Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monty's Crush of the Week - Halloween Edition 2014 Finale - Choose Your Marilyn!

Yes, it's true, there are, to date, 10 Marilyn Munsters to choose from! Even if you, like me, aren't particularly into Marilyn Monroe (whom her look was based on), there is a Marilyn Munster for everyone! Unless you strictly only date brunettes. And, let's be honest, none of them really look like Marilyn Monroe.

So, this week's Crush of the Week is a pick your own...

Marilyn Munster!

If you don't know who Marilyn Munster is, you've probably been living in a cave or something for the past 50 years. And, hey, that's true, 2014 would be their 50th Anniversary! Congrats, Munsters! Now I really do regret not making that Eddie Munster Halloween costume work this year (haven't given up on Wreck-It-Ralph yet though, and I'll do Eddie in the future). Anyway, the Munsters was a hit sitcom from the 1960's about a family of classic-style monsters that lived a mostly average life in an average neighborhood. Unlike the Addams Family, the Munsters were far more domestic in their daily lives, concerns, and activities. They believed themselves to be a typical family, and in a lot of ways, they were, aside from their appearance, their diet, their pets, the dilapidated state of their home, their implied immortality, and the fact that Grandpa (Dracula) was always in the basement (they called it the dungeon) mixing up potions that got them into more trouble than anything. The family consisted of 5 members: Herman (a Frankenstein monster), Grandpa (the vampire count), Lily (Dracula's daughter), Eddie (the werewolf son of Herman and Lily), and the niece, Marilyn (the black sheep of the family). Marilyn was loved by her family, but also pitied for being, well, unattractive. Basically, she's what we would call "normal" in terms of being, well, human, and beautiful in terms of looks. To the other Munsters though, she is plain and maybe even downright ugly.

Since their original run, the Munsters have been revived in a feature film starring most of the original cast, a syndicated revival TV series, 4 TV movies, one of which was an animated pilot (though most of them were probably pilots), an adult film parody, and a new, live-action pilot from just a couple years ago. Sadly, I haven't seen a couple of these, but I'll do my best to briefly tell you about all of them. 

Now, let's do a quick run-through, and feel free to post a comment on which Marilyn is your fave. And, yeah, you can choose more than one. I know I will!

Let's do this chronologically, starting with one of my faves, the original Marilyn...

Beverly Owen 

When it comes to the character, Beverly Owen is the Marilyn that comes to my mind, even though her replacement took over the role for most of the original series and is far more often remembered. The role isn't extremely complicated (usually). Marilyn is a classic television girl-next-door of the time. A  college student, a sweet girl and a "good girl", she loves her family more than anything, greatly admires her aunt, uncle and grandpa, and the only thing that really makes her unusual is how she is completely at home with the more unusual habits of the family, such as keeping a dusty house and cooking very odd dishes. Like the rest of them, she thinks herself unattractive and that the rest of her family is exceptionally good-looking. She's always bringing home new boys who stay with her until they run into her relatives. Then, everyone (including herself) thinks that the guy turned and ran because of Marilyn's looks. Why they couldn't figure this out is beyond me, since she had no trouble ever finding new guys to bring home.

As to why Beverly is one of my favorite Marilyns, well, she played the role with a great deal of sincerity, in my opinion. That's not to say the others didn't, but for me, she was perfect in the role, and it didn't hurt that she was extremely lovely. Definitely one of the prettiest Marilyns in my opinion. Is she my fave? Weeeell, for the role she is. As a straight-up crush, there is one other version (if not two) that's a bit more my type.

Sadly, Beverly Owen only played Marilyn for 13 episodes. I am not sure if she did any acting after that, which is a shame, because she was great. It's kind of an odd story. She lived in New York when she accepted the role, but when she had to move to California to shoot, she became very distraught over being separated from her boyfriend. She ended up leaving the show to return to New York and get married, and I really don't see anything on IMDB about a post-Munsters career, so I can only assume she focused on a real-life family role after that.

Pat Priest

It's often said that Pat Priest looked so much like Beverly Owen that audiences didn't even notice the change! Well, I never was able to jump on that wagon. I have nothing against Pat Priest's Marilyn. She did a good job taking over the role, and she did stay with it for 57 episodes, but personally, I always lamented the loss of Beverly Owen. I didn't find Pat as charming or attractive, though revisiting the show recently, she was, at least early on, better in both areas than I gave her credit for. She certainly earned her place as the best remembered Marilyn by holding the role much longer, but when it comes to the classic show, I tend to always point out to people that she wasn't the original, whom I preferred. That's just my personal taste though. I'm sure many preferred Pat as Marilyn.

Debbie Watson
(Munster, Go Home! 1966)

After the show ended, the Munsters took a turn at the big screen for a final outing of the original clan, but one member had changed once again. Much to the upset of Pat Priest and her fellow cast members, and in a departure from the whole Marilyn Monroe quasi-lookalike thing, it was decided to cast a popular teen idol of the time in the role of Marilyn for their feature film debut. The part was given to Debbie Watson, star of the teen sitcom "Tammy". 

The film sent the Munster family to jolly old England to collect an inheritance and do a little drag racing on the side. Of course, there are villains, and Marilyn meets a boy there, because hot girls never have to spend a day single if they don't want to.

Now, I don't know what the atmosphere was like for Debbie on the set after Herman and Grandpa actors Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis petitioned to have Pat Priest keep her role upon hearing of her recasting, but what I do know is that Debbie did a fine job. Again, it's... not a complicated role, it just needs to be played with sincerity. Debbie came off as a younger, more bubbly, teen Marilyn. I don't know a lot about Debbie Watson, but I can assume playing the cute teen character in family comedies was her usual thing. She not only does it well, but she is soooo my type, ha. Yep, I'm sayin' it, she's my biggest Marilyn crush, because she's the type I really go for. Standard, super-cute, looks like a good girl but is probably pretty naughty teeny-bopper. Maybe it's because I never got a date in high school, or in college... or now, but that's still my fantasy. And looking at these images of her, can you blame me? 

Man, I really gotta find out if this "Tammy" show is on DVD yet! She is gorgeous! Lucky goat!

The 70's, The Mini-Munsters, No Marilyn...

Yes, the 70's saw our first new version of "The Munsters" entitled "The Mini-Munsters", a one-hour ABC Saturday Supestar Movie (1973). It was brief, it was animated, and it didn't have Marilyn. Instead, it had the whole rest of the family (with only Al "Grandpa" Lewis reprising his role) plus two visiting cousins from Transylvania. So, yeah, that blonde isn't Marilyn, it's Cousin Lucretia. She's still kinda cute though. The whole special, as I write this, is available to watch on YouTube, if you care to look it up. I haven't watched it yet myself, but I'm going to get on that soon. I've seen bits of it though, and I don't think it ever mentions Marilyn. In this version, Eddie is a car-driving teenage musician, so one can assume that Marilyn moved on. Probably got married and all that. 

Jo McDonnell
(The Munsters' Revenge, 1981)

Another TV movie came around in the 1980's called "The Munsters' Revenge". This one is available on DVD in a double-feature with the original theatrical film, "Munster, Go Home", and though I don't recall it being the most enjoyable viewing experience, at least it has the original Herman, Grandpa, and Lily (screen-legend Yvonne De Carlo) in their real final outing as their creepy alter egos. Eddie was recast this time, naturally, with K.C. Martel, and Marilyn too got a recasting in the form of Jo McDonnell.

With a very 80's style, McDonnell played a very different sort of Marilyn suited to the times, if memory serves. Yeah, I haven't watched it in a while. It's probably a little better than I remembered, I mean, it has the whole cast, but it lacks a very necessary laugh track for the kind of antics the Munsters do. The plot involves some crooks with a scheme to use robots to rob banks. The robots have a day job as wax figures at the local wax museum, and two of them just happen to look like Herman and Grandpa. Marilyn ends up teaming with a young cop/new love interest to solve the case.

As with most Marilyns to this point, McDonnell is fine, in the role. As a Marilyn crush, she isn't too shabby either. She's an 80's gal, but thankfully, she's the attractive kind in the sense that she doesn't have the crazy, big hair and man-clothes and all. Come to think of it though, I guess this is very early 80's, so, there ya go. I wonder what's coming next for Marilyn... But, I'm getting ahead of myself. 

For me, if we can get superficial for a moment (might as well), Jo McDonnell's Marilyn goes back and forth between very attractive... and too mature for my tastes. It just depends. She's got a fair amount of that Barbie kinda beauty that was the main thing at the time, while I'm more into the cutesy type. But, she's got enough of that too to still draw me in. However, like I said, she's already got that more mature thing going and trying to take over her cuteness. That's the danger of not being the uber-cutesy type purely. The other types, Barbie, Feline, etc..., most of them lose their cuteness to the more mature and serious (and matronly) look way too fast. Clothing and hair are big contributors though... She looks pretty darn hot in that pic above though. Eddie sure looks like he's in heaven, I'll tell ya that much. I wouldn't put her near the top of my list, but I wouldn't put her too far below either... She could be my number four or five Marilyn crush, I don't know for sure. I don't like to concentrate beyond two or three, ha.

Mary-Ellen Dunbar
(The Munsters Today pilot episode, 1988)

If you grew up in the 80's and 90's, you may remember this show well, but probably NOT this Marilyn. "The Munsters Today" was a syndicated, three-season revival series that I only ever saw a few episodes of. What do I remember about it? Just that it was very cheesy. The whole family was recast this time around, and this is where you learn it is very hard to accept anyone else in those roles. Of course, maybe it's because most actors who take on these roles don't know how to be subtle about it. Even the looks of the characters are less subtle than they originally were, which is really saying something! I mean, just look at Mary-Ellen Dunbar in the image above! That's the Marilyn of the unaired  Munsters Today pilot. Granted, the pilot starts out in the 60's, but she looks like a cartoon character of the 60's, not a live-action person.

Actually, that whole group looks like a cartoon or Halloween store version of the Munsters, doesn't it? All things considered, it's not surprising that Mary-Ellen's version of Marilyn doesn't make it as one of MY Marilyn crushes, even though I've never actually seen this pilot. Even the show creators must have rethought it, recasting the role for the duration of the show. But, let's not take this out on Mary-Ellen. I can say nothing for her acting, but I did find this still from "Charles in Charge", and surprisingly, she's actually very attractive when she's not fixed up like a total spaz!

That's a girl I could crush on. Horrible 80's dress not withstanding. And Buddy approves. Now, I wonder, what about her replacement?

Hilary Van Dyke
(The Munsters Today, 1988-1991)

Ha, that kid playing Eddie Munster is Jason Marsden, a pretty hilarious actor well known to those of us who were still young in the 90's (we were born the same year, actually) and watched plenty of cheesy TV and animation. He's been the voice of Goofy's son Max ever since he went through puberty sometime between Goof Troop and A Goofy Movie, among a ton of other characters. He also was that weird kid with the grey hair on Eerie Indiana. The young lady he is pointing to is the official Marilyn of Munsters Today, Hilary Van Dyke. 

Again, there's not a lot I can say about Hilary, as I haven't seen this show in quite a while (it's probably on YouTube) and only have my vague memories of the few episodes I did see. As you can tell just from the photo above, the kids were extremely adapted to the 80's and 90's. I remember it all being really cheesy and hammy. Ham and cheesy, I guess. Marilyn was no exception, but, again, this is a faint memory. All I can really say is that I never really had a thing for this Marilyn. She could be cute at times. They fashioned her as more of a hip teen character, I guess, so she had a lot of bad 80's style that did not help matters... then again, it could have been much worse. By the 90's I think they had her looking more like Kelly Bundy. I have no idea for sure though. Long time, no see. But, as I said, never really crushed on this version, and there are so few pics of her online, most being pretty bad quality. I was able to dig these up...

If those last two were all I'd ever seen of Hilary Van Dyke, I could imagine having quite the crush on this Marilyn. They're fairly flattering. But then, other pics are far less to my tastes. In the end, I'm sure lots of guys crushed on her, and I'd have to watch the show again to reassess with my current tastes, but... I have not changed that much, ha. Personality can go a long way though. She might have played the part with an Ariel the Little Mermaid style personality and enthusiasm, and if that's the case, yeah, I'd like to watch it again to reassess. That is the type of personality that can sway me in one's favor. still, I'm pretty sure my top 3 or so Marilyns stand on firm ground.

And now, we get deep into the 90's. I have less familiarity with these, so I'm probably gonna speed through them since I have a lot of Halloween business to attend to offline...

Christine Taylor
(Here Come the Munsters, 1995)

Yep, Marcia Brady also played Marilyn Munster. "Here Come the Munsters" was a FOX TV movie from the mid-90's, airing on Halloween (I think most of these Munsters TV movies, that were probably ALL really pilots, aired on or around Halloween) and telling a reboot story in which the Munsters first come to America and attempt to help Marilyn find her father, who has disappeared. It changes a lot of canon, including giving Marilyn the last name of Hyde and making her father a Jeckyll and Hyde character. Sadly (because it doesn't look too shabby at all), I have never seen this film, and while it WAS released on VHS, not so on DVD, and I haven't come across it online yet either. Amazing the whole thing isn't up on YouTube. Then again, it's been a while since I looked for it there.

Now, Christine Taylor has always been a heartthrob for us guys who were teens in the 90's. I mean, "Hey Dude" ring any bells? I didn't actually watched that show, but sometimes I did watch it. Know what I mean? Well, the girls were none too shabby. Even the butch brunette, in her own way. Then again, my memory sucks. I should rewatch before I say such things publicly. Christine was no slouch as Marcia Brady either, so I bet she made quite a fine Marilyn. Did you know she's married to Ben Stiller? Oh, well. She was older than me anyway, and I still like her best on Hey Dude.

Elaine Hendrix
(The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas, 1996)

Only a year later, FOX aired a Munsters TV movie that WASN'T for the Halloween season, "Munsters' Scary Little Christmas". Being a Christmas movie, it is not surprising that this one IS on DVD now. And, yep, I have it. Though, I have only watched it once and not sure at this point if I even finished it. In my defense, the holidays can be hectic for me, and it is still a pretty new part of my collection. I remember this one being cheesy. Really cheesy. Though, you put up with a certain amount of that in holiday programming. I hear this one is popular with the fans, so I definitely need to give it a better look this year.

Let's sum up the plot by saying: Christmas caper. You know the drill. Stuff happens and Santa Claus is in the mix. Gotta fix things or there won't be no Christmas! The important thing here is Marilyn, and while it at first seems that casting the villain from "Superstar" as Marilyn Munster is an odd choice, Elaine Hendrix is not without sex appeal. She certainly brings a unique and... leggy look to Marilyn Munster, and just going by the photos here, well, as much as I am only okay with that haircut in every other image I see, that short skirt and impishly cute face (despite the feline factor) have me wanting to pop in the disc for a better viewing. Might be too tall for my tastes, but then, I'm not entirely sure she wasn't photoshopped into that group photo with the rest of the family, ha.

Now, if you'll allow us to step outside the realm of official, sanctioned material for a moment...

Shawna Lenee
(This Ain't the Munsters XXX, 2008)

I, uh, wish I could show you stills from this or good pics of Shawna or something, guys, but, seriously, everything I could find was pretty raw. And I should also add, I have NOT seen this movie. 

I've seen the Addams Family one though. That was disappointing.

Anyway, yeah, I can't say anything about this, because I haven't seen it. What I CAN say is that Shawna Lenee is really darn cute, and I could have quite the crush on her. EXCEPT, she's one of those adult stars who reels me in until I see them. Those big, plastic boobs. Ugh. Why?!!! Small ones would look fantabulous on this girl! Why did she have to go under the knife for those awful looking things?!!! And, seriously, once I see fake boobs, I just can't get turned on by a girl. For my money, she's a very much almost crush. If only for those two things. But, as Marilyn, well, all I can say is, boy, did they make her look bad. That dress! That wig! Ugh. I bet her scenes are still hot though, as long as you squint whenever they show her boobs.

Finally, we come to our most recent Marilyn.

Charity Wakefield
(Mockingbird Lane, 2012)

In 2012, a pilot aired on NBC as a Halloween special a few days before the big day itself. That pilot was a reimagining of the Munsters with a darker, edgier tone, though still humorous and intended as a 1 hour drama series. The pilot did not go to series, but it is still a fantastic watch I highly recommend.

You can probable recognize some of the cast. Jerry O'Connell as Herman Munster, Portia de Rossi as Lily, and Eddie Izzard as Grandpa. In the role of Eddie is Mason Cook, and in the role of the beautiful Marilyn, Charity Wakefield.

Mockingbird Lane had an interesting twist on Marilyn. For one thing, they brought back her 1960's look to a tee. And, while I admittedly never really was one for the platinum blonde, Marilyn Monroe-esque type, someone like Charity Wakefield is just adorable enough to pull it off for me with those big, watery eyes and chipmunk cheeks. While Debbie Watson may be more my standard type, I could go for this Marilyn in a heartbeat. If they're not tied for the title of the most-appealing-to-me Marilyn, then Charity is a close second for sure. But, as I was saying, they did some interesting stuff with her this time around. 

Marilyn of Mockingbird Lane is effective as the standard Marilyn, but there is more to her. There's something about her we don't know, and something, I guess now, we'll never know. She's a very mysterious character with a big secret. More than the fact that her family are monsters. It seems certain that we'd eventually have discovered that Marilyn is some sort of monster too. Maybe. But, maybe it's best that will now be left a permanently unanswered question.

Aw, heck, I'm still annoyed that show didn't get picked up! What the hell is wrong with these TV execs today?!!!

Well, there ya have it. That's the history of Marilyn Munster up to this point. Halloween, 2014. It's a tough thing to have to rank. Now that I think about it, I could go for most of these Marilyns. I'd pass on some, but I like more than I don't, ha. My top three though, without a doubt, are Debbie Watson, Charity Wakefield, and the original Marilyn, Beverly Owen. What about you folks! Do you have a favorite? Feel free to let us know in the comments, seek out some of this stuff you haven't seen before, and have a great Halloween!


  1. Debbie Watson was under contract at Universal/MCA which is how she ended up in "Munsters Go Home!"

    The studio had already put her in two short lived shows - Her first sitcom, "Karen" (Typical "all-american teen-age girl" misadventures) in 1964-1965 on NBC. This was followed by "Tammy", in 1965-1966 (on ABC) which was based on the "Tammy" Film series with Debbie Reynolds/Sandra Dee. The TV series Itself later spawned a theatrical film compiled from episodes - a practice Universal did frequently!

    1. Thanks for all that great info, T.V. Barnum! I really hope we see some of her TV work on DVD/Blu in the near future! Would really like to check "Karen" and "Tammy" out. I thought there was a film series Tammy was based on, but I didn't know the details on it.