Slumpy - Right-On Film Reviews

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Ed Wood (1994)

In 7 words or less: You wouldn't, but Ed Wood would.

What's it all About? Ed Wood became known posthumously as the "worst director of all time" (which I think is a little harsh) and this is Tim Burton's stylised portrayal of Wood's early years as a Hollywood crapman, through to kitsch crapman extraordinaire, and his career pinnacle with Plan 9 From Outer Space. 

Best bits? Martin Landau, as Bela Lugosi, is amazing. He brings a great eerie atmosphere, like he's a real vampire that's somehow jobbing as an actor - he's always in evening dress, and it's amazing to see a performance that's so over the top without being about Landau at all. You really do buy into it being Bela Lugosi thesping himself silly - I had NO idea it was Landau and had to look it up afterwards! 

Also, it's a Tim Burton film, so there are some givens - the design/lighting/production values are all amazing, especially in Lugosi's creepy house. Johnny Depp is solid as a rock with a wicked leading turn, as always.

But for me the best bit was just the story - it's TOTALLY barmy. Towards the end, as they're working on Plan 9 (originally called Grave Robbers from Outer Space, until the Christian financiers asked them to change it), you start to see such a bizarre story unfold. Horror celebrity "Vampira" lost her job fronting a horror film night on TV just prior to the shoot, so Wood approached her about being in the film. In need of money, she agreed, but refused to talk in it. Even more insanely, Bela Lugosi died BEFORE they started shooting, and his shots are absolutely random stock footage of him, interspersed with shots of a local chiropractor Tom Mason, who looked "a bit like Lugosi",  holding a cape in front of his face.

While I was watching this, I was thinking "Come on Burton, this is all a bit too much! Surely not" so I put on Plan 9... for five minutes. Bloody Hell! It was TRUE! Totally hilarious shots of someone who's definitely not Lugosi, holding a cape in front of his face and walking around a room. It REALLY made me happy to see how amazingly cack Plan 9 is.

Did it make you think thoughts? It's Burton. Obviously Burton is great, but his schtick is really cliched, especially with Depp doing a kooky lead. I was really expecting Helena Bonham Carter to jump out of a wardrobe and do a cockney cackle. But he's very warm to the real nutters in this film, and the tone so easily could have been really harsh, so I won't moan too much. The whole thing is pretty positive and fun. All the actors in Burton's story look awesomely like the actual Plan 9 cast, and watching Ed Wood is like seeing a great "making of" or DVD extra. Hmm, hang on... Maybe that's not a compliment!

This intro from "Russel Grant of the 50's" Criswell made me think deep thoughts about the future too. Luckily it won't happen until the future, whenever the hell that is.

Would you watch it again? Plan 9 - probably! But Ed Wood - hmmm, it was good, but I'll leave it alone for now. Too much of Johnny Depp in drag with no front teeth does strange things to a man.

Rating (out of 100%): Ed Wood - 70% Plan 9 - A zillion percent for joyous crapness, but only to be dipped into. In fact, just watch the youtube clip.
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