Ed Wood (1924-1978) is generally regarded as the single worst film maker to emerge from Hollywood. This is not really true, for there were and are aplenty worse. But one thing has always set Wood above the pack, and that was his own unshakable faith in his talent. Unfortunately, the faith was misplaced and the talent was nonexistent--and although this Tim Burton film takes a slew of liberties with the facts of Wood's life and career, it does a remarkable job of capturing them as Wood likely saw them through the filter of his own outrageous ego.
The film has two tremendous assets: the performers and its visual style. Johnny Depp leads the cast in the title role, and it is a virtuoso performance, for he entices us to like a man whose self-blindness would normally lead an audience to reject him out of hand; the performance is incredibly witty, wildly over the top, and yet it contains just enough pathos to allow us to relate to Wood on a human level. But the real stunner in the cast is Martin Landau, who picked up a Best Supporting Academy Award for his performance as Bela Lugosi, a legendary actor who was very much a forgotten star (not to mention morphine addict) by the time Wood befriended him in the early 1950s.
As with Wood himself, the film plays fast and loose with the facts of Lugosi's life, but it nonetheless captures something very essential about both Lugosi and the Hollywood that destroyed him, something very elemental that transcends the weird comedy of the piece. And Landau gives the performance of his career; you truly believe that this is Lugosi before you, a strange but appealing mixture of faltering humanity and arrogance desperate for an audience now lost to him. Other memorable performances include Bill Murray as the inept and very la-dee-dah actor Bunny Breckinridge; Jeffrey Jones as The Amazing Criswell, popular "psychic" and occasional Wood actor; Lisa Marie as television's "Vampira;" and Sarah Jessica Parker as Wood's fast wife and occasional actress Dolores Fuller. Indeed, there isn't a false note in the entire cast right down to the bit players and extras.
In terms of visual style, Tim Burton nails the very look of an Ed Wood film in glittering black and white--but working with a budget that Wood never dreamed of he merges it with a series of classic Hollywood idioms that lift the style out of Wood's unfortunately flat style and into the realm of high art. In both look and direction, I strongly feel that this is Burton's single finest film to date.
If the film has a flaw, it is that at times it recreates the flatness of an Ed Wood film a bit too precisely over too long a period--and the result can feel slightly dragged. And it is also a film that will register most clearly with those who have actually seen the films on which the movie focuses, so it may not appeal to the uninitiated. But for those who have the right eye, it is a remarkable film--and a film that desperately needs the DVD release that has been so repeatedly postponed. Wickedly funny, unexpectedly touching, extremely memorable... and strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on November 12, 2003
Why make a movie about the man universally regarded as the worst filmmaker of all time?
Well, simply because the word "worst" does not even adequately describe Ed Wood. He was the absolute, undisputable worst, unrivalled in his mindless disregard for decent production values, coherent storytelling, credible scriptwriting, and competent acting. If he were just "the worst," he would be no more than a mere footnote in cinematic history. But by single-handedly redefining the standards of ineptitude, Wood achieved that rare status of lovable loser. I mean, really, you have to admire someone who approaches his craft with so much grit and determination and so little talent.
It takes an A-grade cast to bring to life this story of Z-grade moviemaking. And we have one. Johnny Depp delivers a performance of fire in the title role, giving us a lot of insight into the character that Ed Wood was. Martin Landau (in an Oscar-winning performance) doesn't just portray Bela Lugosi. By golly, he becomes Lugosi, almost convincing us that the horror movie legend was resurrected for this project. Sarah Jessica Parker, Jeffrey Jones, Bill Murray, George "The Animal" Steele, and Lisa Marie comprise the ensemble cast that portrays a motley crew of rank amateurs. Think about it, these people had to re-enact the shooting of Wood's movies, looking serious but coming out funny, and doing all that with a straight face.Try that, folks.
Appreciate too, the film's most memorable line. At the premiere night of Plan 9 From Outer Space, Wood declares with unqualified conviction: "This is it. This is the one I'll be remembered for."
Whether you're a fan of bad movies or not, you simply have to see Ed Wood. It's not often that a film comes along that makes you like a man who so admirably succeeded at being a failure.
on November 25, 2003
This is my favorite movie for so many reasons, that I don't have the coherence of thought to express them all. So, here are my top ten reasons why you should buy Ed Wood (right now!):
10. Filmed in gorgeous Black and White
9. An Oscar-winning performance by Martin Landau
8. A "should have won an Oscar" performance by Johnny Depp
7. A gigantic fake rubber octopus
5. Johnny Depp wearing multiple dresses.
4. Black booties
3. Angora sweaters
2. It's the best film ever made about what movies can mean to us
1. There's not one bad line, or false note, or miscast performance. It's perfect!
on January 7, 2003
At last, the whole (shocking!) story of Edward D. Wood, Jr. I enjoyed everything, from the acting down to the musical score (fans of "Dracula" will notice that movie's opening theme plays in several scenes). Johnny Depp is a hoot as Ed Wood, and Martin Landau absolutely shines as Bela Lugosi---he certainly deserved the Ocsar he won for the role.
The film is by turns hilarious and sad. There are loads of great one-liners ("Yes, but if you take that ... and put a star in it, then you've got something!") and other endearingly funny moments. Landau's portrayal of Lugosi provides most of the pathos, showing us the tragic decline of a man who tried his best to work until the very end.
"Filmmaking is not about the little details. It's all about the big picture!" Tim Burton has done a wonderul job with both in this movie.
on November 23, 2001
Well folks, I thought long and hard on what film to mark my 200th review. I thought of this one. One of my all time favorite movies. Hopefully, it will be yours as well. Director Tim Burton really outdoes himself with this brilliant film about the worst filmmaker ever. Johnny Depp plays Ed Wood, a man so in love with Hollywood and filmmaking, that he doesn't see that he has no talent for it. But, in his own mind, he thought he was really making great cinematic art. He was a cross dresser who was not gay. He had a history of wearing pink angora sweaters. He would even sometimes wear them to work!. Ed Wood's films have become famous because of their horribly incompetent filmmaking. Bad actors, cheap sets and effects, and so on. But Good old Ed, god bless his heart, thought he was making 'Gone With The Wind' every time. Martin Landau is on hand delivering a jaw droppingly brilliant performance of old horror star Bela Lugosi. His performance is incredible. One of the best performances I've ever seen. He deserved ten Oscars instead of one. Bill Murray gives one of his best performances ever as Bunny Breckinridge, an actor of Ed's looking to having a sex change. Patricia Arquette and Sarah Jessica Parker play the women in Ed's life. Landau's own daughter, Juliet Landau, has a part. Burton's girlfriend Lisa Marie plays Vampira. The film was shot in glorious black and white, and it was a brilliant move on Burton's part. It really adds to the feel of the time and the movies Ed made. Depp is great. He is definitley one of the best actors of our generation. His interpretation of Wood is upbeat and hilarious. Even in the bad times, he still shows Ed having a sunny outlook. This is one great film that did not get great box office returns. What a travesty. Some people just don't understand things. I'm telling you right now : this is a great movie to be treasured. A genuine film classic.
on November 5, 2003
Touchstone has released the technical details on the director's cut for one of my favorite movies ever (that's right, "Director's Cut")! Here they are:
- Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation
- English Dolby Digital 5.1 Track
- Audio Commentary with Tim Burton, Martin Landau and Technical Crew
- Let's Shoot This! (Making Of) Documentary
- The Theremin (Film Score) Featurette
- Making Bela (Make-Up) Featurette
- When Carol Met Larry (Cross Dressing) Featurette
- Pie Plates Over Hollywood (Visual World of Ed Wood) Featurette
- Original Music Video Co-Directed By Tim Burton
- Original Theatrical Trailer
As I've already stated, this is probably one of my favorite films ever made and after a long wait, it's reassuring to see they're finally going to release Tim Burton's masterpiece on DVD. Why us folks in the states have had to wait so long is beyond me.
This movie is hilarious and inspiring and in fact inspired me to want to become a film-maker. The black and white is perfect for this film, Martin Landua and Johnny Depp give great performances, some scenes are just flat-out hilarious.
I encourage everybody to go out and grab this movie when it comes out (or do like me, and pre-order it). I've yet to meet a person who has watched this film and not like it!
on March 18, 2005
"Ed Wood" is such a gloriously brilliant film. It's the perfect meshing of the unique talents of director Tim Burton and an almost surreal Hollywood story that probably needed to be told. Fact is indeed stranger than fiction, and "Ed Wood" embraces this lovable (and seedy) story of the underbelly of 1950s filmmaking.
Most of what you see in "Ed Wood" is true, and if Burton bends the tale for his own sensibilities, well, I doubt Mr. Wood is turning in his grave. Edward D. Wood, Jr. has long been considered the worst filmmaker in history. His resume is stocked with horror/sci-fi films from the late 50s so inept they cause unstoppable laughing fits. Churning out "Glen or Glenda," "Bride of the Monster" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space," Ed Wood created Drive-In turkeys replete with staggeringly horrid dialog, cardboard sets and atrocious acting. These outrageous films are applauded today by bad-movie connoisseurs.
Burton, whose love of old horror films is well documented, was the perfect man to make this movie. The casting choices, most notably Johnny Depp as Mr. Wood, Martin Landau as a decrepit Bela Lugosi and Bill Murray as John Breckinridge, are inspired. There's some bittersweet elements in "Ed Wood," as our obsessively positive protagonist recruits one Hollywood castoff after another, forming the most unlikely repertory company in history. A drug-addicted Lugosi, wrestler Tor Johnson, a recently fired Vampira and other misfits attempt to create films from shoestring budgets, bonding due to their own failures in life.
Burton, filming in black and white with a great eye for detail, has produced a heartfelt anthem to not only the wonder of filmmaking, but to lost souls wishing to create but lacking the gift to do so. This odd troupe may be a gang of talentless hacks, but for a brief moment their club breeds kinship.
"Ed Wood" is a tribute to sad failures within an unforgiving industry. As we see Landau's Lugosi standing in filthy water preparing to battle a rubber octopus, we realize how tragic his life has become. This one-time superstar has reached a surreal low, sinking into a Gothic Norma Desmond mire. It's a haunting snapshot, as profound as a Shakespeare tragedy. The souls of "Ed Wood" died struggling with dark addictions, as forgotten as paupers. Burton has given them their fairy tale of glory.
on January 17, 2000
I saw "Ed Wood" in 1995 with my girlfriend. It was actually our first movie date, and for a while, it seemed like a totally wrong move. I didn't really know it then, but she doesn't like films in general, and she hated "Ed Wood" in particular.
I can understand this. The movie has very little of what is popular with the general moviegoer, the one who goes to see a movie for the rush and excitement of it . No car chases, no explosions, no gunfights, in fact very little action at all. It is also one of the funniest and most touching films ever made, if you're even slightly into movie history.
Edward D. Wood wanted nothing more than to make movies, and he was an incurable optimist with a strong belief in his own genius. The problem was that he completely lacked any kind of talent, and the result were star turkeys like Plan 9 from outer Space, Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster and Night of the Ghouls.
It would have been very easy to make a pure comedy out of Wood's life, to ridicule him and present him like some sort of nitwit with delusions of grandeur. But Tim Burton has not fallen into this trap. Instead, seemingly with much love for the source material, he portrays Ed Wood as a good and gentle man intent of following his own desires even when everyone (including his girlfriend and numerous theatre and movie critics) would suggest otherwise; much the way that Wood by all accounts WAS in real life.
Johnny Depp turns in one of his best performances as the energetic and unflappable Wood, while Martin Landau is nothing short of sensational as the down-and-out horror-star Bela Lugosi (Surely the most deserving Academy Award-winning performance I've ever seen) that Wood befriends. The friendship between Wood and Lugosi is some of the most touching material in this movie, and the scene where Wood received message that Lugosi had died, and the subsequential burial where reporters were privately ridiculing Lugosi, were easily the saddest moments in the film.
Being a film buff with a soft spot for old movies, and an even softer spot for old turkeys, I loved this film. It's my third favorite (behind "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Casablanca"), and I can't recommend it enough.
And I must have had some redeeming values after all; my girlfriend married me anyway. Though she still hates "Ed Wood".
Ed Wood, Jr. was a man obsessed with making movies and wearing Angora sweaters. It's hard to believe that a black and white film made about a 1950's unsuccessful, cross-dressing filmmaker could be so enjoyable.
Ed Wood (played masterfully by Johnny Depp) was passionate about filmmaking, but sadly lacked any talent in that area. Through sheer sweat, determination and lots of equally nutty friends, he got his films distributed in spite of their cheesy quality.
Wood's swan song was to hire Bela Lagosi to star in one of his films... the last performance of Lagosi's career. Martin Landau won a much deserved best supporting actor Oscar for his flawless portrayal of Lagosi in this film.
If your jaw is not hanging open during the film, it's because your doubled over, laughing your lungs out. The timing is right on cue and the acting superb. Knowing that the story is true makes it that much more funny.
If you need a good laugh, this movie is just the key... and it's definitely watchable more than once.
on May 8, 2004
First of all, I will tell you that I was raised in Hollywood in the 1950s and our upstairs neighbor really was the "Great Criswell" depicted in this film.. so I should be more critical than anyone concerning this movie's authenticity, and it is a perfect depiction in my view. This masterpiece by film maker Tim Burton is not only a sensitive, funny and wonderous portrait of Ed Wood, Jr. and his pals, but also a loving tribute to the spirit of the last "Great Days of Old Hollywood". The performances by Johnny Depp and the supporting cast is perfection. Visually, this appropriately black and white film takes on the look of those low budget films Ed and many others were making at the time. Even the opening credits AND Howard Shore's INCREDIBLE music score feels accurate to the time and is a joy to hear.
I was very honored when staying at the LeParc Hotel in West Hollywood in early March of this year and happened to be in the lobby when I spotted Martin Landau. I seized the opportunity to walk over and tell Mr. Landau how "fabulous" he was in his role as the late Bela Lugosi..... he smiled and kindly said "Thank you so very much!!"... and his performance IS INCREDIBLE... enough that he won the Oscar for his performance in this film. Landau's characterization of Lugosi alone will be worth the price of the DVD when Disney decides to release it (soon I hope!!).
This wonderful film HAS BEEN on my personal "TOP 10 Greatest Movies of All Time" list since I first saw it 10 years ago. A modern masterpiece!!