Ed Wood

Tim Burton

BY James KeastPublished Nov 1, 2004

Tim Burton's best film was also his least successful, financially. After all, it's a black and white bio-pic of the man considered the worst director in film history, who also happens to be a cross-dresser — no surprise that it didn't find an audience. But in the ensuing decade, interest in Ed Wood has grown, acclaim for Johnny Depp has caught up with his talent and admiration for Burton's Ed Wood has risen as well. This beautifully photographed and lovingly constructed document hinges on the relationship between two performers: Depp's Ed Wood, an enthusiastic puppy of a film buff whose joy far outstrips his vision or sense, and Martin Landau as Bela Legosi, the aging film star whose career is resurrected through his relationship with Wood. Landau received an Oscar for his performance, but if they were given in pairs, Depp would be right there with him — each is so integral to the performance of the other it's impossible to imagine anyone else in the roles. What comes across most clearly in Burton's vision (adapted from a screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewki) is Ed Wood's enthusiasm for being a filmmaker. Sure, the famed director of "the worst movie ever made," Plan 9 From Outer Space, lacked the technical skill or even the self-awareness to make better movies, but what Burton is trying to say — and maybe convince himself of as well — is that Ed Wood was an artist. After all, while there are thousands of incompetent films made every year (Wood was no exception in the world of B pictures), his was a singular vision. An Ed Wood movie to this day looks like it couldn't have been made by anyone else. His personal issues — most prominently displayed in his cross-dressing first film Glen or Glenda — were his own and so were his films. What remains odd about Ed Wood — and subsequently about this long-delayed reissue — is the complete absence of the bio-pic's subject, or his work. There is no Ed Wood work anywhere to be found on this now single-disc (originally planned as a double) reissue. It's almost certainly a rights issue, but after a while, watching people talk about Ed Wood becomes a little Beckett-esque. The more one learns about Tim Burton's vision of his movie, the more one craves some primary source material from the man himself. That's not to say that featurettes about Martin Landau's characterisation or Tom Duffield's production design aren't worthy additions, but it all becomes a little bit of smoke and mirrors, obfuscating the man at the centre of all this attention. Plus: commentary by cast and crew, deleted scenes, featurettes on theremin, more. (Hollywood/Touchstone/Buena Vista)

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