Part of the problem of doing Charles Addams's characters nowadays is that we, as a nation, are a great deal less provincial than we once were. Once, it was funny/shocking to contemplate a lawyer having an African "witch doctor" as a family practitioner, or having him do headstands as part of his daily calisthenics. Nowadays, it's unremarkable to talk about seeing a "native healer" for some ailments, or to do Yoga, even "Zen Yoga" under a Swami. Carolyn Jones's Marchesa Casati act, with chalky skin, black wedding gown, poison ring, and samisen was similarly funny/shocking in 1964 -- but now, she looks like any goth-leaning mallrat. I could go on, and on, here: flower arrangements made of thorns and stems? Been there, done that, it's in Elle Decor this month. A swamp as a picturesque vista? Call it a wetlands, and break out the birding list. Lying on a bed of nails for relaxation? Sure! But not right after dinner, hon. Ostrich is a bit heavy...

Without the exotic, anyone writing an Addams script is reduced to shark-jumping gestures to pep up a not-too-background of the simply macabre and/or violent. I could see the first movie tripping over its dick when Morticia's stint at the daycare center leaves the children crying....the original series would have had their parents complaining that they'd come home perfectly polite and well-loved, with a knowlege of lockpicking and pet reanimation. I could see the second movie's problem when Wednesday gives an oh-so-politically-correct speech at the camp Thanksgiving pageant..taken out of context, without the straw-man buffoonery of the "Eat Me" sequence, we're left with a speech from a Very Special Thanksgiving Episode of well, any mainstream sitcom. I loved the original cartoons/series, and Raul Julia/Anjelica Huston/Christina Ricci aren't too bad as replacements for the original cast. But you just can't go home again.

The Addams Family

The Addams Family was written by Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson. It was produced by Scott Rudin and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia were Morticia and Gomez. Christopher Lloyd played Fester. Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman were Wednesday and Pugsley. Dan Hedaya was Tully Alford and Dana Ivey was Margaret Alford. Elizabeth Wilson played Abigail Craven. It was released in 1991, by Orion.

A group of carol singers stand outside a large, weirdish looking door. They are happy, bright and colourful, and singing that ‘Merry Christmas’ song that the Americans do so well, and the British never really got the hang of. No one comes to the door however. Far above them, looking down, and ready to pour a cauldron of liquid nastiness on them, are the dark and grizzly looking faces of the Addams Family.

Who are The Addams Family? Well we all remember the 60’s black and white TV series, inspired by Charles AddamsNew Yorker cartoons: hard to forget it, really, seeing as it was repeated ad infinitum – but it certainly wasn’t bad. There then came a crass cartoon, and an appalling TV remake. Arguably, it also spawned The Munsters, which followed the same format. Barry Sonnenfeld’s 'The Addams Family', however, is a piece of sheer brilliance, taking all that was genius from the original cartoons and the TV series, the gothic look, the bizarrely drawn characters and the brilliant one-liners, and linking it altogether with an absurd ‘plot’.

I say ‘plot’ because there really isn’t that much of it. Uncle Fester, Gomez’s beloved brother, has been missing for years. His scheming lawyer, Tully, knows someone who looks exactly like Fester – Gordon Craven, and gets him, and Abigail Craven – his mother – to turn up at the house. If Gordon can successfully convince Gomez that he is Fester, then the house and all the gold in it (there’s lots) will belong to him. Tully, of course, down on his luck financially, will get a cut. After much soul searching, Gomez believes that Gordon is Fester, and accepts him back into the family. Fester promptly throws them out, and starts to look for the money. Unfortunately, the way to the vault – which Gomez had shown to ‘Fester’ - is full of booby traps: try as they might the three – Tully, Gordon and Abigail – can’t get the money. To complicate things further, Gordon was beginning to rather like being an Addams. Gomez and Morticia eventually end up back at the house and try to reclaim it. Gordon realises where his allegiances lie, and, using a book that generates a storm when it is opened, manages to rescue all the good guys and capture all the bad guys. (Deus Ex Machina, or what?) Of course, when Abigail had told Gomez that ‘Fester’ had been found in a fishing net with amnesia, she wasn’t telling the whole truth. In fact, she had found ‘Gordon’ in a fishing net (although years earlier than she had said). He wasn’t her son at all. In fact, ‘Gordon’ really is Fester after all, and he really did have amnesia. (How much Deus Ex Machina do you want?) The film ends with all the Addams bunch running off to dig up the body parts of all their dead relatives: Morticia reveals to Gomez that she is expecting a baby… (and therefore there’s a sequel not too far away…)

It’s not the most gripping plot you’ve ever heard, is it? It divided the audiences too. There were those who found it thin, and rather holey. And there were those, like me, who realised that none of it was to be taken seriously (well – not quite…): it’s a comedy. It’s meant to make you laugh. And it certainly did that.

The cast, for a start, is stunning. Raul Julia is suave, sophisticated, dapper, and totally unhinged – a perfect Gomez. Anjelica Huston’s Morticia is mesmerising, sharp and equally unhinged. Her pruning of her black roses (she cuts all the heads off) brought winces from the audience. Christina Ricci is disturbingly good at suggesting just the right amount of malice in her portrayal of Wednesday. Christopher Lloyd (the mad professor in Back to the Future? Yes him. He’s unrecognisable) is Fester. No one will ever be able to do it that well again. He’s enthusiastic, animated, cunning – superb. They, and the supporting cast too, are flawless.

Then there’s Thing. Thing is a disembodied hand. In the TV series, it lived in a box. Now, with the wonders of computer animation, Thing can run about, leap on roller-skates and dash down the middle of a busy road. One of the best scenes in the film depicts Thing, who is of course voiceless, trying to signal to Gomez that Morticia’s been kidnapped. Wonderful. And Cousin Itt is there, too, for Fester’s coming home party. Cousin Itt is all hair, and he squeaks and burbles instead of talking. Everyone knows precisely what he is saying except the audience. Tully’s wife, Margaret, falls for him.

The effects are nicely done too, and completely in keeping with the style of the film. The dance sequence, with lots of knife throwing, between Gomez and Fester is great (although you can see the stunt double, at one point, rather clearly). There is an excellent piece with a toy train crash: the toy, for a moment, becomes a real train and we see the horror of one of the passengers as he gazes out at Gomez’s gigantic face (it is, apparently, Barry Sonnenfeld in the train). Even the lighting is beautifully thought out. Morticia always has her eyes lit in a very thin strip to make her look more creepy and intense. The lighting guy must have a nightmare trying to get that done in every shot.

So – great cast, great characters, great effects, great set, great lights. ‘But the film’s basically just a succession of one-liners,' the critics cried. Yes – and thank goodness it is. Not merely because trying to construct a serious plot would ruin the absurdity of the film, but also, and mainly, because it’s the one-liners that make the film. They do, really.

The film is full of jokes and gags, deadpan and hilarious. It was a riot in the cinema: everyone was laughing and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Okay, so it’s not a vastly intelligent work: it didn’t win any Oscars, and it’s not going to find its way onto a media studies course. No one’s going to sit down and analyse what it’s really about – what it has to say about modern existence and the human condition. But so what? If you want a great two hours, go and buy some popcorn and rent this film. Better still, buy it: I guarantee you will want to watch it again.

And when you have – go watch Addams Family Values, the sequel. It’s marvellous too.

Cast and crew lists in this write-up come from The Virgin Film Guide - it didn't like the film very much - the production team 'neglected to think about the plot'.<\small>.

Thanks to Servo5678, admiralh and gorgonzola for information and a little proofreading...

A pinball machine by Bally/WMS Gaming, a subsidiary of Williams Electronic Games. The Addams Family (abbreviated sometimes to TAF) was originally produced in 1992, and became such a popular game that it exceeded all sales expectations. In 1994 a special Gold version of The Addams Family was produced, with a run of 1,000 machines, equipped with gold playfield accents and some special game modes.

The Addams Family was designed by Pat Lawlor, pinball god. Some unique and nifty features of the game include Thing capturing balls and disappearing into his box with them, and The Power, a series of electromagnets under the playfield which make the ball move unpredictably (and, unfortunately, often flick it off into an outlane).

Notable features of the game:

Skill Shot: This is scored at the small hole that Thing lifts the ball out of when activated. You can get the ball in here by plunging it with just enough force to make it kind of dribble off the end of the steel ramp at the end of the plunger lane. This is worth 2 million the first time, then 3 million, 4 million, and a maximum 5 million. If you got it in here, it will be kicked out to the right and you'll have a chance to shoot...

The Train Wreck Target: This is on a small curved path leading off to the upper left. This scores a jackpot during multiball, and otherwise scores Train Wrecks. Scoring a Train Wreck prevents the GRAVE value from resetting at the end of the ball, and will light an extra ball on the fourth. The first Train Wreck takes two hits, the second takes three, and so on. The maximum number of hits for a Train Wreck is six.

Ramps:

  • Left side - shoot here to score Million Plus, which starts out at 1 million, and advances with each additional shot, resetting to 1 at the beginning of each ball. A diverter will move with a loud snap. This also lights a letter in THING (on the backglass). This ramp also scores Super Jackpot during multiball. This shot is made at the upper left flipper. The ball will be dumped at the lower-left exit of the bumper area, and will roll to the lower-left flipper.
  • Right side - This ramp scores one Bear Kick if lit, and will also fire the diverter if Thing Flips is lit. If it isn't, the ball will be returned at the right inlane.
  • Thing - This is a tiny mini-ramp, about one inch high and made of metal, equipped with a green light and a yellow light. Green indicates a lock is lit here, and yellow indicates Thing Bonus has been lit by completing the letters of THING.

Mansion:

At the beginning of a ball, a shot to the right inlane, or after shooting either ramp, a yellow lamp will be lit on the right side of the Electric Chair. This is the hole next to the bumpers. Mansion rooms may also be awarded at the Swamp. Shooting either one will begin the mode currently flashing on the mansion windows (a matrix of lights on the playfield). To relight the mansion after collecting a room, shoot a ramp. The lit mansion room is cycled by each hit from the jet bumpers. Completed rooms will be lit solidly. The final mansion room is "?", which allows many of the rooms to be re-awarded.

Swamp: Three possible entrances, one exit, and a few standup targets on the right side of the playfield. Balls can enter here from the left side, from the plunger lane, or from the front entrance/exit (which fires balls back to the right flipper). The Swamp can lock balls for multiball. The targets on its left side are lit for 1 million points briefly as the ball rolls down the lane leading to the upper left flipper. Shooting the ball into the swamp from here scores 5x the GRAVE value; shooting it in any other way scores it 1x. To advance the GRAVE value, shoot the G and R targets below the bumpers, the A target to the left of the center ramp, V (which is the ramp itself!), and E, which is the hole from which balls are kicked out of the swamp. An unlit GRAVE target advances the value of the jet bumpers (much like the center target on Whirlwind, or the unlit Camera hole on Twilight Zone). The GRAVE value is advanced by bumper hits; 10K if unlit, 20K lit, 30K flashing. The Swamp Millions targets and the 5x Grave Value are all disabled during the 15 second countdown for Thing Multiball.

The Vault, GREED, and other fun multiball objects: The Vault entrance is covered by a plastic bookcase with a light curtain between the bottom and the overhanging top. Interrupting this light curtain by hitting the bookcase with a ball will spot a letter in GREED. Light all the letters to enable the locks. Green lights will be on at the mini-ramp to Thing and the Valut, and a yellow "LOCK" light will be on at the Swamp. On the first multiball, you may lock balls at the Swamp, Thing, or Vault. You may lock a ball in the Swamp immediately by just plunging it weakly, so it rolls back down. The machine will congratulate you for this by saying "Good thinking!". A ball can also be locked at Thing by completing a Skill Shot. Once two balls are locked, red lights will be on at the Electric Chair and Vault; shoot either one to start. The jackpots are at the Train Wreck target and left ramp. On the second multiball, you will only be able to lock balls in the Vault. On the third and beyond, you will also have to shoot the Vault to begin multiball. If multiball ends without any jackpots being scored, you will have 15 seconds to restart with a 2-ball multiball by getting the ball to Thing.
Thing Multiball is a different creature altogether. The Vault jackpot value starts at 15 million and rapidly counts down on the display along with "Get Ball To Thing". Once you get the ball to Thing, the value stops counting down, Thing locks the ball, and a second ball is served to the plunger. The Vault is open, and shooting it will score the value left from the countdown. The minimum is 3 million.
Quick Multiball, lit from the mansion, is similar to Thing Multiball, except the vault starts at 5 million, increasing each time it's awarded or the center ramp is shot (up to 10 million).

Bonus multiplier: "ADV X" will be lit on the lane that goes all the way around the back of the machine from the bumpers to the upper right flipper briefly after the ball rolls down the right inlane. Shooting it will advance the Bonus X from 1 to a maximum of 5.

I'm not going to explain all the different Mansion Rooms here, as it would make this writeup massive; the game does a pretty good job of explaining them itself.

Bear Kicks: Shooting the center ramp scores one, or two if the ball has just rolled down the center-right inlane. At 15 Bear Kicks and each 10 after that, a Mansion room is spotted. A certain number of Bear Kicks also lights an extra ball.

When playing this game, the two most important things to remember are:
1. Master the Slap Save; you're going to need it often.
2. Have fun!

Easter eggs: With no game in progress and no credits on the machine, try these codes:
L = Left flipper, R = Right flipper, S = Start:
7L, 1S, 14R, 1S, 20L, 1S - This will give you some insight into where ground beef comes from, as well as displaying the mysterious DOHO.
13L, 1S, 1R, 1S, 2L, 1S - Designers' credits, with a nice loud boomy audio accompanyment.

Sources:
Brian Dominy's rulesheet, version 2.0.
Lots of time spent playing.
FIVE TONS OF FLAX

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