Saturday, 29 November 2008

Color Me Green

Here's my latest guilty pleasure, the new DVD release of Family Portrait -- a special colorized edition of an early episode of The Munsters. The classic horror sitcom has been decked out in undead hues in a tester for converting the whole series to colour, and the results are very convincing.

I love this show dearly.  Fred Gwynne and Yvonne DeCarlo's peerless screwball performances sing on the screen and the fast and furious mix of whimsical wordplay and sight gags stand up brilliantly four decades on.  Make no mistake, this is a classy little number.

So, here's the debate... to colorize, or not to colorize?  On the cons side, the original show was filmed in black and white, with impeccable photography echoing the golden age of Universal horror.  On the pros side, the original unaired pilot was filmed in colour, and plain cost-cutting was the only reason for making the eventual series in black and white. Indeed, one of the factors in The Munsters' cancellation was the increased costs of it transferring to colour for a projected third season. Added to that, the show made a very graceful transition to colour for its big screen spin-off, Munster, Go Home!, presented in eye-popping Technicolor with a groovy Mario Bava-esque vibe.  Considering all that, maybe there's a genuine case for colorizing The Munsters?

So, anyways, back to Family Portrait...  Purist grumblings be damned, Mockingbird Lane looks delightful in colour.  The new version has been tinted with an appropriately 60s palette, faithfully reproducing that mad oh-wow-we've-finally-got-colour-and-we're-gonna-use-it-godammit attitude that make everything from Batman to Star Trek such a kitsch joy to modern eyes.  Sure, it's not tasteful, it's not restrained, but it feels authentic.  If The Munsters had made it to colour, it would have looked like this.  

What's particularly interesting is how little the addition of colour affects the show's tone.  The Munsters always felt like a live action cartoon, with its broad slapstick and knockabout antics, and that quality feels more noticeable than ever before. Herman looks resplendent in his bile green pallor, and the masterpiece Munster house set can be enjoyed in a new level of detail.  

We're not talking defacing a great work of art here... this is a fun experiment and a neat aside for a grand old piece of television.  If you get the chance, check it out.

No comments: