Ed Wood

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Hi, I'm Ed Wood, I Wear Women's Clothes & Make Bad Movies w/ Bela Lugosi

Sep 23, 2005
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:Burton's Direction, Script, Look, Cinematography, Music, & Cast notably Depp & Landau.

Cons:None.

The Bottom Line: Ed Wood is a Fascinating Masterpiece from Tim Burton about the Famed Cult Director with Great Performances from Johnny Depp & Martin Landau.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

Before the 1960s, the French New Wave, and the independent, guerilla spirit of 1970s American filmmaking, Hollywood still ruled cinema and there were very few auteurs at the time including Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles. Welles in the 1950s was considered the director everyone wanted to be including another filmmaker who wanted to have the kind of control and artistic freedom that Welles had when he made Citizen Kane back in 1940. Unfortunately, unlike Welles, Edward D. Wood Jr. aka Ed Wood didn't have Welles' talent but did have the same passion and love of films like Welles did.

Though films like Glen or Glenda?, Bride of the Monster, and Plan 9 from Outer Space were considered awful, B-movie schlock, Wood continued to make a films before his death in 1978. Two years later, a New York film festival celebrating bad films arrived as the festival officially named Wood, the Worst Filmmaker of All-Time as his films did attract a cult following. In 1994, Tim Burton released a movie about the reviled director in a strange biopic that only the director would love simply titled Ed Wood.

Written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the story of Ed Wood is about the director's strange private life of wearing angora sweaters, being a transvestite, and dealing with the failure of his films. Focusing on the period of 1953 to 1956 when he made three of most known films, the film deals with Ed Wood's relationship with his idol and fading horror film star Bela Lugosi. Playing the passionate but untalented director is longtime Burton collaborator Johnny Depp and in the role of the aging Lugosi is Martin Landau in an award-winning performance.

Using his own relationship with another horror idol in Vincent Price, Burton aims for a personal, 1950s black-and-white feel of the film to convey a director's series of failures and how he continues on while forging a friendship with an icon. Also starring Burton regulars Jeffrey Jones and Lisa Marie plus Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Bill Murray, Juliet Landau, G.D Spradlin, Max Casella, Brent Hinkley, former pro wrestler George "The Animal" Steele, Mike Starr, and Vincent D'onofrio as Orson Welles. Ed Wood is a heartfelt, hilarious biopic that remains Tim Burton's most realized masterpiece.

It's 1953 Los Angeles as Edward D. Wood Jr. is awaiting the press to come to his play with help from his friend Bunny Breckenridge (Bill Murray) about a war that stars his girlfriend Dolores Fuller (Sarah Jessica Parker) and a couple of friends in Paul Marco (Max Casella) and Conrad Brooks (Brent Hinkley). Despite a good review on the costumes, the play overall received horrific reviews as Wood contemplates on whether he had the talent to be a great director like his idol Orson Welles. With Wood working as a gardener by day and often sending plants to studios, he walks by a casket shop where he is amazed to find his all-time favorite movie star in Bela Lugosi who complains about the casket. Wood gets to talk to Lugosi, who is now frustrated and unemployed as the two talk about their love of old horror films and complaints about new films.

With Ed Wood already meeting a studio producer in Georgie Weiss (Mike Starr) to create a sex-change film, Wood tells him he's got an idea and he wants Lugosi to star in the film. Weiss greenlights the project as Wood comes up with a script while getting Lugosi to be in the film. Titled Glen or Glenda?, Wood chose to star as the character in conflict with his sexual identity while Dolores learns that Wood has a love of wearing women's clothing after reading his script. Weiss at first couldn't believe what Wood has done for the script but gives in since he knows that only a weird guy like Ed can make a movie. Using very few takes, Ed gets the film rolling while paying Bela $1000 for one scene where Conrad asks for his autograph but the mentioning of Boris Karloff angers Bela who calls Karloff a "c*cksucker" as Bela proves his brilliance as an actor.

With Ed finally completing his first film, he tries to get the film to be seen by a Warner Brothers executive in Mr. Feldman (Stanley de Santis). Feldman sees the film after hearing Ed's idea of a horror film titled Bride of the Atom. Feldman thinks of the film as a joke as he later calls Ed and tells him it's the worst film he's ever seen. Making matters worse, Bela's addiction to morphine and lack of financial status troubles him as Ed takes care of him hoping to have him in his next movie. After attending a wrestling match with Dolores and Bunny, who wants to go under a sex change, Ed catches the eye of wrestler Tor Johnson (George "The Animal" Steele) who gives him the leading part for his next project.

After a TV appearance that turns into a disaster for Lugosi, he and Ed meet the psychic Criswell (Jeffrey Jones) who gives Ed full support into helping his raise money for Bride of the Atom (later re-titled Bride of the Monster). A party at the Brown Derby becomes a disaster since they didn’t raise any money as Ed meets a budding starlet in Loretta King (Juliet Landau) who wants to give him money to make his film only if she can be the female lead. Ed takes the offer much to Dolores' dismay as production begins. When Ed's checked bounce and Loretta had only given him a bit of money, production was shut down only to get a new backer as the film went back into production while Dolores' frustration with Ed finally takes it toll as she does a role in the film before leaving him for good at a wrap party.

Dolores' departure makes Ed desperate for companionship as he calls for TV starlet Vampira (Lisa Marie), whom he met at another party, for a date but she politely declines as he receives another call from Bela. Bela, weary from his addiction and desperate to end his life, Ed takes him to a hospital as Bela hopes to wean himself from morphine addiction. Ed meets a sweet, kind woman in Kathy O'Hara (Patricia Arquette) who knits little booties for her father while Ed often visits Bela who suddenly gets attention for being a celebrity to battle addiction in a hospital. Ed courts Kathy who doesn't mind his eccentric behavior while Bela is forced to leave the hospital because he's broke.

With Bela's desire to do another film, Ed shoots a thing for him as they attend a disastrous premiere for Bride of the Monster with Kathy, Vampira, Tor, and Criswell. Bela is amazed at Kathy's loyalty as he hopes for a bright future with Ed. Sadly, that euphoria is shattered as Bela dies as Ed decides to go ahead with a project that will unleash his most uncompromising vision yet. After making a deal with Reverend Lemon (G.D. Spradlin) to get funding for Grave Robbers from Outer Space (re-titled Plan 9 from Outer Space) by making his entourage into Baptists, Ed gets to make his film but is forced to deal with Lemon's ideas as Ed wonders if he'll ever achieve success on his own terms with the meeting of an idol who helps him.

It's very clear that if the film was done in the hands of another director, it would've turned out to be the usual biopic but in the hands of Tim Burton, it was something very personal. Especially with Burton's relationship with horror film idol Vincent Price who starred in his 1990 film Edward Scissorhands where by the time Burton was making the film, Price was dying. It's very clear that the heart of the film is the relationship between Wood and Lugosi that is more than just a fan admiring an icon and more than just a young film director being given lessons from a mentor. The relationship of Lugosi and Wood is really a father-and-son relationship since the film early on starts off as a relationship of admiration but with Lugosi's drug problems, it's Ed who helps and in many ways, Ed Wood was the son that Lugosi never had.

That was something Burton must have touched upon with the film's script that is wonderfully written as not just some quirky biopic but about a director who has a lot of passion for films and angora sweaters but only forced to deal with the fact that he might not be talented at all. Yet, he remains upbeat in his situations by those who are around him. The script is filled with some great dialogue and some funny moments that hit the right note while it's Burton's directing that really shines. If the film was shot in color, it would've lost the authenticity and the period of what the film is in so the idea for black-and-white with some fake design sequences and moments that it's about a film director and making of the film. It's got that authenticity and a feeling that the audience is in that period. Burton brings a lot of his weird, idiosyncratic ideas into the mix and it works on every level to the point that we can laugh at a few things, even if we know some things are fake. It's to remind everyone that it's not just a movie but a homage to the late Ed Wood.

Cinematographer Stefan Czapsky does an amazing job in capturing the black-and-white look of the movie with its idea of lighting and sunlight sequences that captures the world of Ed Wood and the 1950s itself. Production designer Tom Duffield with art director Okowita and set designer Cricket Rowland help create the low-budget world of Ed Wood with some nice, fake set designs that look and feel cheap but all in good fun. It's also noted that the film cost to all the films Ed Wood has made combined to give the idea that it's a low-budget film of sorts. Editor Chris Lebenzon also brings a stylized style of editing to sequences where Ed Wood is imagining his vision while giving the film some playful dissolve sequences to give the movie its rhythm in its leisurely-paced feel. While Danny Elfman is often Burton's film composer, this is the first film to not feature Elfman but instead, the film is wonderfully scored by Howard Shore who captures the kooky vibe of Wood with therermins playing in the background along with orchestral moments to bring a tragedy or comedy to the film along with music of the 50s in the background.


Finally, there's the film's wonderful ensemble cast filled with some great appearances from Vincent D'onofrio in a great performance as Orson Welles (while another actor dubbed his voice) and a cameo from the real Conrad Brooks as a bartender in the scene where Ed Wood meets Welles. Now pro wrestlers are either used for comedy or action but George "The Animal" Steele is excellent as the late Tor Johnson with his gruff, Swedish accent and monstrous presence while pulling off some great humor to the film. Max Casella and Brent Hinkley are hilarious in their respective roles as Paul Marco and Conrad Brooks as a couple of guys who just don't get it. Mike Starr is always amazing in any performance he does and he brings in a memorable performance as the angry, greedy Georgie Weiss. G.D. Spradlin is also excellent in his role as the clueless, compromising Reverend Lemon and Stanley de Santis as the executive who rejects Wood.

Juliet Landau is wonderful as the ingenue Loretta King with her star-like presence and clueless innocence while model Lisa Marie gives a comical, brash performance as Vampira. Sarah Jessica Parker is amazing in the role as Dolores Fuller who starts off being supportive but as the film develops, Parker shows her frustrations and annoyance to the crowd that Wood is often surrounded by. Patricia Arquette is wonderfully sweet in the role of Kathy Wood with her undying loyalty and charm as she accepts Ed for who he is while supporting him all the way through good and bad times. Bill Murray gives a brilliant performance as Bunny Breckinridge in one of his early, minimalist dramatic roles that mixes with a bit of comedy as he steals each scene he's in, even when he's not doing much as his performance marks an example into the minimalist acting he would do in the years to come. Burton regular Jeffrey Jones is wonderfully funny as the psychic Criswell who makes strange, inaccurate predictions while revealing that he’s a fraud in a hilarious scene while maintaining a fine presence.

Of the film's entire supporting cast, no one shines brighter than Martin Landau in the role of the late Bela Lugosi. With help from the makeup of Rick Baker, Landau is nearly unrecognizable as the Hungarian film legend as Landau captures everything that is Lugosi to his body language, the accent, and eerie presence. When Lugosi is not on set or anything, Landau brings enormous depth and heartbreak to an icon who is now more human than what the world believes. There's never a dull moment in Landau's performance as he carries the film with a masterfully powerful performance with a mix of laughs, horror, and drama.

Johnny Depp gives one of his best performances of his career as the upbeat and imaginative Ed Wood. Depp brings in a lot of humor and cheerfulness in many moments of the film's he's in while during trouble times, Depp brings a lot of sympathy and heartbreak into Wood. Depp has a lot of great scenes with his actors that combines his brilliance in both comedy and drama. Depp's best performances are with Landau since it is the heart of the film. Both actors have a moment where it's just the two of them and every scene they're in is filled with magic. It's not just an example into why Depp remains underrated as an actor during that time, it showed that with a brilliant actor like Martin Landau, Depp proves that his range goes farther than just being a pretty boy or a freak.

Ed Wood in comparison to all of Tim Burton's movies is probably his best overall in terms of artistry and storytelling. While early films like Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Batman Returns, and Edward Scissorhands are essential and funnier, none of them come close to the brilliance that Ed Wood had. With a great script, Burton's presentation with his collaborators, and a great cast led by Johnny Depp and Martin Landau. The film is definitely a great biopic while giving interest into the real Ed Wood himself. This film might not be a great introduction to Tim Burton but seeing his early films would help into giving insight on Burton's inspiration into Ed Wood. Anyone who loves Johnny Depp will see why he's a great actor in this film while a lot of the credit should be given to Martin Landau as well for giving out a brilliant performance as Bela Lugosi. Burton, Depp, and Landau didn't just resurrected Wood and Lugosi back from the dead, they gave them new life to freak out as many people as possible.

Big Fish (2003):

http://www.epinions.com/content_159486021252


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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