Dir: Tim Burton, 1994
Ed Wood is a fascinating figure. Often labelled “the worst director of all time”, Wood was responsible for such celluloid atrocities like Glen Or Glenda and the notorious Plan 9 From Outer Space, recognised as the worst film of all time.
But Wood just had a passion for films. He didn’t see the need for constant retakes. Shot on very, VERY, low budgets, his movies were filled with the cheapest effects that were constructed using anything the effects guys could get their hands on. Actors, frequently, had to wear their own clothes for the costumes.
Despite the monikers Wood has earned, his films are just pure entertainment, which is all Wood wanted. The tags attached to him and his career are very unfair and need re-evaluating.
Along with his passion for making movies, he also held another, secret, one…he liked to dress in women’s clothes; Angora sweaters to be precise.
Burton’s biopic could, easily, have placed too much focus on this aspect of his life and ran the risk of exploiting his fetish.
Thankfully, the director of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice has the sense to emphasise the life and career of Wood, celebrating his idiosyncrasies and jolly persona.
As Edward D. Wood. Jr, Johnny Depp is excellent. Portraying the man as heterosexual, yet with a touch of flamboyance, Depp, perfectly, walks the thin line between overt camp and slight femininity.
Filmed in black and white, Burton directs this in the same manner and style as one of Wood’s films; slightly over the top with a touch of corn and Ed Wood works so much better for it.
A very high calibre cast, director Burton is able to coax terrific performances out of his stars. The usually-annoying Sarah Jessica Parker performs fantastically as Dolores Fuller, Wood’s girlfriend and actress in his films.
Horrified and confused by her boyfriend’s predilections for wearing her clothes, with anger fuelling the emotions at being cast aside for another actress in the films, Parker convincingly portrays a woman torn through conflicting feelings.
Martin Landau is the erstwhile superstar of Universal’s Dracula, Bela Lugosi. Thanks to special effects guru, Rick Baker, Landau eerily resembles the morphine addicted Hungarian actor. Perfecting the accent, Landau does a sterling job of the bitter actor, resentful of the limelight his old co-star, Boris Karloff, receives. Performing as the drug addled and twisted actor, now washed up through years of addiction, Landau is spot on and hits the bullseye every time.
Surprisingly, it’s Bill Murray that is the weak point and lets the film down. As the openly gay Bunny Breckenridge, Murray feigns an effeminate voice and camp mannerisms that he can’t pull off successfully. Trying to be effette, he’s got the wrong voice and isn’t believable as Wood’s sex change desiring friend. His portrayal is so unrealistic it looks like what it is; a straight man pretending to be gay.
But, that’s just one quibble. Burton’s attention to detail is astounding and deserves a special mention. Comparing the recreations that Burton has shot for the film to Wood’s original, is award winning. Aside from the odd little change for dramatic effect, they are a near perfect facsimile, right down to the clothes and postures.
Ed Wood is a bang on target, immensely enjoyable biopic of a misunderstood man and his misunderstood films.