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Ed Wood - Special Edition  (1994)

 

Rating: R

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: October 19, 2004
Review posted: October 27, 2004

 

Reviewed by Gregory L. Amato

 

“Worst film you ever saw?  Well my next one will be better.  Hello?  Hello?” -Edward D. Wood, Jr.

 

SYNOPSIS

 

Ed Wood (Johnny Depp, Secret Window, Pirates of the Caribbean) the worst director of all time, seeks to realize his dreams of making movies his own way.  He befriends a washed-up Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau, Rounders) among a slew of other eccentrics who end up working for him, including a massive Swedish wrestler, a goth icon, and a fortune teller with a less than stellar record of success.  Oh, and Wood is also a transvestite.  Landau won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for his role as the aged Bela Lugosi.

 

CRITIQUE

 

Ed Wood’s films were beyond bad, and way beyond campy.  Voted the worst director of all time in 1980 by Michael and Harry Medved in their book “The Golden Turkey Awards,” his film Plan 9 from Outer Space was voted the worst film ever made.  Some disagree about these distinctions given Wood’s, ahem, consistent style, and the filmmakers approach his biopic with the same humorous passion that Wood put into his own films.

 

It’s hard not to identify with Wood at least a little.  He may be weird, naďve, and unreliable, but he’s following his dreams with an admirable tenacity even though he faces rejection around every corner.  Without making a mockery of the man or his life, director Tim Burton (Big Fish) still manages to keep the two hour-plus film light on its toes.  Whether Bela Lugosi did or did not swear as much as he is portrayed to in Ed Wood, it’s still a great line when he calls Boris Karloff a “limey cocksucker.”

 

Landau’s performance is so convincing that I sometimes found myself forgetting it was the actor and not Lugosi himself.  Depp also does an excellent job, but Landau’s scene where he repeats Lugosi’s famous Dracula line, “I never drink . . . wine . . .” is unforgettable.

 

For as many films as Wood had written and directed though, we really only get a glimpse of three, spanning less than ten years of his career.  Glen or Glenda details Woods’ explorations of cross-dressing, with a bizarre part for Lugosi to play.  Bride of the Monster includes some interesting improvisation with a rubber octopus, and Plan 9 from Outer Space features Lugosi’s final role (part of which was played by Dr. Tom Mason, whose face was covered).

 

At Plan 9’s premier, Wood feels as though he’s at the pinnacle of his career, and that it will be Plan 9 that he is remembered for.  Though Plan 9 is considered the “height” of his awful career, he was remembered for more than that.  Since being voted the worst director of all time, Wood’s work is much more popular now than when he was alive.

 

THE VIDEO

 

Ed Wood is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen.  The film doesn’t suffer from being shot in black and white, as contrast levels nicely define everything from costumes to sets.  The picture is clear and sharp, without so many noticeable halos.

 

THE AUDIO

 

Ed Wood is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound.  All the nuances of Landau’s accent are perfectly clear, and composer Howard Shore did a great job on the film’s score to give it just the right mood.

 

EXTRAS

 

Numerous extras are included in the special edition disc.  First off is a music video (3:29)to the tune of composer Howard Shore’s music.  The busty Lisa Marie does some sexy dancing for us, interspersed with audio and video from the film itself.

 

Let’s Shoot this F#*%@r! (13:55) gives behind the scenes looks at the shooting of two of the scenes in the film:  The graveyard scene from Plan 9 and the octopus scene from Bride of the Monster.  Johnny Depp hosts the featurette in drag, and we get to see Tim Burton at work.

 

The special instrument used in Shore’s score is given its due in The Theremin (7:25).  We get a bit of background on it, but the best part is the demonstration.  Yes, this is the thing that makes those other-worldly tones during the beginning of the film.

 

Making Bela (8:15) is commentary from Martin Landau and makeup artist Rick Baker on how they recreated Bela Lugosi.  Landau’s approach in trying to play a man with a Hungarian accent who was trying not to have a Hungarian accent is interesting, and by all accounts he pulled it off.  Baker’s work should not be underrated however, as he did an excellent job of changing Landau’s face to look like Lugosi’s.  No surprise that he was on the team (also including Ve Neill and Yolanda Toussieng) that won Ed Wood an Oscar for best makeup.

 

Pie Plates Over Hollywood (13:51) is about the production design of the film, including everything from the wallpapers to the props used.  Production designer Tom Duffield has a lot to say about what was apparently a very intense project for him.

 

Some deleted scenes (7:41) are included, most notably a great scene between Bela and Ed and a musical scene with Bill Murray singing “Que Sera Sera” with a mariachi band.

 

The most substantial extra is the audio commentary by—hold your breath—Tim Burton, Martin Landau, co-writers Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander, director of photography Stefan Czapsky, and costume designer Colleen Atwood.  Obviously there is little quiet time with so many people in the mix, and it seems like fewer commentators might have been better.  The most interesting commentary concerns the history of the characters in the film, including whether Bela Lugosi really acted the way he did in his old age.

 

The original theatrical trailer (2:18) is also included.

 

There is also one Easter Egg on the DVD:  In the extras menu, go to the Deleted Scenes section and highlight “Que Sera Sera.”  This will highlight a bolt of lightning that can be selected to show a two-minute scene between Wood and Lugosi.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

If a dramatic comedy biopic about a transvestite director of awful films in the 1950s sounds appealing, go for it.  It would be a stretch to say that Ed Wood has much mass appeal, but for those interested in old, extremely low-budget, schlock horror films, it’s a worthwhile biopic.  More than that, it’s an uplifting story about a man following doing what he believes in… even though he isn’t any good at it.

 

VERDICT: RECOMMENDED

 

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:: The Disc

 

:: Disc Ratings

 

THE MOVIE

8

THE VIDEO

8

THE AUDIO

9

THE EXTRAS

7

OVERALL

8

 

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