Ed Wood (1994): United States – directed by Tim Burton
Rated R by the MPAA – contains some bad language and Johnny Depp in an angora sweater
Ed Wood is the story of Edward D. Wood, Jr., the worst director of all time. A title screen at the end points out that he was voted the worst director ever. Even now, fifty years later, the only person to come close to challenging him is Uwe Boll. In any case, this movie is Tim Burton’s take on the career of Ed Wood (as played by Johnny Depp) and his friendship with Bela Lugosi (played by an Oscar winning Martin Landau.)
We follow Ed as he and his girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker) struggle to make it in Hollywood. They also struggle to stay together, a feat that becomes increasingly difficult to achieve after Ed confesses his love of wearing women’s clothes. Ed gets a break when a B-movie producer needs a director for a feature about a man getting a sex change. Ed changes the script to make it the story of his life and the producer gives in and lets him make it. The film is Glen or Glenda, in which he played an angora-loving man. The film progresses as he struggles to get funding for another film, which turns out to be Plan 9 From Outer Space.
I really liked the movie watching it this time around. Not only that, it inspired me greatly. Here we have an absolute hack, a man with apparently great charisma and nothing else, who was able to get people to give him money to make films. Then he thought that every shot and set and monologue was absolutely perfect. That unerring belief that his work was perfect is what sets him apart from everyone else. I doubt anyone will ever be able to match his level of ineptitude. But at the same time he holds dinner parties where he pitches his movies, gets Vampira (and her boobs) to appear in one of them, talks to a wealthy butcher-shop owner dude and grabs his money. Ed Wood, a total hack, did all these things. It’s inspiring, simply inspiring. If he can do it, why can’t we?
The movie on its own is quite good. It’s very funny at times, a little bit sad, and beautifully shot in black and white. Johnny Depp is amazing, as is Martin Landau as the tragic Bela Lugosi. Besides being a quality movie, though not quite perfect (it has to necessarily skip over significant chunks of time, which isn’t a huge problem) it had extra special meaning for me this time as I try to figure out how to do what he did. Also, watching them make classics like Bride of the Monster made me excited to explore more of his body of work (besides the soft-core porn he wrote toward the end of his career.) Ed Wood is worth watching on its own, and for that reason I’d recommend it to anyone interested in bad movies, good movies, or just the making of movies in general.