Cult Movie: The Addams Family (the 1960s TV series - not the rubbish 2021 animated movie...)

The cast of the original The Addams Family TV series which was made by ABC between 1964 and 1966. The most recent adaptations would have them spinning in their crypts...
Ralph McLean

The Addams Family

THE creepy and kooky cartoon creations of Charles Addams have occupied many a cultural crypt since they first appeared in The New Yorker in the 1930s.

In fact, the comic adventures of an oddball family of horror clichés trying to live side by side with their non-horror neighbours despite their differences have been with us in one shape or another for most of that time.

Originally macabre little one panel print gags steeped in the ink black humour and decidedly grisly comic imagination of their author, they proved popular enough with the general public to successfully jump onto TV screens in the 1960s where the, until then unnamed, characters of macabre mum and dad Gomez and Morticia, their gloomily goth kids Wednesday and Pugsley, Frankenstein-like butler Lurch, freakish bald Uncle Fester and attendant weirdo housebound characters carved themselves firmly into the public consciousness forever.

The creepy crew eventually made it into cinemas thanks to two fine film adaptations in the early nineties, The Addams Family and Addams Family Values, and a depressingly underwhelming animated effort that arrived to little fanfare in 2019.

As Hollywood money grubbers attempt to milk the gothic cash cow one more time on the big screen with Addams Family 2, it's probably a good time to remind ourselves of the magic inherent in Charles Addams's original creation.

For that a look back at the original TV series is probably in order.

Commissioned by ABC in 1964, The Addams Family ran for two years, delivering 64 half-hour episodes of gentle, family-friendly sitcom silliness before cancellation in 1966.

Essentially a culture clash comedy that placed the oddball Addams clan against their normal neighbours, it starred John Astin - who played the head of household Gomez with a barely contained wild-eyed zeal - and Carolyn Jones, who portrayed his slinky vamp of a wife Morticia with similar élan.

The hulking Ted Cassidy played Lurch, their faithful servant and also Thing, the disembodied hand that would appear throughout, while Jackie Coogan made the mad old buzzard of Uncle Fester all his own with a faintly unhinged performance later aped by Christopher Lloyd in the two 1990s films.

The series nailed the dark humour and creaking gothic grandeur of the original idea perfectly and provided a finger clicking theme tune that still gets wheeled out every Halloween (go on, admit it - you're humming it right now, aren't you?).

Despite it clearly connecting with the public, ABC pulled the plug in 1966 but its impact was reflected in numerous cartoon offerings and one-off specials.

It even had the dubious honour of inspiring a much more mundane TV rip-off in the shape of The Munsters - imitation being the fondest form of flattery and all that.

Deliciously dark and pleasingly creepy in its own camp way, The Addams Family embodied everything Charles Addams's original cartoons had and added to them.

If only the new animated take had half the spirit it might be worth a watch...

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