Much like the Universal horror classics of the 1930s and the 1940s that inspired it, The Munsters was in black-and-white during its original 1964-66 run on CBS. Color was not a given at the time in network television. Other sitcoms of the era, including Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched, and The Andy Griffith Show, changed horses mid-stream, so to speak, from black-and-white to color, but The Munsters stayed monochromatic throughout. Fans who wanted to see what Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis looked like in full color would have to content themselves with the Technicolor 1966 movie Munster, Go Home! The series’ original pilot was in color as well, but was not widely seen by the public for decades.
Recently, a Munsters fan and digital artist named Zachary B. Smothers decided to do some experimentation and colorize the iconic Munsters opening “by hand, frame by frame.” As he describes on his Pop Colorture blog, the project was the culmination of a childhood dream, but it involved some unique challenges. He’d colorized still images before but never moving ones. To complete the process, he had to teach himself new and unfamiliar skills. “Color takes a lot of work,” he explains. Smothers also acknowledges that many fans consider colorization to be blasphemy, and he wants them to know that he shares their concerns. In fact, he says, by colorizing The Munsters, he is actually adhering to show’s original creative concept:
In this case, I don’t believe the director chose black and white for his vision. In fact, I know he didn’t. In a 2002 interview, Munsters makeup creator Karl Silvera explained, “It was $10,000 more to do [the show] in color and neither CBS or Universal were willing to pick up that extra $10,000 per segment. That’s why it was shot in black and white.” Coupled with the fact the pilot was shot in color, as well as the follow-up movie, it is clear that the reason television audiences were never treated to seeing the Munster family in “dying” color was strictly budgetary.