At the very beginning of the movie, when the camera starts to pan down the street, a street sign appears, "Mayfield Place." Mayfield was the town where the Cleavers lived in Leave It to Beaver (1957). The movie was filmed on the same lot.
The street was shot on location in the Universal Backlot. It's been used in many films and TV shows, including Desperate Housewives (2004). Some of the buildings have changed over time, but Walter's house is the only building on the lot that hasn't changed at all.
At the time the movie was being filmed Corey Feldman and Michael Jackson were close friends. While the King of Pop did not visit the set, his famed chimpanzee Bubbles was a frequent guest, but had to be confined to Feldman's trailer while he was filming. After shooting Corey would return to his trailer to find that the chimp had defecated and spread the mess around the interior. This problem repeated itself and became such a distraction that Joe Dante eventually banned Bubbles from the set.
According to the book "The Films of Tom Hanks" (1996) by Lee Pfeiffer and Michael Lewis, Joe Dante once said of this film: "I can't think of many pictures since Lifeboat (1944) that all take place in the same area. There was a lot of temptation to broaden it and go outside the neighborhood, but it seemed to violate the spirit of the piece. It's almost the kind of thing that could be a stage play except that you could never do on-stage what we've done in this movie".
Prop master Mark Jameson was charged with making fake dog poop when the actors complained that they didn't want to step in the real thing. He made a mixture of canned dog food, bean dip, and other items. It was loaded into caulking tubes and squeezed out where needed.
Writer of the script, Dana Olsen used his inspiration for the film from his own neighborhood that had a set of neighbors similar to the Klopecks, who were hardly seen and never took care of their lawn.
Before all the neighbors go over to the Klopek's house for a friendly chat, Carrie Fisher says "Before someone falls off a roof or sets themselves on fire..." Both indeed happen later after this scene; Rumsfield falls off his roof, and Ray sets himself on fire.
The film was shot in sequence and was filmed during the writer's strike of 1988. Although Dana Olsen, the writer, appeared in the film, he was prohibited from contributing anything to the script while on set. For this reason director Joe Dante encouraged the actors to improvise many scenes. One example was the moment when Rumsfield rips the Klopeks' wallpaper, an idea from Bruce Dern. Rick Ducommun ad-libbed many of his lines, including the "Satan is good, Satan is our pal" dialogue.
There is one family at the end of the street who are never seen - the occupants of the house between Walter and Rumsfield. Their last name is Finnell, a reference to producer Michael Finnell, which is seen on the side of their Chevrolet Astro Van as "Finnell Plumbing". They also have a Buick sedan and presumably are visible at the end of the movie near Walter's house after the explosion.
Theatrical and TV trailers show some deleted and extended scenes; Ray cooking at the metal barbecue and accidentally setting it on fire. Shot of Art sitting somewhere outside and mentioning Klopek's name. Shot of doctor Klopek saying their name, it seems like this shot was in ending of the movie. Ray, Ricky, Walter, and Bonnie all standing by a ladder which leads to someone's roof and Ray saying " I think we're overreacting", by their clothes, it looks like it's from the scene where they break into Walter's house. Ray telling Carol that someone thinks that "the Klopeks are evil incarnate." Ricky helping out Art when he falls over the fence after running from Klopek's dog. Shot of Ricky saying "God i love this street" which is not from the same scene where he says it in the movie. Reportedly, more scenes were deleted and some extra scenes are said to be included in old TV versions of the movie.
In the scene, at the Klopek's home, Bruce Dern is fascinated by one of Dr. Klopek's paintings, turning it upside down. That painting appeared in the opening sequence of an early episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery.
At about the fifty minute mark, Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) is seen reading a book about demonology by Julian Karswell. Karswell is the villain in the 1957 film Curse of the Demon (1957). The name of the book (fictitious) is "The Theory and Practice of Demonology".
Although the panning at the beginning of the film probably depicts the film as taking place in the Des Moines Iowa area, several references, including the Illinois license plates on the garbage truck, place this film in the Chicago area
Ricky's friend "Steve Kuntz" wears a Skull Skates shirt. Rick Ducommun and his brother Peter started Skull Skates in the late 1970s, as Great North Country Skateboards. The company is now the sole property of Peter.
According to Joe Dante, Tom Hanks was hesitant to do the movie because it was the first time he was playing a dad. Hanks was concerned that this would prevent him from returning to the types of roles on which he had built his career up to that point, but Dante said Hanks was willing to go along with it.
The picture opened at the No. #1 rank at the US box-office grossing around US $11 million in its opening weekend. In the USA, the movie made about US $36-37 million, and worldwide, around US $49 million.
Jerry Goldsmith's score being played during the fight scene in the ambulance car, has been reused in the scene from "Gremlins 2 - The new batch" where the bat-Gremlin escapes the lab and flies around New York.
Of the suburban cul-de-sac setting, director Joe Dante, according to the book "The Films of Tom Hanks" (1996) by Lee Pfeiffer and Michael Lewis, once said: "I asked [production designer] James Spencer [James H. Spencer], a veteran of Poltergeist (1982) and Gremlins (1984) if he thought he could turn that street into the neighborhood we needed in that period of time. Spencer rose to the challenge, and within a few days they began work on sketching out the proposed designs for the sets. Spencer observed, 'We had to be on the spot. Due to the lack of time, it would have been ludicrous to do our drawing elsewhere'."
Ray shows Carol the book on Satanic rituals, the theory being the Klopek's have taken Walter for Human sacrifice. Carol says to Ray: "I wouldn't have missed this for the world. A week (vacation) in Jonestown." A ghoulish reference to the Rev. Jim Jones and his religious cult The People's Temple. Rev. Jones moved his followers to South America. Tragedy struck when on November 18, 1978, Jim Jones and more than 900 members of his People's Temple committed mass suicide in the jungle of Guyana. Jim Jones had convinced his congregation that the end of the world was near. Most of the congregation voluntarily fed their children and themselves Flavor Aid laced with poison. 900 people lie dead in the sweltering heat of the jungles of Guyana.
The residents and street numbers for the characters living at Mayfield Place were as follows: 667: Walter Seznick; 668: Undisclosed; 669: The Klopeks; 670: The Rumsfields; 671: The Petersons; 672: Ricky Butler; and 673: The Weingartners.
The four main character's names all also have other definitions that relate to their personalities: Art has an active imagination, Mark fancies himself a marksman, Ray gets pointed in a direction and won't stop, and Carol just wants everyone to be happy like she is.
The Klopek's house address is 669. When ray and Art use the heavy door knocker on their door the 9 slides down changing the Klopek's house number to 666 which is foretold in the King James Holy Bible. Revelations 13:18 "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six." A score is defined as 20 so threescore is 3 times 20. So the number of the Beast, some define this to mean the number of Satan or the devil, is 666.
Besides Feldman, garbage men Vic (Dick Miller) and Joe (Robert Picardo) also worked with director Joe Dante in the Gremlins movies; Miller plays Murry Futterman in Gremlins (1984) & Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) and Picardo plays Forster in The New Batch.
Bruce Dern plays an overtly militaristic character who tends toward excessive suspicion and aggression named Rumsfield. Perhaps by coincidence alone, he shares a last name and certain attributes of Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense (1975-1977, 2001-2006).
Before climbing the fence to investigate the Klopeks' backyard, Art (Rick Ducommun) dresses up as a powerline technician and cuts the power to disable the security system. However, he ends up disabling the power to the whole neighborhood as well, according to Ricky Butler. In the movie "Die Hard" (1988), Rick Ducommun played a powerline worker for the city who was ordered by the FBI to disable the power to the Nakatomi Tower.
During the late 1980s period the movie was made, and after as well, actors Corey Haim and Corey Feldman appeared in a number of movies together, they being known as The Coreys or The Two Coreys. This movie featured two Coreys, but not the same two. One of them co-starred, Corey Feldman, working on this the film, but with another Cory, Cory Danziger.
Ricky Butler's (Cory Feldman) house is the house formerly used by The Munsters in The Munsters TV show. This is probably why you never get a really good look at it, as it would be too recognizable as that house.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the original script Ray Peterson was intended to be killed by Dr. Klopek. However, once Tom Hanks was cast in the role, the studio didn't think the audience would appreciate witnessing his death on screen, so the ending had to be reworked. Several alternate endings to the film were also shot where items other than bones were discovered in the Klopek's trunk, including dead cheerleaders and the garbage men seen earlier in the film.
Joe Dante directed both The Burbs and Twilight Zone: The Movie (one of 4 directors for that film). In both films, a protagonist is confronted at the end of the film by a villain after seemingly reaching a place of safety in an ambulance. In The Burbs, Tom Hanks is confronted by Henry Gibson and in Twilight Zone John Lithgow is confronted by Dan Ackroyd. Tom Hanks and Dan Ackroyd starred together in the movie Dragnet.