Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice” turns 36 today

Tim Burton’s weird, wonderful horror comedy “Beetlejuice” was released 36 years ago today

Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice” turns 36 today

Tim Burton’s weird, wonderful horror comedy “Beetlejuice” was released 35 years ago today. This was Tim Burton’s second feature film and more visually impressive than his 1985 debut feature, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” After the success of “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” Burton was sent several scripts and became disheartened by their lack of imagination and originality. When he was sent Michael McDowell’s original script for Beetlejuice, Burton agreed to direct, although Larry Wilson and later Warren Skaaren were hired to rewrite it. “Beetlejuice,” tells the story of the recently departed who have become ghosts and their journey through the Netherworld and our world. This is one of Burton’s flat-out funniest films, with Michael Keaton giving a performance for the ages. He plays the title character, a “bio-exorcist” who apparently helps dispose of “pesky living critters,” and though he only appears in a tiny fraction of screen time, he dominates the film. A nice, normal couple, Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara Maitland (Geena Davis) are enjoying their huge country home when they die in a car crash and return as ghosts. A horrible, big city couple, Charles (Jeffrey Jones) and Delia Deetz (Catherine O’Hara), move in with their depressed, black-clad teenage daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) and proceed to viciously re-decorate (with help from the pretentious Otho, played by Glenn Shadix). Unable to scare their new tenants, the desperate Adam and Barbara call on Beetlejuice and instantly regret their decision. He’s a hyperactive, nasty creature, spewing jokes faster than the movie can keep up, and he’s brilliantly hilarious. Even after seeing the movie a dozen or so times, he made me laugh every time. Burton depends heavily on his bizarre sets and set-dressings, clashing the original country home with the grotesque, re-modeled version (and Delia’s horrid, demonic sculptures). In November 2013, Winona Ryder hinted at a possible return for the sequel as well by saying, “I’m kind of sworn to secrecy but it sounds like it might be happening. It’s 27 years later. And I have to say, I love Lydia Deetz so much. She was such a huge part of me. I would be really interested in what she is doing 27 years later.” Ryder confirmed that she would only consider making a sequel if Burton and Keaton were involved. But in May 2016, Burton stated, “It’s something that I really would like to do in the right circumstances, but it’s one of those films where it has to be right. It’s not a kind of a movie that cries out for a sequel, it’s not the Beetlejuice trilogy. So it’s something that if the elements are right-because I do love the character and Michael’s amazing as that character, so yeah we’ll see. But there’s nothing concrete yet”. While a Beetlejuice sequel may never happen, there’s a Broadway musical coming soon. So, if you haven’t watched “Beetlejuice” in a while I hope this piece has nudged you to revisit it. Or say Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, and maybe he will just appear.

UPDATE NOTE: As of March 2024 the sequel to Beetlejuice looks as it is being developed starring Jenna Ortega and Michael Keaton

By Ken Warren, 2017/18

Look back at the 1988 original theatrical trailer for “Beetlejuice”

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