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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/31/00

1988 (1997) - Warner Bros.

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Beetlejuice Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/A-/C-

Specs and Features

92 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, isolated music score, cast and crew biographies/filmographies, production notes, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French and Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French, and Spanish, Closed Captioned

"Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse!"

When one thinks of the name Tim Burton, you recall such classic films as Batman, Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. But the film that cemented Burton into movie enthusiasts' minds as the master of Gothic comedy would have to be Beetlejuice. Audiences were merely teased by Burton's unique Gothic style in his debut, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, but in Beetlejuice the audience was fully transported to a beautiful world of darkness and artistic eeriness.

The story is thus: a wholesome, small town couple Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) are killed in an auto accident and their ghosts are doomed to dwell in their house for 125 years. Soon after, the obnoxious big city Deitz family moves in and takes over. Adam and Barbara's carefully decorated house (straight out of an L.L. Bean catalog) is ransacked and viciously transformed into what looks like the set from a Vincent Price horror film. Disgusted by the Deitz family, Adam and Barbara try to haunt the family out of their home, but unfortunately, their cheap parlor tricks and cavorting around in bed sheets are unsuccessful rookie efforts. They need a professional. Enter Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton), the afterlife's leading bio-exorcist. After summoning Betelgeuse, Adam and Barbara discover that he's a vile, dangerous creature that wants to escape the afterlife and raise hell in the land of the living. Now with two problems on their hands, Adam and Barbara must take care of their dilemma with the Deitzes and keep Betelgeuse bottled up in the afterlife.

If comedy mated with horror, Beetlejuice would be the result. This film is a romping riot of a good time, and Tim Burton's unique and eccentric touch makes it all the more intriguing and unusual. Michael Keaton pulls off the role of the ornery demon Betelgeuse without a hitch, and portrays the character with violent enthusiasm. The film is brimming with small cues and sight gags that demand repeat viewings. For example, a single viewing of the offices in the afterlife is not enough. If you carefully examine the backgrounds and subtle artistic nuances placed by the filmmakers, you will get more out of the movie and become even more involved in the story. Burton's films are all about the total experience, and Beetlejuice is a very, very unusual experience.

This DVD was one of Warner's first back in mid-1997, and the video quality does not live up to the studio's usual high standards of today. The picture is grainy and filled with NTSC compression artifacting, which hinders fine picture detail. While a dark film to begin with, the video seems excessively dark here beyond intention. On a positive note, the color fidelity is pleasing with accurate flesh tones. The newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sounds slightly dated, but is very good nonetheless. Sound effects are effectively placed in the listening environment and vocal integration is natural. Best of all, the score by Danny Elfman sounds amazing given the age of the film. The music is bold and exciting, with smooth delivery and excellent use of the low frequency channel.

Besides the usual cast and crew biographies/filmographies, production notes and a theatrical trailer, Danny Elfman's score is present on an alternate audio track. Lately, Tim Burton has been participating in special edition releases of his films (as evident with Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Sleepy Hollow and Edward Scissorhands), so we can only hope that Warner re-releases this title in the future with involvement by Burton, and an updated video transfer.

If you have never seen Beetlejuice, you owe it to yourself to give it a rent. Tim Burton broke new ground with his unusual Gothic sense of humor, and the film has stood up well over time. But before you watch the movie, be sure to read your handbook to the afterlife... even though it reads like stereo instructions.

Greg Suarez
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