September 26, 2019: The 1970s Were Hard on the Addams Family

I love the original The Addams Family show. Not just because it was spooky. Or even ooky. I love it because the darkness of the Addams has a joy and a wonder and an innocence to it that is so unique and so much closer to the truth of things. I mean, today there are tons of gothy personas in entertainment and on the socials, but a lot of it is forced and showy and without glee. The Addams Family embodied an oxymoron, they were both gloomy and happy. And nobody’s really been able to copy that…even some later versions of The Addams Family concept.

The original show based on the Charles Addams cartoons ended in 1966 after two seasons, so 1977 seemed like the perfect time to unleash a TV movie that could potentially kick off a revival show. After all, it had been more than a decade since John Astin made his crazy eyes and Carolyn Jones shuffled her feet in that mummy shroud of a dress. So it was that Halloween with the New Addams Family debuted on October 30 of that year.

But people made bad decisions in the 1970s. It’s just a fact of history.

First, the showmakers decided to do it in color, which, you know, is not a bad decision (the early 1990s Addams Family movies looked great in color). However, the production color was the gaudy hues and saturation of the 1970s. It felt like it was lensed in the same neighborhood as the early episodes of Three's Company. And it didn’t help that the movie was shot on video. Now, granted, I watched a low-quality version of it, but even so, it was obvious that the feel of the show was far removed from the elegant, crisp, textured black and white of the original show.


All the actors from the series returned except for Blossom Rock, who played Grandmama. She was ill at the time of production and would die two and a half months after the special aired. Wednesday and Pugsley are grown up, but Gomez and Morticia have two more children: Wednesday, Jr., and Pugsley, Jr.—a joke that sounds a lot like the first joke you make during the awkward, slow moments at the beginning of a writer’s room brainstorm. It must have just stuck.

There are basically two parts to the plot, one that is bizarre and, I think, brilliant, and the other that is classically bad-sitcom awful.

The movie starts with Gomez bummed that he has to leave for Tombstone, Arizona, for an important Snake Lodge meeting. It means he’ll miss Halloween with the family. But really, it’s because his brother Pancho (played by Henry Darrow), who looks like him and dresses like him and chomps cigars like him, is staying with the family while he’s gone. Gomez is terrified that Pancho will steal Morticia and his family away from him, and in fact Pancho is brazenly trying to do that. Which leads to a bizarre scene where both Gomez and Pancho make out with Morticia’s arms (and her back) at the same time. “When you’ve got it, you’ve got it,” says Morticia.

I feel like this movie needs a psychoanalyst.

Then there’s the other part of the story, where a gang of incompetent crooks are trying to rob the Addams Family house.

Meanwhile, as they get ready for the annual Halloween party, we learn some of their Halloween traditions, like trimming the scarecrow, and telling the story of Cousin Shy, a family ghost who visits houses on Halloween to leave presents under the scarecrow and carve faces on the pumpkins.

And all that builds up to a Halloween party that takes up the second half of the movie. Gomez is back, Pancho is still trying to steal Morticia, and the crooks have put on costumes and infiltrated the party. They bring with them doppelgangers of Gomez and Morticia to replace the real Gomez and Morticia. Since both Gomez’s, both Morticias, and Pancho (who looks like Gomez) are wearing eye-masks, there’s a lot of great confusion-comedy here, although I could have used more, honestly.

At one point the real Gomez watches the fake Gomez kiss his wife’s arm, then Pancho do the same seconds later, causing him to launch into a suicide soliloquy, “I’m a second-class worm. A stranger kisses my wife, my brother kisses my wife, wearing my clothes, smoking my cigars. To be or not to be…NOT to be. That is the answer.” Then he gloomily walks away and, well, that’s it. They don’t do anything with that. But Gomez gloomy-gloomy is a nice contrast to his usual self, and opens up an opportunity for an “I am the Pumpkin King” moment for him that he never gets.

The crooks also bring along some muscle—two naked bodybuilders who spend the whole time tying up Gomez and Morticia over and over again, which they love, of course. “They bulge well, too,” says Morticia, seated in front of the goons. Where is that psychoanalyst, again?

Eventually, after some typical Addams Family capers and hijinks, the crooks get weirded out by the Addams and caught by the cops, Lurch learns he’s been flirting with a man dressed as a woman the whole night, Fester is Fester, and Gomez realizes how much Pancho respects him. The movie ends with all of them ascending the stairwell with lighted candles singing a Halloween carol (Merry, Creepy Halloween) that you might as well add to your Halloween playlist because I guarantee you have nothing like it on there. In the attic, they watch the arrival of the invisible Cousin Shy and then open orange and black wrapped presents together.

Gomez says to Morticia as they look on, “It turns your blood cold, doesn’t it.”

“It’s such a lovely feeling,” she replies.

They could have made a much better movie around that single sentiment.

The movie was never turned into a series.