Release Date(s)1991 (November 23, 2021)
Studio(s)Orion Pictures/Scott Rudin Productions (Paramount Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C
The Addams Family was released to great box office success in the late fall of 1991. Though it was criticized for not having enough straight characters for the titular family to interact with, and that the family is essentially incomplete until the final moments of the film, it was still popular with audiences, especially on home video. It was also insanely well cast with Raul Julia as the ever-energetic and charming Gomez, Anjelica Huston as the centered but sexy Morticia, Christopher Lloyd as the malevolent Fester, Christina Ricci as the potentially murderous but playful Wednesday, Jimmy Workman as her mischievous brother Pugsley, Christopher Hart as the infamous disembodied hand Thing, and Judith Malina as Grandmama (later replaced in the sequel by Carol Kane).
Director Barry Sonnenfeld, famous cinematographer for the Coen brothers on Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, and Miller’s Crossing, made his reluctant directorial debut on The Addams Family, simply for the love of the original Charles Addams cartoons and the subsequent TV show. His many difficulties ranged from meddling producers and going over budget, which forced the financially unstable Orion Pictures to sell the production to Paramount Pictures. It wound up being a wise investment when the film finally opened, doing well upon release, but even better the following weekend. A sequel, Addams Family Values, would follow two years later with the same cast and crew in place, many believing it to be superior to the original film. Despite its flaws, The Addams Family holds up as a fun and engaging romp, thanks in no small part to its cast. It subsequently helped to usher in an era of classic TV shows being adapted for the big screen during the 1990s and well into the 2000s.
The Addams Family was shot by director of photography Owen Roizman on 35 mm film, using Panavision Panaflex and Fries Mitchell 35R3 cameras with Panavision Primo spherical lenses. It was finished photochemically and released to theaters in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Paramount brings the film to Ultra HD for the first time utilizing a new 4K scan and remaster of the original camera negative, now graded for high dynamic range (both Dolby Vision and HDR10 are included). For this release, both the original theatrical cut and a longer version of the film featuring the newly-restored “Mamushka dance sequence” are included, available on the same disc via seamless branching. Regardless of which version you choose, the quality is excellent. The film’s use of traditional opticals, particularly when Thing is on screen, means that the picture softens a little on occasion. But the rest of the presentation is sharp, with newfound clarity and an extremely fine layer of grain. The resulting image offers deeper textures and higher levels of detail, revealing nuances within the Addams home, whether it’s the dark walls and intricate items above ground or the many trinkets found in the vault below. The new HDR grade brings out the richness of the color palette as well, including Morticia’s red lips and the vibrant costumes during Fester’s big party. Blacks, including the many nighttime scenes in the cemetery, are deep, with great detail on the shadowy figures and environments. Overall, this is a stable and clean presentation, easily surpassing its Blu-ray counterpart.
Audio options include English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, and French 2.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, and French. The 5.1 mix is a highly aggressive and immersive. While dialogue exchanges are clear and discernible, the track really puts the film’s sound effects and score to work. For instance, the sequence in which Gomez plays with his trains is full of dominant low end activity and movement. Even the quieter moments, such as Gomez and Morticia on the couch in the cemetery, are smooth with subtle atmospherics. It’s a terrific mix and dare I say demo-worthy.
The following extras are included:
- Optional Introduction by Barry Sonnenfeld to the Extended Version (HD – :32)
- Filmmaker Focus: Barry Sonnenfeld on The Addams Family (HD – 16:32)
- Archival Featurette (Upsampled SD – 7:29)
The entire Mamushka dance has been reinserted into an alternate version of the film, including additional singing by Raul Julia, which is wonderful to hear for the first time. This version also excises the brief scene of Tully informing Ms. Craven that he has another plan, which originally occurred during the Mamushka dance. It’s a matter of preference, of course, but the extended version of that scene actually improves the film. Barry Sonnenfeld offers an optional introduction to this version (via Skype), and in Filmmaker Focus, he briefly gives an overview of his experiences making the film. Although lots of great behind-the-scenes photos and information is given—including the fact the film was originally an Orion Pictures project, Sonnenfeld’s difficulties during shooting, and his love of and appreciation for the cast and crew—a documentary chronicling the film’s journey to the screen would have been wonderful. As is, it’s a nice appetizer for something bigger. The Archival Featurette features interviews with most of the main cast members and includes some behind-the-scenes footage, but not much is gained. Unfortunately, the film’s two theatrical trailers have not carried over from previous home video releases. It would also have been nice to have seen more of the film’s marketing materials, including TV spots, the teaser trailer, and the M.C. Hammer Addams Groove music video, as well as additional behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, and maybe an audio commentary with Barry Sonnenfeld. A lot of this stuff is out there, of course, but oh well. Perhaps sometime down the road.
This Ultra HD disc sits in a black amaray case with a Digital code on a paper insert and new artwork, the latter used for the accompanying slipcover. The Blu-ray presentation of the film is not included in this package.
Though it would have made more sense to release a 2-pack featuring both of The Addams Family films, this 4K UHD of the first boasts a lovely and organic image, with a dynamic soundtrack and a couple of interesting extras (even if more content would be preferable). All in all, this is a terrific upgrade.
- Tim Salmons