When I was growing up, watching ‘The Addams Family’ on TV was one of my favourite events. I even did a comicstrip based around them in my formative years, especially taken by their first Halloween story where Thing replaced a visitor’s gun with a banana. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered their source material by Chaz Addams in the local library and discovered how macabre he was. In those days, I didn’t even know what black humour was but I understood the sense of graveyard macabre and it gave even greater meaning to the series when it got re-shown in the UK back in the 1980s. Watching the series again on DVD, it still hasn’t lost any of its gothic charm. There were plans for a third season in colour but black and white was always effective. The box is wrong though, as the series only lasted two seasons. Nice and gloomy as the family would surely agree.
I never viewed ‘The Addams Family’ as being out of the ordinary. If anything, it’s a shame that more American families were not like them. After all, they represented their version of the upper class. Very wealthy and unseeingly generous. So what if they’re home looked odd or they played with dynamite caps, they had a nice kitty kat and a rare African strangler that loves meat. Who wouldn’t want them as neighbours? I wonder if the interest in exotic pets hailed from people watching the series and took note although I doubt if any took up the challenge of spiders or octopus as pets and from the extras, it is actually illegal to keep piranha fish in the home.
I’m not going to go into details of the episodes. You should have that pleasure for yourself. It’s the subtleties of the actors performances that makes it work so well. I got added respect for Ted Cassidy playing the stolid Lurch, especially when he felt embarrassed or filled with pride as he becomes tangible with emotion. A lot of the humour with the Addams family was physical, no more so with John Astin as Gomez Addams, demonstrating yoga skills and even taking pratt falls every time Ophelia shakes his hand. Equally masterful or mistressful was Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams and her sister, Ophelia, who was plainly the matriarch of the family. Similar acting chops also went for Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester Frump and Blossom Rock as Grandmama. From the extras, Lisa Loring who played Wednesday and Ken Weatherwax as Pugsley gave a lot of the background information, together with ‘The Addams Chronicles’ author Stephen Cox. It’s one thing to read it in his book, which I reviewed some years back, but nice to hear the verbal version.
The latter remakes have never really done justice because they have all been based on this original series and you can’t really beat perfection. I learnt a whole new version of flower arranging thanks to Morticia and a new way to play with trains from Gomez. Excuse me for a moment, I have to rest on the bed of nails in their playroom and play with their rack later. Ah, if all homes had such luxuries.
(Region 2: pub: MGM 37339301000. 9 DVDs 1566 minutes 64 * 25 minute black & white episodes with extras. Price: about £23.00 (UK) if you know where to look)
cast: John Astin, Carolyn Jones, Jackie Coogan, Ted Cassidy, Bloom Rock, Lisa Loring, Ken Weatherwax and Felix Silva