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The Munsters

themunsterslogo“Herman the Great”
Season 1, Episode 9
11/12/1964

I haven’t seen a full episode of The Munsters since TBS used to air the reruns when I’d get home from kindergarten. Immediately the first thing that came to my mind as I was watching the intro was, why does Grandpa try to bite Lily in the opening credits? It’s his own daughter. And she’s a vampire too. I don’t know how this all works in the mythology of vampires, but that just seemed weird. And a bit on the creepy side. Even for a show about a family of monsters. Anyway, in this episode Herman Munster enters the wrestling ring to earn some extra cash and instead of cashing in on his Frankenstein gimmick, they decide to put a mask on him.

Herman is discovered the same way most big strong wrestlers are, by performing an incredible feat of strength that has nothing to do with wrestling ability. In this case, Herman bends a metal pipe into a pretzel and wows his son Eddie’s friend, Wilbur. Wilbur is more taken aback by this than the fact that he’s friends with a wolf boy whose dad is a real-life Frankenstein.

Wilbur’s father, Duke Ramsey, in true wrestling promoter fashion is in love with the gimmick of Herman being able to bend metal. Despite never having even met him in person The fact that Herman can’t wrestle is an afterthought. Besides, according to him, Herman will be the greatest gimmick since the Swedish Angel AKA Tor Johnson, who you might remember from his appearances in Ed Wood’s films. Or you might remember George the Animal Steele portraying him in Tim Burton’s film Ed Wood.

Herman happens to read an article about saving for your child’s college education. And seeing as he’s a responsible father who values a good education, this naturally leads to a joke about how he spent many years in different colleges, in different jars. Ah, sitcom writing from the 1960’s…

IMG_1183In a lucky turn of events, Ramsey contacts Herman about wrestling for him and guarantees him 2-300 dollars a week. Herman agrees, but not before some proper training because unlike the actual wrestling promoter, Herman knows you have to learn to wrestle professionally. Luckily, he has a handy-dandy wrestling manual that includes practicing menacing growls in front of the mirror and destroying every piece of workout equipment he owns because he’s a fucking Frankenstein. Grandpa finds out about Herman’s training and promises to keep mum, backing Herman’s secret as he lies to the family about working a night shift job. And boy, does he job. Hey-yo!

IMG_1184The family gathers around the TV the night Herman makes his debut at 7’3″, 387 pounds, as the Masked Marvel against local champion, Tarzan McGuirk. Herman dominates the smaller McGuirk, clearly has him beat, then plays to the audience so that McGuirk can roll him up from behind. It’s like something out of SummerSlam 1997. Only Herman didn’t paralyze McGuirk, instead it was Herman who was paralyzed with empathy as he felt sorry for McGuirk’s sob story about supporting four kids, and sending money to his sick ma’ in Ireland. The Masked Marvel is rightfully booed. Not just for being a heel, but for basically pulling the veil back and exposing to this 1964crowd that wrestling is indeed fixed. Even little Eddie, watching from home, could spot just how bad a dive this was.

The next morning Herman has to idly sit by at the breakfast table as his family berates the Masked Marvel for being a coward, including Eddie. That ungrateful little wolf bastard. After Herman privately discloses to Grandpa why he lost, Grandpa tries to remind him that he has his own family to worry about. Yet, Herman proves just how little he cares for his family by putting other people’s needs over theirs. And by continuing to put other wrestlers over as he strings together a succession of losses by jobbing to every wrestler with a sympathetic back story. Surprisingly, the wrestling is pretty realistic. Basic, but realistic for its time. Herman even refrains from displaying any form of superhuman strength.

IMG_1185Ramsey, still staying true to his instincts as a wrestling promoter refuses to give up on The Masked Marvel and instead of putting him against other wrestlers, goes old school carny and decides to offer $50 per minute for anybody who can last against Herman. Enter Mr. Hansen, manager of The Strangler, a banned wrestler who decides to sit in the audience as a ringer in hopes of making some big money off of Herman. Hansen even helps their cause by putting sleeping pills in Herman’s water. Again, the rest of the family is back at home watching “amateur night” on the TV. Except for Grandpa, who decides to attend the event.

Hansen and Strangler’s plan goes accordingly and a sluggish Herman is getting worked over so much that his crying and pleading is loud enough for his family to hear, and figure out that it’s Herman wrestling as The Masked Marvel.

IMG_1187Hansen, being quite possibly one of the worst con artists, keeps yelling out the Strangler’s name in support, even though he’s been billed as just a regular Joe from the audience. Grandpa just so happens to be sitting beside him and catches on to their scheme and casts a spell so that the lights go out. When the lights come back on so does Herman, who no longer seems as sleepy and is now in control of the match.

He overpowers The Strangler and sends him hard into the turnbuckle chest first a la Bret Hart. Only, unlike when Bret is rammed into the corner, Herman’s superhuman Irish whip causes the ring posts to give and collapse.

While all this is going on a small fire has broken out in the back storage room, which again, in true wrestling promoter fashion, Ramsey ignores because the show must go on. It isn’t until after Herman wins that Ramsey asks Herman to alert the crowd to exit the building. Instead of running out of there for fear of his own life, as most Frankensteins would react to fire, a still groggy Herman happily obliges and unmasks himself sending the entire crowd rushing out of there and simultaneously saving them.

IMG_1189The next day, while reading the paper we find that Herman was awarded $1,000 by the local fire department for his hand in getting the entire wrestling crowd to safety. And it seems like Eddie Munster is going off to college after all.

One last side note: Now that he’s old enough, it’s time for Corey Feldman to don the make up and assume the role he was born to play: Grandpa Munster, in the long-overdue movie adaptation. Seriously, was Grandpa Munster really Grandpa Feldman?

 

 

 

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