Deserved production design Oscar win from Anton Furst (committed suicide in 1991) who worked previously on 1987’s Full Metal Jacket– Burton is the artist here (along with Furst)- he worked in Gothic Expressionism (at least a little) in Beetlejuice before and this would help cement his mise-en-scene look going forward from Edward Scissorhands (the following year) to Sleepy Hollow to Sweeney Todd nearly 20 years late
A manic genius performance by Jack Nicholson a brilliant understanding of the stage, when to dial it up, and how to do self-parody (and a great one of Jack Palance while he’s at it)—this, like Burton’s achievement, isn’t wiped out by Nolan and Heath Ledger—both can exist and be appreciated without always denigrating the former because it isn’t quite to the achievement of the latter.
Nicholson’s lines—haha—“this town needs an enema”- “you never rub another man’s rhubarb” – but he’s not the only one with the acting achievement here—Keaton is excellent and Kim Basinger as beautiful as a woman has been on screen- and can clearly hold her own acting as well—Michael Gough is great and the supporting actors are all throwing 100 MPH—Robert Wuhl as Alexander Knox and Jack Palance chewing his scenes
The aural achievement is massive- Prince—yes—love it—but Danny Elfman’s score is one of the great score triumph’s of the 80’s. This is not an insult to the film that follows—but one of the best scenes in the film is the titles to this score
Ebert (negative) says “a triumph of design over story” and “style over substance”—sign me up
Shadow work in the production design, gases, the two set pieces of the Gothic Church final set piece and the factory—this is an aesthetically beautifully and consistent world being built—it’s not Blade Runner or Metropolis but nods to each and an achievement in its own right