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THE ADDAMS FAMILY
Volume One

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Carolyn Jones, John Astin, Jackie Coogan, Ted Cassidy, Lisa Loring, Ken Weatherwax, Blossom Rock
Directors:  Various
Audio:  Dolby Mono
Video:  Full Frame 1:33:1
Studio:  MGM
Features:  See Review
Length:  561 Minutes
Release Date:  October 24, 2006

“You MEANT to blow them up?”

“Of course!  Why else would a grown man play with trains?”

Shows ***1/2

They’re creepy, they’re kooky, they’re altogether ookie…it’s The Addams Family on DVD at last!

It was a stroke of television genius to turn the famed Charles Addams comics from The New Yorker into a sitcom.  Those macabre figures, those strange settings, that dark humor…it was just the ticket for a family comedy, even if the family was a little odd.

The casting was first rate, starting with the devilishly charming John Astin as Gomez and the beautifully elegant Carolyn Jones as Morticia.  The chemistry they shared gave energy to the whole show.  In fact, in the 60s, when most husbands and wives on television didn’t share a bed, Gomez and Morticia were amusingly openly affectionate.

Throw in the legendary Jackie Coogan as the affable Uncle Fester and the tall, lanky Ted Cassidy as Lurch with his indelible “YOU RANG?”, and you had all the ingredients necessary for a successful character driven comedy.  Though the show pulled back a little from the black comedy that was Charles Addams’ vision (it was realized more fully in the feature films), the overall effect was never as perfect as it was on TV, with this great cast, witty writing and the instantly classic musical score by Vic Mizzy.

The Addams were, in some ways, the most bizarre straight people in comedy.  The show played their weird world as entirely normal, wholesome and loving to them, but a fright to everyone else who came in contact with them.  Friendly and hospitable, the beleaguered Addams usually were puzzled at the reactions they got from regular folks!

It was a twisted take on the standard nuclear family of sitcoms, and it became a classic as well as a trendsetter.  Other shows like The Munsters would take the formula and run with it, but no other program captured the magic like The Addams Family.  Sadly, the show lasted only two seasons, with this set of three double sided discs containing all 22 episodes from the first year, but the impact they had on popular culture was immediate and long lasting.  The show remains a cult favorite to this day.

And why not?  Watching these shows was a gleeful trip down a macabre memory lane.  Kids and grown-ups alike still find much to like about it.  The humor is timeless, the characterizations unforgettable…and who doesn’t know the theme song?  Snap, snap.

Now that television on DVD has become so mainstream, it’s great to see a true original classic like The Addams Family reach the medium.  

BONUS TRIVIA:  Ted Cassidy always played Thing, except for scenes where Thing and Lurch were together.

Video ***1/2

NEAT!  These transfers look better than I would have expected for a 60s television show, and from what I’ve seen from them on previous video releases.  The discs are sharp, and the black and white photography looks crisper and cleaner than ever…very little noticeable aging.  Images are well rendered and detailed throughout, as are contrast levels.  Superb job!

Audio ***

SWEET!  Despite being mono, these are lively tracks.  The dialogue is clean, I didn’t notice much in the way of background noise, there’s a bit of dynamic range, and of course Vic Mizzy’s music sounds terrific.

Features ***

PETITE!  There are audio commentaries for three of the episodes, including the first one, from cast members Lisa Loring (Wednesday), Ken Weatherwax (Pugsley) and Felix Silla (Cousin Itt), along with Addams Family historian Stephen Cox.  The remainder of the features are on side B of the third disc.  They include a look at Charles Addams himself, a short piece on Vic Mizzy, a look back at the show with Loring, Weatherwax, Silla and John Astin, as well as galleries of drawings and photos.

Summary:

Get a witch’s shawl on and pay a call on The Addams Family.  It took a while to get this first season on DVD, but with the fun extras and terrific looking new transfers, it was worth the wait.

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