The South Bank Show: Tim Burton review

ITV's culture programme, The South Bank Show, devoted an hour to Tim Burton on Sunday. Simon wished it could have gone on longer.

It’s been a while since I last turned into The South Bank Show, and in spite of the fact that I’ve written in the past of my frustration with Tim Burton over the past few years, I still tuned in. Because Burton, for my money, is still one of the most interesting movie directors in the world, even if his work hasn’t quite matched his talent for some time.

The frustration I always had with The South Bank Show was that it was too short, that I could have spent far more time with its subjects than its hour-long (minus ad-breaks) running time would allow. It was the same case again here, with much of Burton’s career flown through at great speed: Beetlejuice, Batman, Pee-Wee Herman, Frankenweenie, Mars Attacks and Planet of the Apes were just some of the projects that I can’t recall even getting a mention.

Far more interesting was the central interview with the man himself, though. You don’t expect Tim Burton, really, to be as animated, upbeat and rippling with enthusiasm as he was here – especially those who have sat through his director’s commentaries on DVDs – but here that’s just what he was. Talking with passion about his childhood, early moviemaking, his time at Disney and working with the likes of Johnny Depp, the questioning took a predictable path, but that made it no less interesting.

Personally, I found the highlight being his talking about working with the late Vincent Price, where there was a real feeling of awe, nearly twenty years after the pair made Edward Scissorhands. The feeling of wide-eyed wonder came across, and this is just one area I’d have loved the show to go into more detail on.

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A mix of clips from Burton’s films interspersed the programme, along with an assortment of talking heads. Helena Bonham Carter – Burton’s wife – was an obvious inclusion, but the likes of Johnny Depp, Mark Kermode and Burton’s production designer were interesting inclusions too.The South Bank Show offered far from a complete glimpse of Tim Burton, and there’s, somewhere, a fascinating couple of hours of interviewing that needs to be spent with the man. But it was, generally, a good programme, and it certainly got me a little more pumped up for Sweeney Todd, which finally hits UK screens this week (review here).


3 out of 5