsters-grandpas-lost-wifePamela is never punished for conning Grandpa, a fact that may perturb viewers with a sense of justice.

 

Analysis

Though hardly serious, the family values in “Grandpa’s Lost Wife” leave much to be desired. Specifically, Grandpa demonstrates no (heartfelt) remorse for abandoning his family on a whim; likewise, Herman comes across as a petty, vindictive patriarch by refusing to welcome Grandpa back into the Munster home. The final scene does, however, imply that Herman and Grandpa have set aside their differences and no longer wish to “kill” each other.

 

Concluding Comments

For showcasing laughable special effects, “Grandpa’s Lost Wife” should be praised by comedy enthusiasts. Grandpa’s lack of reconciliation with Herman, on the other hand, may evoke mixed feelings from audiences of a sensitive nature.

 

Overall Quality: 6/10

 

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The Munsters Episode 57: The Most Beautiful Ghoul in the World

General Information

Director: Ezra Stone

Writer: Ted Bergman

Cast: Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Pat Priest, Butch Patrick, Elvia Allman, Charles Lane, Adele Claire, and Mary Mitchell

Composer: Jack Marshall

Air Date: 1/27/1966

 

Overview

Having inherited $10,000 from Cousin Wolverine, the Munster family decides to start a small business. Unable to agree on a proposal, the Munsters are forced to reach a compromise: Marilyn and Lily use their half of the inheritance money to open athe-munsters-the-most-beautiful-ghoul-in-the-world “beauty” parlor, while Herman and Grandpa develop a machine for transmitting electricity without wires.

By employing kooky antics to highlight the importance of family teamwork, “The Most Beautiful Ghoul in the World” earns its reputation as an iconic episode of The Munsters. Also worth praising are certain jokes (e.g. “the last time we got a box from the Old Country, there was somebody in it”), which will appeal to fans of classic monster movies.

 

Pros

the-munsters-the-most-beautiful-ghoul-in-the-worldThe first (and probably only) patrons of the Munster beauty salon, Mrs. Harkness (Elvia Allman) and Dorothea (Mary Mitchell)—a snooty mother and daughter, respectively—are given a “special” treatment by Lily and Marilyn. Though predictable, the transformation of Dorothea and Mrs. Harkness will satisfy those with a distaste for prissy, arrogant members of society.

 

Cons

After receiving a “makeover” from Lily and Marilyn, Mrs. Harkness and her daughter promptly faint at the sight of one another. In response to this, Marilyn the-munsters-the-most-beautiful-ghoul-in-the-worldrightfully asserts that she and Lily are off to a bad start; however, upon receiving a strongly worded letter from the Harkness family attorney, Edgar Z. Holmes (Charles Lane), Marilyn is surprised to learn that Dorothea and her mother wish to undo the aforementioned makeover—a continuity error that, though somewhat minor, diminishes the impact of writer Ted Bergman’s main comedic device (i.e. disaster resulting from Lily and Marilyn’s bizarre standards of beauty).

 

Analysis

For encouraging cooperation over competition among family members, “The Most Beautiful Ghoul in the World” should be commended. Specifically, thethe-munsters-the-most-beautiful-ghoul-in-the-world legal and financial troubles that befall Herman, Grandpa, Lily, and Marilyn might have been avoided, at least in part, if the four of them had simply worked together from the onset.

 

Concluding Comments

“The Most Beautiful Ghoul in the World” employs a one-note premise (i.e. Lily and Marilyn’s beauty parlor mishaps) to amusing effect. Especially notable are the mortified reactions toward Mrs. Harkness and Dorothea, which give two normal people a taste of the prejudice typically directed at the Munsters.

 

Overall Quality: 8/10

 

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The Munsters Episode 56: Big Heap Herman

General Information

Director: Ezra Stone

Writers: Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher

Cast: Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Pat Priest, Butch Patrick, Ned Romero, Len Lesser, Felix Locher, Richard Jury, and Sally Frei

Composer: Jack Marshall

Air Date: 1/20/1966

 

Overview

the-munsters-big-heap-hermanDuring a trip to Buffalo Valley, Herman stops at a rest area and falls asleep. Realizing that the train has left without him, Herman wanders to a nearby Indian village and is mistaken for an ancient spirit. Before long, the tribe arranges for Herman to marry a young, attractive woman of Native American heritage.

By placing the eponymous character in a position of great honor, “Big Heap Herman” will appeal to fans of the absurd, zany situations typical of The Munsters. That being said, Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher’s narrative is a tad light on comedic substance.

 

Pros

While reading a macabre description of Lady Madeline from “The Fall of the House of Usher,” a train passenger encounters Lily—a dead ringer for the the-munsters-big-heap-hermanghost of Madeline—and promptly jumps out the window. Lacking any self-awareness whatsoever, Lily assumes that the “poor man” must have passed his station and only just now realized it—a gag that effectively plays off the imperceptive, if not thoroughly oblivious, tendencies for which the Munsters are iconic.

Sometime later, Herman gets up in the middle of the night to pour himself a cup of water. With only a few drops available to him, Herman throws a temper tantrum and destroys every berth on his section of the train. In response to this, all passengers proceed to exit the vehicle in fast motion, allowing for a comically bad special effect.

 

Cons

the-munsters-big-heap-hermanThough initially amusing, the bunk-bed hijinks of Herman and Grandpa are slightly overplayed.

 

Analysis

By going back to look for Herman despite his petulant behavior in the opening scene, several members of the Munster family again display unconditional love for their patriarch.

 

Concluding Comments

“Big Heap Herman” is a humorous, albeit slow-moving, episode of The Munsters. Notably, viewers will enjoy any interactions between the Indian leaders and Herman, the face of whom resembles a totem pole carving.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

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The Munsters Episode 55: Just Another Pretty Face

General Information

Director: Gene Reynolds

Writer: Richard Baer

Cast: Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Pat Priest, Butch Patrick, and Dom DeLuise

Composer: Jack Marshall

Air Date: 1/13/1966

 

Overview

When Herman is “disfigured” by a bolt of lightning, Lily takes her husband to Dr. Dudley (Dom DeLuise) for a plastic surgery consultation. Meanwhile, the-munsters-just-another-pretty-faceGrandpa decides to study Herman’s original blueprints (a souvenir from Dr. Frankenstein) with the intention of returning his son-in-law to “normal.”

By transforming Herman into a hideously deformed monster (i.e. a regular human being), “Just Another Pretty Face” earns its reputation as the most iconic episode of The Munsters. Especially worth praising are any scenes featuring Fred Gwynne without makeup, which will undoubtedly result in a surreal and memorable viewing experience for fans of this series.

 

Pros

After removing the bandages from Herman’s face, Dr. Dudley reacts with awe over what he considers to be a miracle. At first, Herman and Lily interpretthe-munters-just-another-pretty-face the doctor’s response to be one of disgust rather than amazement—a humorous example of the upside-down reality in which the Munsters live.

While attempting to endow his son-in-law with a “handsome” visage, Grandpa straps Herman to a table and hoists him into an electrical device. Though played for laughs (Grandpa compares the situation to Herman’s first haircut), the scene outlined above is a nostalgic and suspenseful tribute to the 1931 version of Frankenstein.

 

Cons

(Spoilers beyond this point)

the-munsters-just-another-pretty-faceHerman turns into a woman before reverting to his original self, leading to a somewhat childish finale.

 

Analysis

Lily, Grandpa, Eddie, and Marilyn continue to support Herman after his “accident,” demonstrating a permanent familial bond rarely witnessed in modern television shows.

 

Concluding Comments

For playing off the Munster family’s lack of self-awareness, “Just Another Pretty Face” should be applauded. Also commendable, the experiments of Grandpa serve as a kooky, delightful homage to the mad scientist movies that inspired his character.

 

Overall Quality: 10/10

 

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