Review: Ed Wood (1994)

Ed Wood
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau and  Sarah Jessica Parker.
Based on: Nightmare of Ecstasy by Rudolph Grey
Genre: Comedy-Drama / Biopic
Released: October 7 1994
by Touchstone Pictures
Running time: 127 mins (2 hr, 7 mins)
Cert: 15 (BBFC) R (MPAA)
Rating: ★★★★★+

IMDb | View Trailer

You are interested in the unknown. The mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you the full story of what happened, on that fateful day. We are giving you all the evidence, based only on a secret testimony, of the miserable souls, who survived this terrifying ordeal. The incidents, the places. My friend, we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Can your heart stand the shocking facts about ‘Edward D. Wood Jr.’?

Although I’m not the world’s biggest Tim Burton fan, I have been fascinated by the true story of transvestite B-movie director Ed Wood for quite some time. I haven’t seen any of Woods films, but I have read the stories behind them numerous times and they’re quite humorous. Before watching Ed Wood, I had heard many a good thing about the film and I decided to buy the DVD. When I put the DVD into my X Box (I don’t own a DVD player anymore >.<), I was totally unprepared for how awesome a film I was about to watch. Seriously, before writing this review, I watched this film two more times.

The plot of Ed Wood is mostly true as many of the events did happen in real life but there are some that are exaggerated or even modified for entertainment purposes. But to me, that didn’t really matter because most of the film is factual and sometimes you need a little bit of fiction thrown in there. Apart from the few couple of historical inaccuracies  I thought that the true aspects of the film were shown very well. I enjoyed following Ed’s life and his friendship with tragic Hollywood legend Bela Lugosi, which somewhat mirror’s Tim Burton’s working relationship with his childhood hero, Vincent Price. It’s nice when director’s add personal details to their films. I think what strikes me about how the story is played out, is how heartbreaking certain aspects of the film are. It’s sad that Ed doesn’t really have the talent or money to make any decent films and people don’t really understand how ladies’ clothes make him feel but the most heartbreaking part concerns Bela. It’s actually quite tragic that he’s out of work, his wife recently left him, he has a horrible morphine addiction and people don’t care for him anymore. I love it when a film makes me feel things for its characters, and the fact that everyone in this film did exist, heightened the heartbreakiness.

I really liked Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Ed. I loved Ed’s optimism, despite the fact that everything he does sucks. He’s always trying to make his work better, even though it actually gets worse, always focuses on the positive and takes and immense amount of pride in his work. I admire that in a person. The real Wood was, to me, quite an interesting person as he was a heterosexual cross-dresser  He liked to wear women’s clothes but he wasn’t gay. He also had a thing for angora because the feel of it made him feel comfortable or something like that. During the Plan 9 scenes Ed actually directs parts of the film in an angora sweater and a skirt. Sometimes he also wears a wig while still sporting a mustache  It’s kind of sad that some people don’t really understand Ed’s “habit”, especially his girlfriend, Dolores (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) who can’t handle it and is embarrassed by it. I loved how Johnny Depp portrayed Wood but I don’t think that he gave the best performance of the film.

The best performance of the film is definitely’s Martin Landau’s performance as Bela Lugosi. Holy crap, his performance was just so good. Actually, it was better than good, it was perfect! It didn’t feel like I was watching Martin Landau simply perform while doing an impression of Lugosi, he pretty much became Lugosi. I honestly didn’t expect Landau’s performance to be as powerful as it was and I was even surprised by some of his lines. A perfect example of a line that surprised me is when Ed and Bela are watching The Vampira Show and Bela makes a very blunt comment about Vampira’s chest. I am not kidding, the line is “look at those jugs”. I nearly spat out whatever was in my mouth the first time I watched the film. I also didn’t expect Bela to be prone to fits of swearing, but I guess that’s what drugs does to people. Although Johnny Depp is a fantastic actor, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this film as much without Martin Landau. He definitely deserved his Oscar.

I love the way that Ed Wood looks; it has the look and feel of an old Hollywood B-movie, with the black and white and simple special effects. The opening credits of the film is an homage to the opening credits of Wood’s film Plan 9 from Outer Space, which features the cast members names appearing on tombstones and changing whenever there is a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder. Since this is a Tim Burton film, rather than simply staying still, the camera pans through a creepy-looking cemetery and zooms in on the tombstones until it goes over a model of 1950s Hollywood and into a theatre where a play of Ed’s is holding its opening night. I’m not too sure why the film was shot in black and white, but this is one of those films where I simply can’t imagine it being in full colour. To me, the black and white fits in with the theme of B-movies and trashy movies, which back in the 1950s, were all filmed in black and white because colour was expensive.
I absolutely adore Howard Shore’s musical score for Ed Wood. The score has a bizarre science-fiction theme to it, thanks to extensive use of a theremin (one of these: click for video) and also a Cuban-style percussion. I always say that music in a film has to be used appropriately and reflect the mood of the scene, and in Ed Wood, the music does exactly that. One of the scenes were this is done perfectly in the scene near to the end of the film where Ed is making his film Plan 9 from Outer Space just as he wants. It’s a triumphant moment for Ed but at the same time it’s ironic, because judging on how his other films turned out, you sort of know what’s going to happen.
I just had to whip out the Golden UFO for this film. I loved it so much. This film made me laugh, it nearly made me cry, and that’s what a good film should do. From this point on, I definitely consider Ed Wood to be one of my favourite films of all time. OF ALL TIME! I would definitely recommend this film, so go watch it! Do it now!

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