Last week, Fabulous Films released Here Come The Munsters on DVD in the UK, which makes every version of The Munsters (Aside from a cartoon and a game show episode) available to watch more easily, as beforehand Here Come The Munsters was only released on VHS.
Since 1964, various actors have donned the role of the Munsters patriarch, Herman. A Frankenstein's Monster like man who is clumsy, kind-hearted, and sometimes a little bit foolish, but always well meaning. In order of their turn as the roles, here is a history of the men who would be Munster.
1. Fred Gwynne (1964-1966 and 1981)
When most people think of Herman Munsters, Gwynne will be the person they remember in the makeup. Much like Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster, you can't really disassociate the two. Gwynne brought a loveable side to Herman and his facial expressions are second to none. Not to mention that his laugh became a key feature of the Herman character. Gywnne played the role past the original series in two films called Munster, Go Home and The Munsters' Revenge before retiring from playing the character.
2. John Schuck (1988-1991)
Before becoming Herman in The Munsters Today, Schuck starred in one of the greatest Halloween specials (The Halloween That Almost Wasn't or The Night Dracula Saved the World) as Frankenstein's Monsters, so he knew a thing or two about playing such a character. I won't pretend to love The Munsters Today, it's not my favorite version of The Munsters and part of that lies with Schuck, unfortunately. While he is a great actor in the show, he never felt like Herman to me. If this was a complete reboot, a lot can be forgiven (More on that later), but to call it a sequel and have an actor who looks nothing and sounds nothing like the actor before his didn't work for me.
3. Edward Herrmann (1995)
I might be biased here, as I love Herrmann from many other things, but he did a great turn as Herman in this telefilm. He looked the part and he knew what it took to play the character by bringing his own take to it, but leaving in enough original Herman to make sure the audience feel like they already knew the character. Here Come The Munsters was great, in my opinion. Breathing new life into the characters, but not forgetting their roots is a very smart way to play it.
4. Sam McMurray (1996)
McMurray is a legend for the sheer fact that he interacted with The Addams Family and The Munsters. A rare thing indeed. McMurray took on the role in The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas. It wasn't until rewatching Here Come The Munsters that I realized that this was a sequel, as Mary Woronov returned as the nosy neighbor. It was unfortunate that the cast of HCTM didn't reprise their roles as this was barely a year later, but McMurray did a great job as Herman. Like Herrmann, McMurray played Herman as the loveable family man we remember from the original series. I'd have liked to see more Herman from McMurray.
5. Jerry O'Connell (2012)
Mockingbird Lane was a brilliant experiment. The other incarnations didn't really attempt to modernize or reinvent The Munsters like Mockingbird Lane did. The characters are still the same monsters we know, but they don't look like them. O'Connell played Herman, who is just a man sewn together instead of a Frankenstein monster with green skin and a flattop head. I think because he looked so different, I didn't expect him to play it just like Gywnne did. This was a new version and that meant the characters didn't need to be compared to the original. I am one of the people who really wished that Mockingbird Lane would have continued. I think this show had a lot going for it.
The Munsters is a well known property, so there will eventually be another name to add to this list. It could come in the from of a movie or a new TV show, but I guarantee that you haven't seen the last of Herman and his family.