Thursday, 22 September 2011

Ed Wood (1994)

Fig. 1 "Ed Wood" Special Edition DVD Cover

From the very beginning, this film (directed by Tim Burton) takes a delight in mimicking the peculiar eccentricities of the films of Edward D Wood Jr, the man voted "Worst Director of All Time". This is obvious from the opening credits, where a sinister figure lying in a coffin informs the audience that the horror before them is all true, and based upon the memories of those who were there - this monologue is almost a direct quote from the opening of  one of Wood's best known films, "Plan 9 from Outer Space".

Plan 9 From Outer Space Part 1 (2009)

 Ed Wood (1994) Part 1/13 (2010)
However, while the film copies the language of Ed Wood films, it does so in a much more high-budget way; this is particularly noticeable in the opening credits, where the camera actually tracks through a graveyard filled with headstones inscribed with the credits, while in "Plan 9", the headstones are simply 2D paintings, on which the credits are superimposed.  Likewise, while the film is filmed in black and white (like Wood's own works), it uses modern high-quality film stock, without the graininess of genuine Wood films.  This is highlighted in a scene where Wood (Johnny Depp) watches the genuine last footage shot of Bella Lugosi.

Much of the film is taken up documenting the chaotic filming of Wood's films "Bride of the Monster" and "Plan 9 from Outer Space", with great attention being paid to accurately portraying the conditions of the shoots, from the theft of a rubber octopus prop to the infamously wobbly cardboard tombstones in one graveyard scene.  The effect is heightened by the almost uncanny resemblence of some of the cast to their real-life counterparts - Martin Landau is particularly good as the aged Bella Lugosi, whilst Vincent D'Onofrio is totally convincing as Orson Welles in the film's most blatant piece of fictionalisation [GA, 2011].

Overall, the film is a surprisingly respectful tribute to the work of a man who worked outside the establishment, and managed to make his own particular type of film despite all the obstacles in his path.  Whilst it is (probably rightly) accused of sugar-coating reality and airbrushing out the darker aspects of Wood's life, the film is held together by the relationship between Wood and Lugosi, as well as the warm portrayal of Wood's band of cinematic misfits.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1  "Ed Wood" Special Edition DVD Cover At: (Accessed on 22.09.2011)

Plan 9 From Outer Space Part 1 (2009) (Accessed on 21.09.2011)

Ed Wood (1994) Part 1/13 (2010) (Accessed on 21.09.2011)


Maslin, J (1994) Ed Wood (1994): Ode to a Director who Daredto be Dreadful In: The New York Times [Online] At: (Accessed on 21.09.2011)

GA (2011) Ed Wood (1994) In: TimeOut [Online] At:  (Accessed on 21.09.2011)

McCarthy, T (1994) Ed Wood  In: Variety [Online] At: (Accessed on 21.09.2011)

Ebert, R (1994) Ed Wood In: [Online] At: (Accessed on 21.09.2011)

1 comment:

  1. Nice review Daniel. I particularly like the clip comparison.