1994 - R - 127 Mins.
|Director: Tim Burton
|Producer: Denise DiNovi, Tim Burton
|Starring: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette
|Review by: John Ulmer
Edward D. Wood, Jr. is the man responsible for such films as "Glen or Glenda," "Bride of the Monster," and "Plan 9 From Outer Space," to name a few of the films mentioned in "Ed Wood" (1994), Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's nod towards the man and his films, which garnered him the official title of the "Worst Director of All Time."
Ed Wood was in love with every frame of every film he made, or so this film tells us. He's oblivious to any technical blunders--when his film "Plan 9" is being directed, a Baptist preacher mentions that one of the tombstones fell over during the shoot in a fake graveyard, and that the characters on screen arrived at day but now it's night. "Ever heard of suspension of disbelief?" Ed asks. He stresses that he's a director and he knows what's best.
In one of the more ironic scenes of the movie, he meets his role model, Orson Welles (Vincent D'Onofrio), in a restaurant. Welles complains about his struggles in filmmaking, and Ed tells him how he relates--of course, Welles has no idea that Ed is a Z-movie director. On some strange level, they are briefly similar. Only in their struggles, however. Welles tells Ed to not give up, to take charge of his picture. It renews Ed's feelings towards his "Plan 9" project. He marches back to the set, shouting orders at crewmembers. It's reminiscent of the scenes in all movies where the characters are inspired and suddenly win the day. The sad--and utterly ironic--thing is, as the audience, we know no matter how inspired Ed feels his film is going to bomb. His effort is pointless.
The movie starts with Ed (Depp) and his girlfriend, Dolores Fuller (Sarah Jessica Parker), trying to get a movie made in Hollywood. Ed likes women's clothing. A lot. Dolores can't figure out where her angora sweaters keep getting to. Ed loves women--he says by dressing in their clothes it makes him feel closer to them. Err...yeah, right.
Ed struggles to get a film made in Hollywood. He meets Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) in a coffin shop and they become close friends; this helps Ed's position in Hollywood, too. The unfortunate problem, however, is that Lugosi is a washed-up druggie living by himself in a messy home. He's a wreck. Nobody wants him in a picture.
Nothing stops Ed. He finally gets his big break when a movie producer who is unashamed to admit that he makes “crap” funds Ed's first full-length feature film, “Glen or Glenda." It's an uncredited parallel of Ed's own life--a tale about a transvestite who is afraid to come out of the closet.
The fact that Ed Wood has absolutely no directorial talent is established early on when he is rummaging through old stock footage of charging buffalo and octopus. "Why if I had half a chance, I could make an entire movie using this stock footage. The story opens on these mysterious explosions. Nobody knows what's causing them, but it's upsetting all the buffalo. So, the military are called in to solve the mystery." Sad.
Ed does, indeed, use the footage of buffalo in the beginning of "Glen or Glenda," for no apparent reason whatsoever. It just appears via a dissolve. Ed is practically thrown out of Hollywood--but yet he makes another film, this time "Bride of the Atom," the title changed to "Bride of the Monster" before it is released to the public. It flops, needless to say.
Wood remains the optimist. He cons a Baptist church into funding his newest feature, "Plan 9 From Outerspace," which is often heralded as the pinnacle of really bad movies, along with "'Manos': The Hands of Fate" and "Pod People." He's a self-assured liar and a thief--he swears to the church that they'll get enough profit from his movie that they'll be able to make as many religious films about apostles as they want. Perhaps, in the end, he wasn't lying after all.
Behind the laughs is a great piece of work. Filmed in a distinctly wacky black and white, and filmed with the same purposeful akwardness of an old Ed Wood movie, Tim Burton has done the unimaginable--he's managed to make a two hour + film about the life of the worst director of all time, and he's also managed to make it quite interesting.
"Ed Wood" is bizarre, delightful and strange. It's from another world. It's a unique film experience unlike any other. It's got the odd eccentricity of "Edward Scissorhands" and the joyful glee of "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," while keeping the gothic look of "Batman." All in all, it's a nice little trip.
And "Ed Wood" is packed with movie in-jokes. We, as an audience, know the future of Ed Wood's fate--which is why much of it is funny. There's also a great scene during that in which he meets Welles. Ed says, "Do you know my movies have even been recut after they were finished?" Welles replies, "I hate it when that happens." And that pretty much sums up the film's sense of humor.