Friday, November 30, 2012

An Addams Family Collaboration

When my blog buddy, Maynard, of Maynard Morrissey's Horror Movie Diary, suggested we collaborate on a post chock-full of Addams Family goodness, of course I agreed to the idea! My contribution is a little background on the Charles Addams cartoons and the sixties TV series, while Maynard, an awesome Austrian horror review blogger and a super nice guy, has reviewed the two Addams Family movies made in the early nineties.

In 1933, at the age of 21, Charles Addams' first published work appeared in The New Yorker magazine. He went on to become one of their major contributors for nearly 60 years, producing thousands of artworks, some of which included characters who would come to be known collectively as The Addams Family. Prior to 1964 however, these characters were undeveloped, appearing in one-panel gag cartoons. It was only upon his collaboration with David Levy, after the producer approached him with the idea of using some of his cartoons as the basis of a television show, that Charles Addams set about creating names and backstories for the characters who would thereafter be known as Morticia, Gomez, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandmama, Lurch, Thing and Cousin Itt.

The television series, which ran for two seasons on ABC from 1964 to 1966, starred Carolyn Jones as Morticia, John Astin as Gomez, Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester, Ted Cassidy as Lurch, Blossom Rock as Grandmama, Lisa Loring as Wednesday, Ken Weatherwax as Pugsley, and Felix Silla as Cousin Itt. It was not quite as dark or macabre as either the cartoons or the 1991/1993 films, but it was remarkable in its own way. As John Astin, who played Gomez Addams, put it, in his forward to The Addams Chronicles, by Stephen Cox, the show was:
"A celebration of the unconventional in a world of conformity."
Watching reruns of The Addams Family television series is one of my fondest childhood memories. Back then, I was too young to understand the meaning of the word "irony", but I was still very aware that even though the family was strange, and did peculiar things, like Morticia cutting off the heads of roses and tossing them away, they were also loving, generous, polite and loyal. The show's so-called normal characters, on the other hand, were invariably rude, nasty and often out to swindle the family. Even psychologists and psychiatrists of the era took note of how functional the seemingly dysfunctional family was. As John Astin also wrote:
"They said we were, in fact, the healthiest family on the air."
My father owned a few paperback collections of Charles Addams' cartoons, which he has since given to me, that I endlessly scrutinized as a small child. One of my favourite cartoons showed the Addams clan, standing on the roof of their home, about to pour boiling oil on Yuletide carollers below and I was so pleased when that made it into the opening scene of the 1991 film The Addams Family.

The television series also had examples of cartoons being directly translated to the screen, like the scene where Wednesday and Pugsley assiduously tend to the fireplace with a pair of bellows in order to ensure that a trip down the chimney by Santa would be nice and toasty.

One of the most significant differences between the cartoons and the TV series was the character of "Thing". In Charles Addams' cartoons, Thing was depicted as some sort of shy creature seen peeping behind objects in the background of the drawings. On television, and later in the movies, Thing became a disembodied hand who performed small everyday tasks for the family, like retrieving the mail.

There were a few slight changes made to the family when they made the leap from the small screen to the movies too. In the television series, Uncle Fester is Morticia's uncle whereas in the movies he is portrayed as the older brother of Gomez, while Grandmama was Gomez's mother on TV but became Morticia's mother in the feature films.

In the sixties series, Morticia's mother, Granny Frump, was a recurring character played by Margaret Hamilton, who was famous for her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Another recurring character from the series, who did not appear in the two movies, was Ophelia Frump, Morticia's older sister. She was played by Carolyn Jones in a blonde wig.

Charles Addams had originally suggested "Pubert" for the name of Gomez and Morticia's son, but it was rejected in favour of "Pugsley". "Pubert" eventually resurfaced however, in the form of the family's third child, a mustachioed baby, in the 1993 film, Addams Family Values.

I have to confess that I have an extra special place in my heart for the television series, but I also adore Charles Addams' original cartoons and I think the Raul Julia/Anjelica Huston movies are absolutely wonderful. I hate to compare the three separate manifestations of the clan because each is a fabulous art form in its own right and each has added a unique layer to the darkly delightful phenomenon that is The Addams Family.

And now over to Maynard...

German Title: Die Addams Family
Release Date: 1991
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Next to The 'Burbs and Gremlins, one of the very first "horror"- themed comedies I've ever seen, and also one of my all time favorites: Barry Sonnenfeld's directorial debut The Addams Family, a delightfully entertaining and visually awesome update of the 60s TV series, which was based on Charles Addams' funny New Yorker cartoons.

 With a wonderful script by Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands) and Larry Wilson (Beetlejuice), and an absolutely stellar cast, Men In Black - mastermind Sonnenfeld created a marvelous and super-witty movie that never fails to amuse me. Fun and diverting from beginning to end, and packed with the coolest set designs and most beautiful costumes outside of a Tim Burton film, all wonderfully captured by Owen Roizman's (The Exorcist) great cinematography and accompanied with a playful score by Marc Shaiman (Misery). 

Every single character is just wonderful, every single actor delivers a top notch performance, most notably Raul Julia as hyper-hilarious Gomez Addams 
("We danced the Mamushka while Nero fiddled, we danced the Mamushka at Waterloo, we danced the Mamushka for Jack the Ripper."), Anjelica Huston as his stunningly beautiful wife Morticia 
("Last night, you were unhinged. You were like some desperate howling demon. You frightened me. Do it again!"),
 a fantastic Christopher Lloyd as Gomez' brother Fester ("Children, look! Great aunt Lavinia. She was beheaded by her own children!"),
 the gorgeous Christina Ricci as grumpy daughter Wednesday ("I'm a homicidal maniac. They look just like everyone else.")
, Carel Struycken as Lurch, Jimmy Workman as Pugsley and Judith Malina as Grandmama.

Other brilliant dialogue lines:
"It's Gomez I'm terribly worried about. He won't eat. He can't sleep. He keeps coughing up blood." - "He coughs up blood?" - "Well, not like he used to..."
"Remember that fateful night?" - "You smoked your first cigar." - "What? Come on, old man! I've smoked since I was five. Mother insisted!"
"When we first met years ago, it was an evening much like this. Magic in the air. A boy." - "A girl." - "An open grave. It was my first funeral." - "You were so beautiful. Pale and mysterious. No one even looked at the corpse."

The Addams Family is undoubtedly one of the coolest movies of the 90s. A modern classic, I love it!

German Title: Die Addams Family in Verrückter Tradition
Release Date: 1993
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Addams Family Values is one of the rare cases of a sequel that's almost as great as the original. Sonnenfeld delivers the goods and created a wonderfully hilarious follow-up, based on a script by Paul Rudnick (In and Out). The story may be a bit predictable, but who cares when everything else is just awesome?

 Part 2 is really crammed with great ideas, superb plot points / twists and highly memorable scenes, such as Gomez and Morticia's amazing dance sequence, the outrageous Thanksgiving massacre or the electric-chair finale. Cinematographer Donald Peterman (Planes, Trains & Automobiles) gives the movie a bright and epic look, while Marc Shaiman comes up with another excellently enjoyable soundtrack.

The cast is simply stunning (again!), at times even better than in the first one, especially Raul Julia ("My name is Gomez Addams and I have seen evil!"), Anjelica Huston ("You have placed Fester under some strange sexual spell. I respect that."), Christopher Lloyd ("When he was asleep, I opened his skull and removed his brains!") and Christina Ricci who delivers so many terrific one-liners, it's insane ("Hello Polly. I'll clean my room... in exchange for your immortal soul." / "I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground." / "Be afraid. Be very afraid!").
New to the cast: Joan Cusack as fantastic serial-killer-nanny, Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski as super-annoying "Kumbaya My Lord"- singing summer-camp-owners, and Carol Kane (replacing Judith Malina) as Grandmama.

More brilliant dialogue: 
"We don't hug." - "Oh, they're just shy." - "We're not shy. We're contagious." 
"I dreamed that when I met him, that we would wait until our wedding night to give ourselves to one another, to make the ultimate sacrifice." - "A goat?"
 "Wednesday's at that very special age when a girl has only one thing on her mind." - "Boys?" - "Homicide." 
"Hi, I'm Debbie Jellinsky from the agency." - "The agency? But they claimed no one else was available. They suggested a Doberman."

Addams Family Values is everything a great sequel is supposed to be. Kudos to everyone involved!
 Sad fact: Raúl Juliá died in 1994 after suffering a stroke, and with him died the hope of a possible third installment. Um... ok, there WAS another Addams-film in 1998, called Addams Family Reunion, but we don't talk about it.

Thanks for joining forces with me on this Addams Family extravaganza, Maynard! And if you haven't discovered the fabulous Maynard yet, head on over to Maynard Morrissey's Horror Movie Diary.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The 2012 Post-Halloween Post

The Illusion Starring Phoebe in the Role of "Graveyard Cat"

Well, it turns out that this year's post-Halloween post is a little more post-Halloween than I had originally intended. I can't believe we're more than halfway through November. Where did 2012 go? A hectic October meant that I didn't tick everything off my Halloween "To Do" list either, but Hurricane Sandy's Halloween party-pooping certainly puts any minor frustrations of mine into perspective.

For my little family, Halloween consists of a nice meal, a spooky-themed dessert, and a movie. Any decorating is restricted to indoors because living in a terraced townhouse means the front garden is a communal space, and well... Australia doesn't have the appropriate seasonal frame of reference for the occasion. When I look out my window on Halloween, I see springtime blossoms and fresh greenery, not the gold and russet of autumn leaves. One day, I would love to experience an American Halloween, and all the autumnal festivities that surround it, but in the meantime, I've decided there's no point bemoaning topsy-turvy seasons and will simply improvise.

The Reality

Living in a country that is known colloquially as both "Oz", and the "Land Down Under", pretty much invites over-the-rainbow and upside down shenanigans, in my opinion. So, in the spirit of a bizarro Halloween, I turned a tiny corner of my tiny living room into a portion of a walled cemetery with creeping ivy, and I enlisted Phoebe to play the role of "graveyard cat".

Jack-o'-lantern 2012

My jack-o'-lantern stays inside too. I'm not quite sure how peculiar this is or not. If the pumpkins didn't have to be imported at this time of year, which makes them very costly, I'd have loads of them, inside and out, but my one precious jack-o'-lantern stays indoors with me, so I can enjoy every moment of his short lifespan. This year his carved face was based loosely on the pumpkin-headed scarecrow in the opening scene of the movie Sleepy Hollow.

Sleepy Hollow and The Frighteners

In the lead-up to the big night we watched Sleepy Hollow and The Frighteners. Not only are they two of my favourite movies, but they both manage to be creepy and at the same time encompass the lighter side of the dark side, which for me, is what Halloween is all about. On Halloween itself, we watched Hocus Pocus, which is just pure, delightful All Hallows' Eve fun!

Halloween Treats

For dinner, I made Japanese Gyoza. What does Japanese Gyoza have to do with Halloween? Er... nothing whatsoever... but, to me, it is party food, and Halloween is a party after all, and besides, this is Halloween through the looking glass, right?! My son enjoyed some delicious Zombie Virus with his meal, while my husband and I sensibly opted for a bottle of All Hallows' Eve Protection. For dessert, I made giant chocolate jack-o'-lantern cookies filled with orange cream, which were consumed with coffee in the company of the Sanderson sisters.

Hocus Pocus

So that was my kooky little Halloween. It was nothing spectacular but it was fun, and as an added bonus, I even got my very first trick-or-treaters ever!

But wait, there's more...

A Dutch Treat
Talking of trick-or-treating, I got a treat of my own this Halloween. I won a giveaway over at the blog of artist, Laury, and she sent me a sack load of Dutch candy and an original drawing, all the way from England. You can check out Laury's blog, and her pen drawings of the strange world inhabited by her character, Echo, at Echo's Wanderings blog. Thank you so much, Laury! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bram Stoker!

November 8 is the 165th anniversary of the birth of Abraham "Bram" Stoker, the author of Gothic vampire novel, Dracula, and I'm very pleased to see that Google have commemorated the occasion with a Doodle.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Horrorgami Addams Family Mansion

This fabulous paper model of the Addams Family mansion, based on the house in The Addams Family movie (1991), is part of an exhibition of the work of paper engineer, Marc Hagan-Guirey, at London's, Gallery One And A Half (1 - 14 November 2012).

The exhibition features 13 paper constructions of iconic horror houses, each one cut from a single sheet of paper using the kirigami technique, which Hagan-Guirey has dubbed "horrorgami". His other works include the Overlook Hotel from The Shining, The Amityville Horror house, and the Bates Motel from Psycho.

You can watch an interesting little featurette on Marc Hagan-Guirey's, Horrorgami, here.