Senior HTF Member
- Feb 20, 2001
- Livonia, MI USA
- Real Name
- Kenneth McAlinden
Beetlejuice: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Directed By: Tim Burton
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton, Glenn Shadix
|Studio: Warner Brothers|
Film Length: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date: September 9, 2008
In Beetlejuice, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play recently deceased yuppie couple Adam and Barbara Maitland. They commence the afterlife in a confused state, confined to their beloved Connecticut country home with only an impenetrable "Handbook for the Recently Deceased" to guide them. Resigned to spend the first 125 years of their afterlife haunting their former home, they are horrified when it is sold to the Dietz family from New York. Patriarch Charles (Jones) is a real estate man with dollar signs in his eyes who just wants a place in the country to relax, but his self-styled artist of a wife, Delia (O'Hara), immediately enlists the help of interior designer Otho (Shadix) to completely overhaul the home, erasing every vestige of rustic charm. Adam and Barbara do their best to try to scare the Dietzes away, but find that they can only be seen by Lydia (Ryder), the Dietz's quirky gloomy wallflower of a teen daughter. Their inept attempts at terror only manage to pique the interest of Charles, Delia, and Otho in the social and business possibilities of a haunted house. Meanwhile, a strange ghost named Beetlegeuse (Keaton) keeps offering the Maitlands his "bio-exorcism" services, and even though they are warned by their afterlife caseworker that he is a dangerous loose cannon, they are increasingly tempted to take him up on his offer.
After a surprise success with his feature directorial debut, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Tim Burton took three years before turning out this, his sophomore effort. The ghost comedy is carried along by just enough plot to support the numerous flights of macabre whimsy and visual set-pieces that would come to be recognized as examples of Burton's signature style. To this day, it may be the most direct reflection of Burton's graphic style captured on film next to the animated Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride films. Credit should go to production designer Bo Welch, composer Danny Elfman, and a gaggle of stop-motion animators, puppeteers, and make-up artists for striking exactly the right creepy cartoony tone to realize Burton's vision.
The film is also helped immeasurably by its first-rate comic cast, many of whom were not well known at the time of the film's release, but almost all of whom would go on to notable success. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis bring the right mix of likability and incompetence to what could have been thankless straight-man roles, and Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones compliment each other nicely as the Dietz's, pretentious wannabe artist and a bottom-line oriented self promotional real estate investor. Sixteen year old Winona Ryder gave a commercial breakout performance as the gloomy but likeable Lydia that built on her previous critical breakout role in Lucas. Finally, Michael Keaton, the biggest "name" actor in the cast by 1988 standards, in less than twenty minutes of screen time manages to create one of his most memorable on-screen characters, essentially transforming himself into a live action cartoon while maintaining just enough of an anarchic edge to remain credibly scary.
Note: The version of the film presented on this 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is the completely uncensored version, inclusive of the title character dropping an F-Bomb that was edited out of most recent video releases.
The video transfer, which fills the entire 16:9 enhanced frame, is a very clean representation of the film, inclusive of the signature look of late 1980s film stocks. Black levels are not quite as deep and grain patterns are not quite as fine as with modern films, but it looks pretty much the way I remember it from twenty years ago if not a little bit better. Compression artifacts are minimal from a reasonable viewing distance, and high contrast edge ringing is not an issue.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is encoded at a 448 kbps bitrate. The most prominent element of this mix is the aggressively cartoony score from Danny Elfman that emanates from all channels for an enveloping experience. Certain pieces of mono source music from Harry Belafonte are sometimes strangely mixed heavier to the right front channel then the left. Dialog, music, and effects are all presented with excellent fidelity. Alternate language dubs include a French Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track.
For a release billed as a "Deluxe Edition", the extra features are fairly underwhelming. The most significant feature is a Music-Only Audio Track that presents Danny Elfman's heavily Carl Stalling/Raymond Scott-influenced score via a dedicated Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at a 448 kbps bitrate. Elfman fans will welcome this, but considering how forward the score is in the mix throughout the film, there is not a lot to be revealed by listening to it in this form that cannot be gleaned from a viewing of the film with its full soundtrack. This feature is a carryover from the previous DVD release of the film. For reasons unknown, this track is only accessible from the special features menu, and is not selectable "on the fly" with the audio button along with the English, French, and Spanish soundtracks.
Also carried over from the previous DVD of the film is its one minute and 28 second theatrical trailer, which is presented in 16:9 enhanced widescreen video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. It is a skillful if fairly standard example of late 1980s marketing that represents the film fairly.
As an added bonus, you also get the one minute and 29 second trailer for Pee-wee's Big Adventure, also in 16:9 enhanced video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.
Finally, we get three episodes from the ill-conceived Beetlejuice animated television series which reworked "The Ghost with the Most" into a kooky pal to the Lydia character who accompanies her on various adventures in both the mortal and nether worlds. He also apparently now spells his name in the phonetic manner of the film and TV series titles. While the plots and execution of the series were never that remarkable, it did have interesting Burton-inspired character designs that made it a bit more visually interesting than most late 80s/early 90s animated fare. The three episodes are presented in 4:3 video with which I noticed combing artifacts until I manually forced my player into "video" mode. The included episodes are described as follows:
- A-Ha (12:15) finds Beetlejuice morphing into the spoof detective "Sherlock Homely" when Lydia's car goes missing
- Skeletons in the Closet (12:16) finds Lydia and Beetlejuice in trouble when the skeletons that appear in nether world closets every time they tell a lie escape
- Spooky Boutique (12:14) has Lydia attempt to market her creepy clothing designs in a chic boutique at the local mall with what turns out to be a little too much help from Beetlejuice.
The DVD is contained in a standard Amaray case with the familiar promotional image of Davis, Keaton, and a decapitated Baldwin towering over the film's country house. The DVD case in turn is included in a slipcase with a lenticular motion cover that flips between the same image as the case and a second one where Davis and Baldwin disappear and Keaton's head shrinks.
With the Beetlejuice: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition DVD, Warner stretches the definition of "deluxe" a bit too far for my taste by offering no additional special features over the previous DVD release beyond three episodes of a lousy animated spin-off series and a lenticular motion slipcover. On the positive side of the ledger, the audio/video presentation is quite good and the film is presented in its uncensored form which probably would receive a PG-13 rating if released today.
Edited by Ken_McAlinden - 7/7/2009 at 03:32 am GMT