The Addams Family: Volume Two Review
The Addams Family was well into its stride by the time it reached episode 23, which kicks off this second volume and sees the series cross into season two. But it’s clearly evident that as the first series progressed the writers become all too privy toward recycling certain plotlines. With a show like The Addams Family you have to wonder how much mileage it can take. The character quirks are always there and the situations that arise usually culminate in a rather familiar pattern: the plentiful guest stars that turn up and look on aghast before fleeing the house, never to be seen again for example. It’s all part of its necessary charm which continually perpetuates the notion of a crumbling society fearful of the things - or more specifically cultures - it doesn’t understand. The scripts would deviate between addressing such social fixations and the unity of its central family, though later on there was an inkling toward trying to create personal havoc within the Addams household. The tricky part of course is that the Addams’ are just too nice. How does one deliver inner turmoil in a seemingly unbreakable family? Between eight to ten episodes in this collection show the writers attempting to do just that. Almost every character at some juncture faces a personal dilemma, whether it’s Cousin Itt losing his hair or developing an inferiority complex; Uncle Fester also feeling insecure and a failure, thus going on to develop hair growth treatment; Lurch becoming depressed with the news that his beloved harpsichord is soon to be sent to a museum, or perhaps even more shockingly marital disputes between Gomez and Morticia. But while even still this may threaten to become all too familiar the episodes never make for dull viewing; far from it. There is still plenty of genuine wit and killer lines and of course a cast perfectly adapted to delivering them. What the writers succeed in doing is taking these clichéd formulas and charging them with high satire, while still maintaining a certain amount of fluffiness, just in case the viewer suddenly became disparaged by the whole ordeal.
Arguably some of the best satirical moments appear during the episodes “Lurch, The Teenage Idol” (Ted Cassidy yet again stealing the show in one of the season’s best episodes), season two opener “My Fair Cousin Itt”, “Morticia, the Writer”, “Morticia, the Sculptor” and “Gomez, the People’s Choice”. Each to varying degrees take pot-shots at media sensationalism, politics, education and artistic egotism (be it Cousin Itt’s pompous English thespian or Morticia’s crude works of art), while obviously adhering to the family’s own specific quirks and thus making any kind of commentary a little more subtle in its execution. And when the series simply plays it safe altogether it brings us episodes like “Morticia Meets Royalty”, in which Thing finds the love of his life in Lady Fingers; “The Addams Family and the Spaceman”, whereby poor ol’ Lurch and Cousin Itt are mistaken for aliens and “My Son, the Chimp”, in which a chimpanzee is mistaken for Pugsley. Hmm, wait, I’m seeing another pattern here. Moreover Uncle Fester gets some cracking moments, with Jackie Coogan’s pin sharp delivery better than ever; also finally being able to enjoy seeing his name added to the main credits, which previously only catered for Astin and Jones, thus acknowledging just how important and lovable his creation had become. It’s also worth mentioning that the series had a long running tradition of opening each episode with the family enjoying some hilariously weird past time. As is often the case these segments provide the most memorable sight gags and are why I’ve included some as screen grabs.
In my review for the volume one collection I touched upon the nature of the family unit and the ambiguity surrounding it. It was later on - at the beginning of the second season in fact - that we’d be granted a significant back story. “Morticia’s Romance” would certainly have been a better choice to kick off season two, rather than take the billing of second and third episodes, but nevertheless it serves as a nice introduction for those who by now were no doubt curious as to the family’s origins. As a two-parter, told as a story to the children via a series of obligatory flashbacks, it develops a simple enough tale of a blossoming romance, beginning with Gomez as a supposedly young and largely inexperienced fellow with his own perfect (or should that be imperfect?) ideals, facing an arranged marriage to a young lady named Ophelia. But, as luck would have it, Ophelia has a twin sister. Yep, you guessed it, Morticia Frump. Gomez is besotted and must find a way to enter his true beloved’s heart. Carolyn Jones undoubtedly proves to be the star of these episodes, adopting a dual role as Ophelia (replete with springy flowers in her hair and an annoyingly chirpy persona) and her complete antithesis of a twin - the Morticia we all love, though with braided locks alongside her penchant for decapitating roses and dolls. And she truly is marvellous, never failing to put a smile on the viewer’s face as she goes into some crazed, overdriven performance.
23) Thing is Missing
24) Crisis in the Addams Family
25) Lurch and His Harpsichord
26) Morticia, the Breadwinner
27) The Addams Family and the Spaceman
28) My Son, the Chimp
29) Morticia’s Favourite Charity
30) Progress and the Addams Family
31) Uncle Fester’s Toupee
32) Cousin Itt and the Vocational Councillor
33) Lurch, the Teenage Idol
34) The Winning of Morticia Addams
35) My Fair Cousin Itt (Beginning of season two)
36) Morticia’s Romance: Part 1
37) Morticia’s Romance: Part 2
38) Morticia Meets Royalty
39) Gomez, the People’s Choice
40) Cousin Itt’s Problem
41) Halloween – Addams Style
42) Morticia, the Writer
43) Morticia, the Sculptor
No flipping here, folks. The region 2 release comprises of three single-sided discs, with one and two collecting eight episodes each and the third holding five.
I’ll lift my comments directly from before, where applicable, as for the most part we’re looking at the same stuff.
Detail is pleasing and the general tone is well catered for. Black levels are as deep as to be expected and contrast appears to be entirely natural. There’s a nice level of grey scale and shadow detail which seems to replicate the show’s intended appearance very well. Furthermore there’s actually very little in the way of specks and scratches, although they’re naturally present there’s nothing overly distracting.
One thing that I failed to mention in my previous review, which I must apologise for, is that there is a noticeable wobble from time to time, which appears to be inherent to the source material, which I presume is from broadcast tape masters. Additionally there is a slight problem this time around concerning the quality of two episodes: “Halloween – Addams Style” and “Morticia the Writer”. The quality of these episodes is quite degraded, with both being considerably softer than the other episodes in the set, and both featuring lots of dirt and specks. Disappointing, but I’m guessing it’s all MGM could work with, or perhaps begrudged paying for better. Edge enhancement and aliasing is also carried over.
Sound is of the original mono variety, so you’ll pretty much know what to expect here. It doesn’t sound perfect: there’s a slight hiss in areas, but it’s very low and you may have to turn up your volume levels to get the most out of the dialogue. Vic Mizzy’s quaint scoring sounds a little more punctual and then there’s the canned laughter which I’m afraid we’ve always had to live with. There’s nothing here that’s really worth complaining about as it sounds like it should and there’s no direct problems with the authoring itself.
Selected dialogue from certain episodes suffers from being re-dubbed, for example toward the end of “Fester’s Toupee”. I should have made a note of the examples. It’s very noticeable though when it happens and I’ve no idea what the cause behind it is. Thankfully it’s not often and they do appear to be original re-dubs, which I presume the actors did for syndication, possibly to edit any seemingly offensive material, hard to believe as it may seem.
Discs 1 and 2 contain Thing and Cousin Itt Select Scene Commentaries on “Thing is Missing”, “My Son, the Chimp”, “Cousin Itt and the Vocational Counsellor” and “My Fair Cousin Itt”. And boy they’re god awful. The only merciful thing about them is that each one barely lasts a minute. I can’t believe that they actually paid someone to dress up in an Itt costume and get a guy to play Thing in a box as they do screen commentaries and squabble with each other over some poorly written gags as they explain the plot synopsis for the given episode.
On disc 2 we have an Audio Commentary for “Morticia Meets Royalty” with “The Addams Chronicles” author Stephen Cox. Cox delivers another fine commentary, primarily due to his solid research and personal affiliations with some of the show’s actors. As such he provides some very interesting stories which had come directly from Astin, with one in particular touching upon the fact that Astin and Jones were going through their own (separate) marital troubles at the time, which made them want to play their onscreen relationship as romantic and lovingly as possible.
Also on the second disc is Tombstone Trivia on “Morticia’s Romance (Part 1)”. This is much like those old “pop-up video” music factoid shows: we’re provided a few facts here and there on screen, but it’s not an entirely worthwhile feature, with a lot of well commonly known stuff being used.
Disc 3 features a thirteen minute featurette entitled Mad about the Addams. Here Stephen Cox, along with John Astin and other expert and fans, discusses the way in which the show appealed to its audience. By taking a look at the conventional American family and adding a twist it managed to resonate on a greater scale than the majority of family sitcoms on the air, despite its bizarre outward appearance. Cox talks about the difficulties faced when trying to translate the macabre humour of Charles Addams’ original stories, in addition to going over the dynamic between Gomez and Morticia and Wednesday and Pugsley. There’s also a brief mention of The Munsters, which aired at the same time, and along with The Addams Family was mysteriously pulled off the air after two years, despite its popularity.
Finally Guest Star Séance on disc 3 simply takes a look at ten actors who have appeared in the show at some time or another. Narrated by some ominous toned fellow these brief segments touch upon other career appearances of theirs.
All extras come with subs.
And that’s about your lot. Although it feels a tad repetitive in places The Addams Family continues with its well placed familiarities and wonderful performances, heading into season two with its head held high. It wouldn’t last for much longer, however, but you certainly can’t complain that the episodes presented in this collection aren’t a blast from start to finish.
8 out of 10
7 out of 10
7 out of 10
5 out of 10