Ed Wood

And I do Mean

I think that one of the nicest places to spend a vacation must be inside of Tim Burton's mind. Happy holidays! His background in animation seems to have been just the thing for the wonderful worlds he treats us to each time he makes a film.

And Ed Wood is definitely a DON'T MISS.

There isn't one element of the film that doesn't get superb points: script, acting, directing, costuming, art direction, photography, lighting, FX, etc. (need I say more?) From the first seconds of the main title sequence, it is obvious that we are about to have a very enjoyable time, or should I say escapade? Where does one begin or, more to the point, where will it all end? It's a laugh (usually more) a minute.

And "Who is Ed Wood?" some of you philistines will doubtlessly ask. Ed Wood was quite simply a twice married ex-paratrooper horror and porno film director who liked to dress up in women's clothes and wear angora sweaters, posthumously acclaimed as winner of the Golden Turkey Award for Worst Director of All Time and maker of the Worst Film of All Time (Plan 9 From Outer Space). This is the stuff that cults are made of.

For those of you who, as the Green Hartnett, are devout Edward D. Wood Jr. fans, this film will be a special delight. Although credited as being based upon Rudolph Grey's book Nightmare of Ecstasy, it is clear that much more research was done to achieve a result of this kind. For example, Kathy Wood (Ed's second wife) was called upon as consultant and winds up portrayed onscreen as a sympathetic and kind angelic-type. This will undoubtedly be a surprise to those who have read the book. The later years, when things went terribly awry and included such daily joys as screaming, fist-flying arguments, bouts of alcoholism, attacks by street thugs, evictions and general survival from the wolf at the door by such recompense as could be mustered from porn-films and pulp fiction or unemployment wages, remain elusive for the viewer inasmuch as they are all avoided, evaded and polished away by using the technique of summary captions at the end of the film.

After all, this is, for the most part, a comedy. There are, of course, those moments where reality strikes with its sharpened dart. When Bela is seen through the small window of his cell door after being admitted to the hospital for his addiction, it is straight out of a horror film. When Ed and Kathy have a meeting of the mind and heart in the "Tunnel of Horrors", it transcends comedy. When Ed meets Orson Welles in a bar following his frustrated explosion with the Baptists, it winds up as an uplifting experience. Because, despite perhaps not having his head screwed on completely straight, Ed was a man who followed his own vision and saw his world through rose-colored glasses. This definitely comes across in the film.

Martin Landau received a well-deserved Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of Bela Lugosi, but the refinement of Johnny Depp's performance seems to have confounded most critics. It is all to easy to remark upon the method of speaking he adapted for the role or the seemingly superficial slick performance he gives, but all of this misses the point. Depp proves how adept he is through his ability and agility to adapt different mannerisms of Wood, the man the film is about. And all of this helps any perceptive eye to recognize what is going on inside the man. No matter which disaster strikes, Wood continues keeping up both a good front as well as a rear guard, so that no one around him becomes distressed and the picture always get finished on his continuous path to eventually realizing his dream. Only when tragedies occur and must needs be faced do we get a glimpse of the real man who is at the helm whenever a true friend is needed. All of this turns him into a real and sympathetic character for the viewer, despite all the mayhem and madness going on around him. And Depp does a fine job.

I only have one question concerning the film: How is it possible that AMPAS didn't wind up with a film like this on the final list of nominees for Best Picture? Didn't anyone realize?

What more can I say? Angora, anyone?

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett