'Addams Family': They're still creepy, kooky and altogether spooky

November 12, 1991|By Judy Gerstel | Judy Gerstel,Knight-Ridder

NEW YORK -- Ooky spooky creepy kooky is not a vagrant sleeping under rags around the corner from the Mark Hotel, where the taxes on a suite with two beige marble bathrooms come to $346.50 a night.

Ooky spooky is not even turning on the TV Saturday night and seeing radio shock-jock Howard Stern hosting "Lesbian Dating Game" with two busty blonds flanking a dour brunette.

No.

Spooky is 33-year-old producer Scott Rudin knowing in his bones that America craves a major attack of macabre and taking dead aim with a $30-million movie that's hot.

It was Rudin's idea to make the deliciously malicious romp that is "The Addams Family," opening nationwide Nov. 22.

"It's that thing that's in the air, a sensibility that's right for the time," says the wunderkind. In the last six months, Rudin has produced "Regarding Henry" and "Little Man Tate."

About "Addams Family," he says, with spooky understatement, "What's happened is that black comedy has become very acceptable."

Indeed, it has become acceptable to enjoy the good (and bad) things in life privately behind locked doors at home in the mansion, perhaps even cooking up gourmet entrails and torturing loved ones from time to time. Trend watchers call it cocooning.

Dark humor is all around.

"What is this game called?" Pugsley asks his sister in the movie, as she straps him into the electric chair.

"It's called," she replies, 'Is there a God?' "

Some people might say that dark humor originated with Genesis. But for certain the modern genre can be traced back to cartoonist Charles Addams, whose ghoulish cartoons were published in the New Yorker magazine beginning in the '30s.

In the '60s, the Addams Family came to TV with the "ooky spooky creepy kooky" theme that's being used to promote the movie.

Rudin, however, dismisses the TV version as "a toothless show about a slightly wacky family living in an old house." He says he went back to the cartoons to get the macabre feel he wanted for the movie. He also hired effectsmeisters from "Beetlejuice" and "Ghostbusters" for scenes never seen on TV.

Some people get the Addamses mixed up with the Munsters, another TV show. Fred Gwynne was a Munster; Fester, Thing, Lurch and Cousin It are Addams Family.

This month comes Rudin's dark and funny Addams Family movie, complete with original theme song rejuvenated by Hammer as the "Addams Groove," and with delirious performances by Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia as Morticia and Gomez, the Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire of sadomasochism.

But more than 50 years after the first cartoon and a few weeks before the opening of the movie, there is yet another version of the Addams Family: the press junket.

A hundred journalists have been invited to creepy kooky Manhattan for the weekend event. Like the movie, the press junket stars Huston and Julia. Like the movie, it is . . . strange.

"Morticia bears quite a resemblance to my own mother, physically," Huston says, "and mentally."

Huston explains that during filming her eyebrows were stretched up and taped with spirit gum stuck to her temples, that hair kept getting caught under her stuck-on dragon lady nails, that slinky costumes were so constricting she couldn't eat lunch, that she made her Morticia more lascivious than the character on the TV show.

"You obviously saw a lot of yourself in that role," concludes one journalist. Huston confides that she longs to play Donna Reed.

When Raul Julia arrives, the journalists turn investigative.

What does Gomez do for a living?

"Well, he doesn't do anything," replies Julia. "He just has a good time."

How would you describe the dynamics of the Addams family, Mr. Julia?

"I think they're healthier than most families. They think they're normal."

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