Halloween Review: The Addams Family

What are you planning on doing this Halloween? You may be too old for trick-or-treating, and you may not be in the mood for a party, but the best way to spend Halloween is watching a fun spooky movie or binge-watching a fun spooky TV show. If you want a TV show or a movie to get you in the Halloween mood, you could certainly do worse than The Addams Family.

Based on characters created by Charles Addams for a series of cartoons in The New Yorker, The Addams Family hit TV screens in 1964, running until 1966. The characters were nameless in the cartoons, but the TV show was when they became known as Gomez, Morticia etc. (One suggested name for Pugsley was Puberty, which would later be the name of the Addams’s third child in Addams Family Values). A family with bizarre tastes, living in a Gothic mansion with a torture room playroom, a lion as a pet and a zombie-esque creature as a butler. Yet despite their quirks, the characters remained strangely likeable.

True, there are some elements of the TV show that are pretty dated. When a robot assistant is made for Lurch, the robot is “played” by Forbidden Planet‘s Robbie, and the Addams even have a big B-Movie sci-fi computer. Though an episode featuring said computer – where Gomez runs for mayor – is strangely relevant today, given that Gomez learns in order to defeat a sneaky, underhanded politician, he has to be sneaky and underhanded himself, and people are willing to vote for Gomez because he makes ridiculous promises and politicians are known not to keep promises.

Still, the show is pretty easy to binge, given the zippy pace of most episodes, the simple and easy-to-follow stories and how much they actually managed to get out of the characters. It can be seen as something of a one-joke premise – they’re weird and everyone isn’t – but they’re so well-acted, so many jokes still land. Lisa Loring’s Wednesday isn’t as sardonic as her movie counterpart, but still makes some twisted lines work; a guest jokes that the Addamses might have Satan over for dinner, and Wednesday says ‘No, that was last week’ like it was the most normal thing in the world. John Astin’s Gomez perfectly mixes eccentricities with a romantic and fatherly nature (Astin would reprise the Gomez role twice, once for a Scooby-Doo crossover and again for an animated series based on the movies).

Another highlight is Ted Kassidy as butler Lurch. Lurch was originally a mute character, but Kassidy’s ad-libbed ‘You rang?’ went over so well, Lurch got more lines. Episodes with Lurch as the focus are some of the funniest, with Kassidy doing so much with so few lines. An episode has Gomez and Morticia wanting to sell Lurch’s prized harpsichord to a museum, with Lurch’s response to the plan being ‘I quit.’ Then Gomez and Fester build a new harpsichord for Lurch to have, planning for the delivery men to take the real one on Lurch’s day off. The delivery men arrive a day early and when they explain what they’re here to do, Lurch let’s out a brilliant ‘Betrayed!’

It may be old but the 1964 Addams Family show is still a lot of fun to watch, as are the later movies The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.

Charles Addams’s original cartoons were a little darker than the TV show, and so is 1991’s The Addams Family, actually recreating some of the cartoons, like the Addamses pouring boiling oil on the carol singers at the beginning. The house is a lot more sinister-looking than back in 1964, and even personified, with a gate that acts as a guard dog and books that can conjure up storms. The implication with Thing originally seemed to be he was a creature we only saw part of, but here, he’s an actual disembodied hand.

In this, Fester (who, while Morticia’s uncle in the TV show, is Gomez’s brother here, a change that helps the characters have a greater connection) has been missing for years after a disagreement between him and Gomez. However, a man named Gordon (Christopher Lloyd), who has a stunning resemblance to Fester, shows up at the mansion, pretending to be Fester to help his criminal mother find the Addams fortune. The plot is a rather typical one for a family movie, but it remains interesting, thanks to Lloyd’s performance as both Gordon and Fester.

Another highlight is Christina Ricci as Wednesday, a humorously macabre and quotable character. However, all of the family get their chance to shine, with Morticia reading fairy tales to children and making them think about the pain the villains went through, and Gomez’s inquiry to a call-in show.

The Addams Family is an enjoyable movie, but Addams Family Values is even better. One reason this is is because two of the best actors from the first film – Lloyd and Ricci are given a bit more to do. The film features the birth of a third child in the Addams family – Puberty – and after that, Fester falls for Debbie (Joan Cusack), a Black Widow murderer who wants to kill Fester and take his money, reckoning without his apparent indestructibility. Cusack is another enjoyable performance, a character just as deranged as the Addamses but in a different way.

This also features Wednesday and Pugsley being sent off to summer camp, which is where most of the highlights of the film happen. Of course, carnage happens when they come there, but you better believe the camp deserved it.

So be it movie or TV programme, what better way to spend Halloween than with the ooky, kooky family?