"Ed Wood" tells the remarkable true story of filmmaker, and cross dresser, Edward Wood Jr. (Johnny Depp), the worst director to ever make contact with the business.
Ed Wood (1994)
Directors: Tim Burton
Producers: * Denise Di Novi * Tim Burton
Writers: * Rudolph Grey * Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski: screenplay
Features: * Deleted scenes * Four featurettes * Screen-specific audio commentary * Music video * Theatrical trailer * Easter egg
Ed Wood...Johnny Depp
Bela Lugosi...Martin Landau
Dolores Fuller...Sarah Jessica Parker
Kathy O'Hara...Patricia Arquette
"Ed Wood" is one film to be proud of. It’s a crowning achievement for director Tim Burton, a man who, up until this film, had been spiraling down a tunnel of weird. "Ed Wood" is Tim Burton’s swan song. It’s the culmination of everything he is humanly capable of, yet the film is easily the most simplistic film Burton’s ever produced.
"Ed Wood" tells the remarkable true story of filmmaker, and cross dresser, Edward Wood Jr. (Johnny Depp), the worst director to ever make contact with the business. He made countless F grade films during his heyday. "Glen or Glenda" (of which there’s a nice throwback to in Don Mancini’s "Seed of Chucky"), "Bride of the Monster" or "Plan 9 From Out Space" are among the countless number of "classics" Wood produced in the early 50’s.
Ed Wood was a man of pure vision and no talent. What was so beautiful about Ed though was that he thought he was great. He was a sort of Orsen Welles type figure, with the talent of a Carrot Top or Pauly Shore. He either had the world’s most enormous ego, or he was purely insane. Or maybe, he cared so much about the craft that he refused to acknowledge the fact that he was horrible. Either way you look at it, Wood is a cinema genius, sort of.
Tim Burton truly captures the essence and compassion of Ed Wood, his cast and his crew. This is, or course, supplemented with the help of Johnny Depp as Wood Jr. This is Depp’s greatest screen role yet. Depp uses his token charm, charisma and wit to make Ed Wood feel alive and well. Depp makes us long for Ed Wood. We want to know more about this crazy filmmaker because he embodies him so perfectly. It’s a great performance and it’s a shame it was overlooked during 1994’s Oscar season.
Burton chooses to cover Wood’s "glory days" rather than his tragic death rattle. This allows for the story of screen actor Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau in an Oscar winning performance) to come into play. Lugosi, known for his fantastic portrayal of Dracula, was a washed up actor, addicted to drugs, by the time Wood met him. In honor of Lugosi, Wood vowed to revitalize his career, only with little success. Even this subplot, as tragic as it is, was a glorious moment for Ed Wood. He was so proud to be working with such a cinema legend. Lugosi was always thankful and hopeful that Wood would be remembered. Lugosi would not be wrong.
"Ed Wood", is a stylish "Boogie Nights" style story sans "Boogie’s" dark third act. I’d guess that one day, someone, if not Burton himself, will go back to the story of Ed Wood and tell a second tale...the tale of Wood’s final years, when he began making pornographic films. It seems as though it was just too hard for Burton to tell that story. Perhaps someone will show us this second half of the story so that we can understand Wood to a greater extent. Until that time, "Ed Wood" is a perfect film to pay tribute to the man who made ‘awful’, a household word.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, 1:85:1, "Ed Wood" is not very good looking. It’s loaded with grain and grime on virtually every frame. What the hell happened Touchstone? Did someone forget to master this disc?
"Ed Wood" was delayed for years on end because Tim Burton refused to sign off on the disc’s special features. Why on Earth did he sign off on the picture?
This isn’t a horrible transfer, it’s merely sub par. Given how easy telecine processes are these days, it would be incredibly easy to go back and remaster this print. I’m guessing Burton wanted the grain to further capture the 50’s feel the film already has.
Here we are presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track. This is a very dialogue heavy track, with very little surround effects. Regardless, it’s a great track that never overloads you with unnecessary surrounds. A fine mix.
Spanish subtitles and English captions are also provided.
You’ve been waiting for nearly two years now for this set. So, how does it fare? Well, I must say, it wasn’t worth the wait, but these features are still mighty good.
The first special feature, the ‘Screen Specific Audio Commentary’ is a fantastic and informative track. Tim Burton, Martin Landau, writers Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, director of photography Stefan Czapsky and costume designer Colleen Atwood are all here, talking about Ed Wood himself and the struggles of bringing Wood’s world to life. Burton is usually rather dry, but here he’s vibrant and alive. It’s obvious these folks all respect the hell out of Wood. Sadly, Depp is absent from the commentary track.
Next up are a series of ‘Deleted Scenes’. This is a nice assortment of cut scenes, most of which I’m glad are missing from the final edit. Worth of look, nonetheless.
There are four featurettes presented on the disc as well. The first featurette, ‘Let’s Shoot this F$%#er’ (14 minutes) is a nice little behind the scenes featurette.
‘Making Bela’ (8 minutes) discusses the extensive and Oscar winning make-up that was painstakingly placed onto Martin Landau. Fascinating.
‘Pie Plates Over Hollywood’ (13 minutes) is a unique look at the production of the film with designer Tom Duffield.
‘The Theremin’ (7 minutes) is a quick featurette about the instrument that’s so commonly used in this film and in other horror films of the 50’s era. Once you hear it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Finally, there’s a 'Theatrical Trailer' and an odd 'Music Video'.
Also, be on the look out for an 'Easter Egg'. On the Deleted Scenes menu, highlight the menu entry for the scene 'Que Sera Sera' and then press the 'Right' arrow key on your remote control twice. This will highlight a lightning bolt in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Press the 'enter' key to be treated to another deleted scene featuring Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi.
If you’ve never seen an Ed Wood film, go out and find one, but be sure to check this film out first. It’s a great start for anyone looking to know more about the legendary filmmaker. You'll respect him so much more if you watch "Ed Wood" first.
Also, Image Entertainment has released a great boxset featuring several of Ed Wood’s greatest films along with some awesome special features (be on the look out for my review coming in a few weeks). Ed Wood fans get ready for a marathon.
As entertainment: * * * *
As a film: * * * *
Overall: * * * *
Rated R for some strong language
* Running Time: 127 minutes
* List Price: $29.99
* Available on DVD October 19th 2004.
Be sure to check out the Ed Wood DVD website.
----R. L. Shaffer