Halloween With the New Addams Family (1977)

This morning, one of our rare forays into the world of bootlegs for a seasonally appropriate unavailable film. Halloween With the New Addams Family was shown on television only once, when I was six, and later turned up on a budget VHS label called Goodtimes. There’s kind of a folk memory of this being pretty awful, and unfortunately, this is one of those cases where the folk memory is correct. I didn’t make it through the film when I was six, and had occasionally seen repeats of the original series, and the somewhat similar Munsters, on WTCG-17. I had not seen any of the episodes with Cousin It, and his very brief appearance in this film unnerved me so much that I switched off around the 24 minute mark. That was the only thing from the movie I remembered at all, and I remembered it remarkably well.

So like a lot of other reunion programs from its era, this gets called “The New” presumably to distinguish it from repeats in an era when most people got their TV news from little grids in the newspaper without much information. But it’s a reunion of almost the entire cast: John Astin, Carolyn Jones, Jackie Coogan, Ted Cassidy, Lisa Loring, Ken Weatherwax, and Felix Silla are all back as the Addams clan. The only recasts are Blossom Rock’s Grandmama, now played by Jane Rose, and Morticia’s mother, by Elvia Allman.

So that’s not recast versions of Wednesday and Gomez in the photo above, those are actually new and completely unnecessary characters. That’s Wednesday Jr. and Gomez’s brother Pancho. It’s a weird, weird movie, on top of being incredibly boring, because it kind of feels like a backdoor pilot for a relaunch of the show, but it also feels like it started life as a one-hour special and the network decided they wanted it for a 90-minute slot instead. So it gets really, really long and tedious, with several unfunny gags repeated and the most interesting character in the thing getting dropped partway through.

Vito Scotti completely steals the show as one of a gang of criminals who’s sent to case the Addams house. A lot of what he does is seen-it-before reaction comedy, but when he gets back to their headquarters, he’s a complete scream, stumbling around in shock and babbling. Then the film leaves him behind and the others pose as distant relatives to get into the house during the Halloween party and find the Addams millions. The party is so tedious; it’s just extras in costumes dancing. The head criminal gets more lines than Uncle Fester. Did somebody involved with this movie actually think anybody in the audience wanted that?

Wednesday and Pugsley were often sidelined in the original show, but there’s no excuse for that happening ten years later. Loring and Weatherwax each get a kind of spotlight scene when they return home – she plays the piccolo and he’s a witch doctor – and then they’re on the sidelines again. They even do a recurring gag where Wednesday can hear her father playing Morse code on his own piccolo, but they don’t let Loring have any additional lines as she whispers instructions to Cousin It. There are two new children, who are called Wednesday Jr. and Pugsley Jr. and look just like their older sister and brother, and they don’t add anything to the narrative. Henry Darrow plays Gomez’s younger brother Pancho, who is also in love with Morticia. Madly, they remember to let Carolyn Jones dress as Morticia’s older sister Ophelia and do some judo, but decline to resolve this complication by marrying the two off. Best I can figure, this film was done on such a low budget that they couldn’t afford any rewrites.

Well, the kid laughed several times, and I enjoyed Scotti’s bit, but otherwise this really was as bad as its reputation has it. I adore the original series and rewatch episodes often, but was a dull and agonizingly long 75 minutes, and not at all the finale these actors deserved. Spirit of Halloween? Humbug, I say!