The Addams Family Volume One
If The Munsters was a traditional family sitcom as reimagined by Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine,The Addams Family is a macabre twist on Father Knows Best. The Munster and Addams clans made their TV debuts in 1964 and lasted two seasons before the networks buried them. The Addamses are now gloriously resurrected in this three-disc set that digs up the series' first 22 episodes (oddly, 12 shy of the complete first season). Inspired by Charles Addams'sNew Yorker cartoons, The Addams Family is fiendishly funny, with a dead-on cast that indelibly embodies Addams's characters. John Astin brings a demented glee to eccentric, frighteningly wealthy Gomez Addams. Carolyn Jones is bewitching as his pre-goth wife, Morticia, whom the Beatles might have had in mind when they sang, "Baby's in Black." Jackie Coogan is the electrifying Uncle Fester, with Ted Cassidy (who famously took a kick in the groin from Paul Newman inButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) is the monstrous butler Lurch, whose "You rang?" entered the pop culture lexicon.
The Munsters was family friendly. The Addams Family is more sophisticated and wickedly funny. As Gomez notes at one point, "There's a touch of madness" in the Addams household, where "every day is Halloween." Bear rugs growl, a disembodied hand, Thing, delivers the mail, and a torture rack is good for what ails you. The children, Wednesday (Lisa Loring) and older brother Pugsley (Ken Weatherwax), enjoy such hobbies as playing autopsy or exploding model trains. Gomez and Morticia were one of television's most passionate couples, with Gomez being driven to arm-kissing ecstasy whenever Morticia spoke French. The last episode included in this collection, "Amnesia in the Addams Family," is a classic in which Gomez is rendered "normal" following a conk on the head. The look of disgust on Morticia and Lurch's face when he asks for a glass of milk is priceless. The "altogether ooky" extras include three episode commentaries, a featurette on Charles Addams, reminiscences from cast members Astin, Loring, and Weatherwax, a segment on the creation of the classic snap-snap theme song ("They're creepy and they're kooky...."), and the inevitable theme song sing-along. The Addams Family at last on DVD? As Gomez might exclaim: "Capital!" -- Donald Liebenson
The Addams Family Volume Two
Based on the original Goth cartoons by Charles "Chas" Addams that ran for decades in the New Yorkermagazine, The Addams Family television sitcom portrayed a monster family whose moribund physical appearances were counteracted by each family member's exuberance for passion and adventure. ThisVolume Two DVD contains twenty-one episodes, including the last of season one and the whole of season two, plus commentaries, and a featurette about the cinematic impact The Addams Family had on American television culture. Premiering the same year asThe Munsters, this short-lived series was one of the first two shows to take issue with the Leave It To Beaveraesthetic that dominated television throughout the 50s, in which perfect families narrowly defined normality in the American home. Instead, it starred a family feared by neighbors, who within the boundaries of their haunted Victorian mansion invented their own thriving, not to mention fun, culture. The Addams Family proved that outsiders could be extremely gracious, educated, and interesting, even if eccentricities rendered their looks a threat.
These episodes include the original cast: Gomez (John Astin) and Morticia (Carolyn Jones), Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan), the two children Wednesday and Pugley, butler Lurch, hairy Cousin Itt, and the enigmatic hand, Thing, who plays castanets for the married couples' cha cha parties, and looks up things in phone books. Macabre humor in each episode reverses average, expected logic. Flower arranging, for Morticia, involves de-budding and stripping roses of all but the thorns. In "Morticia, The Sculptress," Gomez bribes a local art dealer to buy Morticia's hideous art at the Addams Family's own expense, revealing Gomez to be a strange but loving husband. In most episodes, such as "Lurch, The Teenage Idol" and "Cousin Itt and the Vocational Counselor," The Addams' aim to help their loved ones succeed, in these cases Lurch, as a harpsichord-playing pop star, and Itt, on a career search for an unintelligible, hair-covered little person. The Addams Family house interior still looks exquisite forty years later, full of taxidermied animals, antique furniture, carnivorous plants, and medieval charm. One watches this show not only for its sets and costumes, but also for its refreshingly wide take on what successful families can look like. -- Trinie Dalton
The Addams Family Volume Three
Product description: The Addams Family is not your typical family: they take delight in most of the things that "normal" people would be terrified of. Relive the misadventures of Americas favorite frightfully funny family.