Release Date(s)1988 (September 1, 2020)
Studio(s)The Geffen Company/Warner Bros. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: D-
Outside the small Connecticut town of Winter River, Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) are spending a quiet vacation in their fixer-upper home. When a quick trip into town results in a car accident that drowns them in the nearby river, their spirits soon return. But the realization that they’re ghosts—and that setting foot outside their home leads them to limbo—proves difficult to grasp. Adding to their problems, the Deetz family suddenly moves in, including the well-meaning Charles (Jeffrey Jones), his overbearing wife Delia (Catherine O’Hara), his withdrawn emo daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder), and Delia’s friend and interior designer Otho (Glenn Shadix). Unsure of what to do, Adam and Barbara turn to their afterlife case worker Juno (Sylvia Sidney) for guidance, which ultimately leads them to the devilish and conniving Betelgeuse (pronounced Beetlejuice, played by Michael Keaton). But in turning him loose on the Deetzes, in hopes of scaring them away, Adam and Barbara quickly learn that Betelgeuse is far more dangerous than they realized.
After the success of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Tim Burton had gotten his directorial feet wet, but hadn’t fully proven himself to be a bankable commodity. While considering him for Batman, Warner Bros. decided they wanted to make one more feature with Burton before going ahead with him on their biggest property. A script by Michael McDowell had already passed through the hands of Wes Craven; after several rewrites it became the basis for Beetlejuice. The horror/comedy became one of the top grossers of 1988, showing that Burton was indeed a force to be reckoned with. It also birthed a franchise that included toys, merchandise, and a cartoon TV series, and helped to establish Michael Keaton as a box-office favorite.
Beetlejuice was shot photochemically on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex cameras and spherical lenses, and was finished on film at the 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. For its Ultra HD release, Warner has scanned the original camera negative in 4K, remastered the image digitally, and finished it as a new 4K Digital Intermediate, complete with a high dynamic range grade in HDR10. The resulting image is quite good on the whole. Fine detail and surface texturing are strong and notably improved, save for some of the opticals and occasional shots exhibiting soft focus. Film grain is light-medium and organic looking. Colors are strong and vivid, with the 10-bit depth adding greater nuance and richness. The contrast is largely excellent, with luminous brights—especially important given the film’s supernatural elements. Blacks are deep, with good shadow detail in most shots, though very occasionally they look a little gray. It’s certainly safe to say that this film has never looked better.
The film’s primary audio option is a new English Dolby Atmos lossless mix that’s 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible. The mix is full and natural sounding, with clear dialogue, and outstanding music fidelity. The soundstage is both vertically big and wide across the front, with the surround and height channels employed almost constantly for music, effects, and atmosphere to create a true hemispheric immersion in the film’s sound space. Panning is smooth and lively in set pieces, with robust bass. It’s an excellent mix, especially given the film’s vintage, with nice bluster when needed. Additional audio options include Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo in French, Quebec French, German, Italian, Castilian Spanish, Chinese, Latin Spanish, and Czech, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 in Chinese. Subtitles are available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, German for the Hearing Impaired, French, Italian for the Deaf, Castilian Spanish, Dutch, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Latin Spanish, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Thai.
There are no extras on the UHD disc, new or otherwise. A Digital code is included on a paper insert within the package. Also included is the previous Blu-ray release of the film from 2008, which contains the older transfer (in a more narrow aspect ratio of 1.78:1) as well as the following extras:
- Beetlejuice Cartoon Episode: A-Ha! (SD – 12:15)
- Beetlejuice Cartoon Episode: Skeletons in the Closet (SD – 12:15)
- Beetlejuice Cartoon Episode: Spooky Boo-Tique (SD – 12:15)
- Danny Elfman Score Audio Track
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 1:27)
Beetlejuice certainly soars in Ultra HD, but is sadly lacking in bonus materials. With such a rich archive of stills, TV spots, behind-the-scenes footage, and other vintage material available to draw upon—not to mention an as yet unreleased fan documentary on the making of the film—Beetlejuice remains a mostly bare bones experience in 4K. Still, the A/V quality is remarkable, making the disc worth the upgrade for fans. Perhaps a future anniversary release will warrant an extras upgrade too.
- Tim Salmons with Bill Hunt