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
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