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I hear that ED WOOD took just $6,000,000 on its initial cinematic release in
the USA. I'm not surprised. The extraordinary thing is that the film was
financed and released at all. Had it not been for the prestige that Tim
Burton had already earned from his previous projects, ED WOOD would no doubt
have foundered long before the cameras began to roll. The result could have
been another 1941 but it wasn't. What came out of Tim Burton's
fascination with the `Worst Director of All Time' was something very rich
and strange perhaps the most un-Hollywood Hollywood picture of the
I see two main themes in ED WOOD. The first is the dreadful fear that hovers over everyone who enters the creative arts `Am I any good?' `Is my work any good?' `How do I know if it's any good?' `What if I think it's good, but everybody else thinks it's rubbish?' Artists use all kinds of strategies to deal with these fears some become eccentric, others arrogant, others diffident. Without the right to fail, no artist is likely to take the sort of risk that sometimes, just sometimes, leads to great work. Tim Burton knew this.
Edward D Wood Jnr believed himself to be a creative artist. Oh, how he believed. But he still failed to create anything worthwhile. And this leads to what I believe to be the second theme of the movie, and the reason why I think it failed commercially.
Look at all the things Ed did right. He believed in himself. He followed his dream. He worked hard. He was an entrepreneur he did his best to make others believe in his dream and help him to turn it into reality. In short, he did all the things that the self-help books, the daytime TV shows, the junk ballads and the feel-good movies tell us will give you success. Just wish upon a star, work all the hours there are to turn your vision into reality and you will succeed. Ed did all of these things. And still he failed. He died short of his 60th birthday, living in a crime-riddled apartment building, drunk, broke, supporting himself and his loyal wife Kathy by writing formula pornography and making sex instruction flicks on 8mm.
America doesn't want to hear this. Hollywood doesn't want to tell America this that you can try and try and try and still get nothing but heartbreak. This is why ED WOOD is such an un-Hollywood film and why it's one of the best Hollywood films of the 90s.
As one of the most overlooked films ever made, "Ed Wood" does for Tim
what "Malcolm X" did for Spike Lee and "JFK" did for Oliver Stone, it
any expectations one can have of Tim Burton, because he has set a standard
here that he will never achieve again. An interest in the period in which
it is set is essential, given the set decoration is the film's greatest
triumph. It's not surprising that Burton's first "biopic" is about
revered in the b-movie heyday of the 1950s - that spawned Burton himself.
Burton must have felt he had to make this picture because without
like Ed Wood, Burton himself would have never existed. Set in seedy
Hollywood in the mid 1950s - and wisely and beautifully shot in
black-and-white, Johnny Depp plays the titular character; a young,
talentless, but optimistic auteur who dreams of being a film director;
so far as to model himself after his idol, Orson Welles. Despite an
over-reliance on stock footage, a tin ear for dialogue, and a fondness for
wacky, exploitative horror and sci-fi fare, Wood wiggles his way into
B-moviedom. Casting anyone willing to step before his camera, Wood cranks
out a series of cheesy movies.
When he has a chance encounter with horror film legend Bela Lugosi, now a 74 year-old, foul-mouthed morphine addict wrecked by his lost fame, Ed sees his meal-ticket. Quick for his next fix, Lugosi doesn't seem to mind that Wood is also an out-and-proud transvestite with a particular fondness for Angora sweaters, and soon begins starring in Wood's features. Lugosi, played by Martin Landau, gives the story its biggest jolts of energy. Landau is hysterical in scene after scene utilizing the "dirty old man" routine. Remember, there is nothing funnier on earth than an old man who likes profanity. A gentle - albeit somewhat fictionalized - bond forms between Wood and Lugosi. Depp does a spectacular job of fleshing out Wood's quirky innocence and unbridled passion for moviemaking. This may also be the only Johnny Depp film where you actually see him smile!
What ultimately makes this film so stellar is the impeccable production and costume design and the crisp B&W cinematography; it literally transports you back to the clean-cut, wide-eyed days of the 1950s. I cannot recommend this film enough if you have an interest in the world of 1950s B-movies that produced titles like "Teenagers From Outer Space" and "Project Moonbase". This film functions quite well as a time warp. I liken "Ed Wood" to epics like "JFK" because like those films, this movie doesn't seem to be about what happens as much as how it FEELS to be there; and that's what draws me to the film every time I see it. With "Ed Wood", I'm not always interested in following the story, but I'm totally fascinated with being inside that world. Tim Burton did the best job that anyone could in taking you there.
Without question it's Tim Burton's best, most complete work and Johnny Depp is superb. Perhaps it's the total understanding of his subject that allows Tim Burton to fly so high here. The beautifully tailored script gives room for some exquisite character drawings, Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, Vincent D'Onofrio as Orson Wells. "When you re-write a script it gets better and better" tells Ed/Johnny to his girlfriend with a smile full of innocence. What a performance! Johnny Depp is a unique kind of actor, we never had anyone quite like him. How can he manage to disappear behind a character and still bring with him his full bag of tricks, I don't know, but he does. I only wish he wouldn't get lost in mediocrities like "Nick of Time" "The Astronaut's Wife" and "Secret Window" He belongs to the world of real, great filmmakers. Better to risk with an original idea by Emir Kusturica than a "safe", tired, Stephen King thing. Johnny, remember, we're looking at you for clues about ourselves. More Ed Woods , please!
It's sort of embarrassing to admit it took me ten years to see this
film. I'm not really a big fan of Tim Burton, and while I never had
anything against him, I've only recently started to enjoy Johnny Depp's
work. Given the subject matter, this just wasn't a movie I was
interested in for a long time. But sometimes good things really are
worth the wait.
Ed Wood, of course, chronicles the Hollywood career of its eponymous subject, truly one screwed up individual; a cross-dresser with a fetish for angora, Wood churned out one horrifically bad film after another, culminating with Plan Nine From Outer Space, before descending into crappy porn films toward the end of his life. It isn't necessarily a happy story, and Burton wisely only tells a small sliver of it, from Ed's first movie, Glen or Glenda, through the premiere of Plan Nine.
But the love that Burton has for Wood and his movies shines through in every frame. Though I find Burton needlessly artsy as a director, here that tendency serves him frightfully well, as he manages to do the near-impossible; make a film about someone that plays like one of their films (the abysmal Dragon is a shining example of how NOT to do this). Shot entirely in black and white, we see all of Wood's weirdos not as they were, but rather as Ed probably saw them, through the bizarre filter he must have viewed life with.
Depp is simply brilliant here, probably even better than he was in Pirates of the Caribbean. He captures Wood's enthusiasm and slanted viewpoint, but he does so in a loving, positive way. Wood accepts, as we must, that he was a screwed-up hack, but it never drags him down; in fact, Depp has him reveling in it, and it is that very passion that buoys up the movie. It doesn't hurt that nearly everyone else is very strong too, from Jeffrey Jones' crank 'psychic' Criswell to Bill Murray's Bunny Breckenridge, who often talks about having a sex change but never goes through with it. George 'The Animal' Steele captures Tor Johnson perfectly, and even Lisa Marie is excellent as Vampira. But the true great performance of the film, outshining even Depp, is Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi. He won the Oscar for this, and deservedly so; he presents Lugosi at the end of his life, a washed-up has been, a shell of a man who was once a great star but is now no more than an addict. Landau virtually disappears in the role, and all you get is Lugosi, every tragic inch of him. Again, we see him not only as he was, but how Wood and even Burton see him, and the effect is masterful. One speech in particular, where Lugosi repeats a speech that Wood wrote for him about once being the master of the world but now on the verge of coming back is particularly haunting, and Landau is simply riveting.
Ed Wood is a rare beast it's a Tim Burton film that doesn't go overboard, it's a movie about Hollywood (sort of) that isn't self-indulgent, it's a nostalgia trip that manages not to be sappy but is still very warm and caring, and overall it's just a strikingly well-done film. I was impressed on many levels, most particularly with Depp and Landau, but really with the whole movie, that such a truly screwed-up human being could be shown in such a positive, indeed, loving way. Ed Wood is nothing less than a tribute to its subject, and in that, as in many other ways, it succeeds marvelously. If somehow you've missed this film, as I had until recently, you owe it to yourself to see it. It's simply a wonderful piece of film-making that should not be missed.
The theatre wasn't exactly filling up fast: so far my husband, a friend and
myself were the only ones seated. Just before the movie began, a young
couple walked in. And shortly after the movie began, they walked out. I
wonder if they asked for their money back. I hope they didn't get
The movie was ED WOOD, Tim Burton's homage to trash-film director Edward D. Wood Jr., which only played in Greenville for two weeks and did not show up at the second-run movie houses. Apparently no one wanted to see it. Their loss.
But perhaps I'm being too hard on those who don't appreciate the subtle nuances of Eddie Wood's movies. To me, Eddie was a glittering bead hanging on Hollywood's lunatic fringe. However, Eddie, a transvestite who often directed his masterpieces wearing high heels and an angora sweater, was not exactly your mama's director. He was no Frank Tashlin, who tried to make Jayne Mansfield respectable in THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT. He was no Norman Taurog, who made Elvis look like a dork in countless girls-cars-and-guitars flicks. He wasn't even Russ Meyer, whose exploitation films are legendary in their trashiness. No, Eddie just never seemed to get a break. He wanted to be Orson Welles. He didn't even find the measure of fame accorded to Orson Bean! He remained a pathetic outcast, forever a fringie.
Perhaps it is appropriate that Johnny Depp was chosen to portray Eddie Wood. Depp has a long history of playing outcasts and fringies -- Edward Scissorhands, Gilbert Grape, Hunter Thompson. Depp makes it clear that Eddie's angora-covered heart was in the right place. He worked hard on his scripts, he gave important roles to spectacularly talentless actors like Vampira, wrestler Tor Johnson and Eddie's own main squeeze, Dolores Fuller. And he was very kind to the drug-addled has-been Bela Lugosi, even dissuading the drunken Drac from committing suicide (which wasn't entirely altruistic, perhaps, as Lugosi had threatened to take Eddie with him). Depp makes Eddie appear almost human.
Depp's portrayal is just one of several that are outstanding: George "The Animal" Steele as Tor Johnson, Jeffrey Jones as Criswell, Vincent D'Onofrio in his cameo of Orson Welles and Bill Murray as Bunny Breckinridge -- one of the rare times Murray has immersed himself in his character and not been merely Bill Murray with someone else's name. Also delightful is a brief appearance by organist Korla Pandit, 1950's television personality once billed "The Prince of the Wurlitzer."
However, all the performances in ED WOOD are overshadowed by Academy-award winner Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi. For those enough old enough to remember Landau in TV's "Mission: Impossible," it perhaps isn't surprising that Landau was able to hide so completely behind a spookily accurate makeup job; seeing Landau's Lugosi watch himself on television was eerie because Landau looked enough like Lugosi to make it seem real.
The film ends on a high note, which Eddie's life didn't -- he died in his sleep, watching a ball game, just a few days after he'd been evicted from his apartment.
ED WOOD is not a family film. Some of the language is strong, drugs and drink are abundant, and many of the characters are a shade on the bizarre side. It might be hard to explain to one's children why this apparently virile man loves to raid his girlfriend's closets.
Unfortunately, ED WOOD hasn't exactly burned up the box office. Perhaps it is because so few people can relate to someone as weird as Eddie, with his terrible stories about men in angora sweaters, killer octopi, blank-eyed wrestler slaves and, the piece de resistance, aliens with eight failed plans to take over the universe. I believe Eddie himself felt like those aliens, which is why, viewing PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE, he said, "This is the one I'll be remembered by." And perhaps that very weirdness made the story appealing to me. Having lived as a misfit and outcast, working hard all my life to reach a goal that has remained elusive, I can, to quote someone I don't care for, feel Eddie's pain. It's too late for him, but perhaps there's hope for me yet ...
It is a well known fact by now that Johnny Depp is a subtle, tender, beautiful force of nature. Tim Burton has been able to create universes that Johnny Depp can inhabit with the strange naturalness of someone who belongs. "Ed Wood" is the ultimate demonstration of that theory. You're introduced to the world of someone who appears almost a figment of someone's imagination to realise that there is something of him in you and me. What is incredible is that the realisation comes hand in hand with a personal discovery. That funny weird kid represents more than something but the best of you and me. Angora sweaters and childish dreams. The purity of an artist with a talent that is concentrated in his heart. Remember the Salieri of "Amadeus" torturing himself cursing God for giving him the gift of recognising the talent in others without having any of his own. Ed Wood, as told by Burton and Depp, is so far away from that pathology that to watch his films after having met him with Johnny's face is an entirely different experience. Everything makes sense. Strangely enough (or not) "Ed Wood" died at the box office but as it happens more often than not, "Ed Wood" is more alive today than many of the greatest moneymakers of all time. Yes, that business of time never fails. Greatness prevails.
Although I had never heard of Ed Wood before hearing of this film, I
now understand why anybody would even consider making a film about him.
Even though branded as "the worst director of all time," Wood was
refreshingly passionate about what he did. Of course, I can't really
judge his work, but from what I saw in this movie I'm pretty sure that
the critics are right about him.
But that's not the point of Ed Wood. Not at all. My favorite scene in the whole movie is the conversation between Wood and Orson Welles. One perhaps the best filmmaker of his time, the other a young, struggling filmmaker without experience or talent, but each knows what the other is going through. They have the same problems and the same ambitions. The fact that one is a genius and the other a total failure is only secondary.
The performances are all first-rate, starting with Depp and Landau and going all the way to the supporting cast which includes a great performance by Bill Murray. Opposing Ed Wood's statement that "filmmaking is not about the tiny details," Tim Burton gave us another great film filled with wonderful details.
The film does not go into detail about Wood's experiences prior to and after making his first films which is understandable when you make a little research on this very website.
This film made me curious about Ed Wood's work and maybe I'll get over myself and check out Plan 9 from Outer Space or Glen or Glenda.
There isn't enough weirdness of this ilk in the world. I rated this a
10 because it is perfect in its imperfection, just like Ed Wood was.
Come on, the guy did 'Plan 9' for cryin' out loud. How perfectly
horrible was that movie??
Landau was flawless as Bela Lugosi. Johnny Depp was his usual wonderful weird self. What is there to say about Bill Murray that hasn't already been said? Sarah Jessica Parker was brilliant as the not quite an airhead girlfriend/wife.
Frankly, I just can't find anything wrong with this movie except that it ends. I just wanted the weirdness to go on and on.
I am a Johnny Depp fan, and this film only reinforced my enjoyment of
his genuine talent. He's whatcha call a real actor. He's on record
("Inside the Actor's Studio" & elsewhere) as saying that his
characterization of Wood was a mixture of "the blind optimism of Ronald
Reagan, the enthusiasm of the Tin Man from 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939)
and Casey Kasem." Well, I must add that either he left out channeling
Jon Lovitz or that's where Lovitz got his inspiration, too. It is at
moments positively eerie how well it works, and without feeling like
Depp stole Lovitz's act--his overall character is so much more, so much
else, that the Lovitz echo becomes a small part of a larger coherent
whole, although it never disappears entirely.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Patricia Arquette as the principal women in Wood's life are each endearing and effective in their own separate ways. Bill Murray is fun as always, and the secondary and bit players are very well cast.
Martin Landau . . . well . . . Martin Landau simply left me awestruck. Depp is all over the screen doin' his best wacky movie guy and chewing the scenery, Parker, Arquette, Murray, and the rest are obviously having a real fun time backing him up, and Martin Landau is shuffling around in the foreground muttering in Romanian and writing a book called "How to Steal a Movie." Mind boggling performance, and absolutely deserving every award it got him in 1995, which included a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG Awards, and the American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. (Incidentally, his daughter Juliet, better known to millions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans as the vampire Drusilla, is one of the supporting players.)
If I weren't already a Tim Burton fan this movie would have made me one. He here makes an almost perfectly crafted period piece (anachronisms noted--see the "goofs" page--and dismissed), half cheesy fake scifi B movie and half period noir thriller, as a cinematic biography about the quintessential cheesy fake noir scifi thriller B movie guy. This film goes beyond pastiche, and beyond homage to a genre, although it is both. With this film Burton genuflects--no, prostrates himself--before the gods of 1950s low-budget black and white, and the gods are pleased indeed. It seems like he must have watched every movie made in America for under a million dollars between 1948 and 1962. I lost count of the echoes and parodies and pastiches and mini-homages that fill, I think, every darn frame of the movie, and which by no means are mostly of Wood and his work.
As with, I think, every movie biography, there's the odd gratuitous fact changing (see the "goofs" page again)--you know, the "Why'd they do that when the truth wouldn't make any difference?" kind of stuff, and as glowing as this review obviously is I must also say that it is in some ways an imperfect film--it glosses over Wood's later career, for example. But it it so obviously a labor of love and joy for all involved that in my opinion its imperfections are inconsequential. Ed Wood stands proudly, with that slightly odd gleam in its eye, with the best movie biographies made.
This was the movie that Johnny Depp should have been nominated for! He
was amazing! And seriously, this movie deserved so much more than just
make-up and best supporting actor. "Ed Wood" is a terrific movie that
every film fanatic will love. It has humor, drama, and romance. The
thing is, I had heard a lot about Ed Wood, and was curious on what his
life was like. My sister recommended this movie, and I think I might
steal it from her. Just kidding! But it's worth not only a watch but a
buy as well.
Everything about this movie is perfect. I don't think there is a way you can change it to make it any better. I would highly recommend this movie any time. Especially if you want to learn about the crazy and interesting life of "Ed Wood".
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