There are films that really mean something to me and this is one that has been a favorite of mine since I saw it in theaters. Blending Horror and Comedy, this is one of the most fascinating films made by the master storyteller Tim Burton. I present to you, Beetlejuice.
Today’s Key Movie:
After a tragic death, Adam and Barbara find themselves trying to get rid of the people now living in their house. Enlisting the help of a malicious spirit by the name of Betelgeuse, they soon find that he is much more than he claims to be.
Starring Michael Keaton, Gena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Jeffery Jones and Glenn Shadix, this is a classic ghost story as only can be told by Tim Burton.
Why this movie?
There was a time when a film by Tim Burton with a soundtrack by Danny Elfman would cause people to flock to theaters in droves. This pair was an institution of the 80’s and 90’s and would go on to make some of the most well know films of the two decades. Beetlejuice would mark the beginning of the love affair the world had with the visionary director and his incredible composer leading to films such as Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and many more.
I vividly remember going to the theater to see this film as we were all fans of Michael Keaton, Gena Davis and Alec Baldwin, but we had no clue of the incredible film we would be treated to. This was a ghost story but done is an amazingly clever way by telling it from the Ghosts point of view. Presented here was a world that was very much like our own but twisted in a way that only Burton could do by giving us the most unique glimpse of the afterlife in the form of a bureaucracy (and even a handbook for those who died). With that, we are also introduced to one of the most iconic creatures that have every hit the big screen.
I left the theater utterly mesmerized by this film, Not only by it’s clever concept of the afterlife but by it’s use of music and tone to tell a morbid story in a rather humorous way. This was the afterlife done in a way that frankly made death that much more interesting, giving the Strange and Unusual (of which our family identified with) a little more relevancy to the rest of the world. Speaking of Strange and unusual this was also my first introduction to a person who would soon become a childhood crush, one Winona Ryder.
Immediately, I found Ryder to not only be an attractively strange girl but someone I would have loved to meet in real life. From that day forward would make it a point to see every film she was in, yes including Mermaids and Little Women. I’ll admit it, I was smitten but I managed to see some really good films in the process.
While the film included Ryder, Davis and Baldwin, we all went to see Mr. Mom himself, Michael Keaton. Keaton had established himself as one of the best upcoming comedians and this guy was great. For him to jump into the title role as a crazy ghost was nothing but pure excitement and every moment he is on screen he steals the scene. This is Keaton at his finest, crazy, upbeat and manic in every way. This was Keaton in the role that would make him a household name in just about every house in America. To this day, this character would be referenced in films and television establishing Beetlejuice as one of the most iconic creatures in the Horror world.
Rounding out the cast were mainstays Catherine O’Hara, Jeffery Jones and Glenn Shadix as some of the best supporting characters you will ever see. Catherine plays Delia, a bohemian artist who has no interest in the strange and unusual while Jones plays her ‘normal’ husband. While these two do an amazing job making the movie fun, it is Glenn Shadix in the roll of Otho, Delia’s partner. Otho is an odd duck but, outside of Beetlejuice himself, his absurd role of bohemian handyman is one of the most memorable in the film. One other standout is the classic actor Sylvia Sidney in the role of Juno, the afterlife case worker. Having been in films since the late 20’s, she brings a level of class to an otherwise oddball and insane film.
In addition to Danny Elfman’s incredible score, this film was my first real introduction to Harry Belefonte and his incredible album, Calypso. As soon as the opening credits roll viewers are treated with a dark version of his tune Day-o. Continuing through the film, we learn that Adam (Baldwin) is a fan of Belafonte’s work and we are treated to more of this album through the remainder of the film, including a key moment in the third act. As soon as I left the theater, I knew I had to get more from this artists and immediately hunted down the album Calypso and soon fell in love with every song. You can read my review of the album here. It’s a pretty great album.
Overall, this is one of the best of Burton’s work and really gave us a glimpse into his genius that would peak in the coming years. With incredible special effects (sandworms!!), amazing pacing, and spot on acting from every member of the cast this movie would go down as an instant classic. This is by far one of the best horror comedy films ever made and is now known the world round. It has become one of our film greats and if you haven’t seen it yet, stop what you are doing and pick up a copy now. You will thank me later.
Not long after this movie hit theaters, we would soon be treated to more of this fascinating world through a very fun animated series. While the series didn’t include any of the original actors, it served as a continuation of the film but in an interesting manner. If you get a chance, you should give it a go as well.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This is one that I really don’t see going out of print anytime soon. It is available on just about any form you can want and is actually pretty affordable. If you are into streaming, you can find it digitally as well.
As I said before, if you have never seen this film, do it as soon as possible. I think it will surprise and delight you in every way.
Of course, the trailer:
Late To The Game 3/12/2020
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