Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ed Wood - Visions Are Worth Fighting For

Ed Wood
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
Starring Johnny Depp, Martin Landau Sarah Jessica Parker

Rated R - Approx 127 Min
Touchstone Pictures

- Movies were his passion. Women were his inspiration. Angora sweaters were his weakness.

- When it came to making bad movies, Ed Wood was the best.

Alternate Titles:

"Visions are worth fighting for. Why spend your life making someone else's dreams?"
                                                                               -Orson Welles

How to even begin this one?  Well, for starters, Ed Wood is one of my all time favorite films.  It ranks in the Top 5 of all time.  As someone who's always been fascinated with movies and how movies were made (especially in the days of old), this was a fun "peek behind the curtain" of low budget filmmaking.  To many, Ed Wood is synonymous with bad films. Wood's magnum opus,  Plan 9 From Outer Space is commonly referred to as the WORST film ever made.  I say poppycock!

Wood tries to convince Weiss to let him direct.....

Wood meets Lugosi for the first time

Edward D Wood Jr. may have not had a ton of technical know-how and he may not have been the most eloquent writer, the most prolific director or most successful producer, but he had something that many people in the film industry don't:  a DEEP love for films.  For him, it wasn't about making money.  It wasn't about the glitz and glamour.  For him, it was all about telling his stories and hopefully moving audiences with his tales.

Tim Burton's biopic is largely based on the book Nightmare of Ecstasy:  The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr. by Rudoph Grey.  A book, which in turn was compiled of interviews with the people who knew Ed in life.  I have not read the book yet, but it's on my list of "To-Do's"!

Landau's portrayal of Lugosi is downright supernatural!

Ed confesses his transvestite ways to Delores

The film starts just before Wood's first break writing and directing Glen or Glenda for George Weiss at Screen Classics.  He is originally turned down for the job, despite confessing to Weiss about his cross dressing tendencies.  It's not until Wood befriends Bela Lugosi (convincing him to appear in the film) that Ed is able to convince Weiss to give him the job, netting Lugosi for only a thousand dollars.

Needless to say, things don't go very well for Wood after the film is completed.  The distributors think it's absolute junk and Weiss threatens to kill him if he ever see's him again (in real life, George Weiss has fond memories of Wood).  Things are looking pretty down for Ed until his girlfriend (and star of Glen or Glenda) Delores Fuller gives him the idea to make the film outside the studio system.  Thus begins the true meat and potatoes (I think) and real fun parts of the movie.

Lugosi's comedy TV spot does not go well

Criswell informs Ed that there's no such thing as psychics

Watching Ed working his infectious magic on those around him as he manages to convince person after person to help him fund and create his films is a sight to behold.  Truly, Johnny Depp managed to encapsulate the essence of Wood perfectly.  The people the Ed surrounds himself with are a strange group of characters that are just as weird, wild and lovable as Ed himself and the cast playing these characters is no less stellar.

Martin Landau's performance as Bela Lugosi is BEYOND pitch perfect.  So much so that he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  It was almost as if Bela himself had possessed him because Landau virtually vanishes leaving only Lugosi on screen.  Bill Murray's portrayal of Bunny Breckinridge is also top notch.  Murray is truly underrated as an actor, in my opinion.  Jeffrey Jones perfectly emulates Criswell, Lisa Marie is fantastic as Vampira and George "The Animal" Steele is eerily exacting in his portrayal of Tor Johnson! Vincent D'Onofrio's cameo as Orson Welles is also stellar.

Ed directs Loretta King, Tor and Lugosi on Bride of the Monster

Lugosi rolling around in the much with a rubber octopus as 4am

This movie is very personal to me.  I have watched it so many times that I've lost count.  It's my go-to film when I'm sick, feeling down or when one of my nasty anxiety attacks hit.  I love getting lost in Wood's zany world and when I get back, everything just seems better.

Ed at the premier of Bride of the Monster

No sir, no gore here.  But you know what, I don't even miss it.

No nudity either.  Though we do see Sarah Jessica Parker in her bra.  We also see Johnny Depp wearing lingerie.  So there's something for everyone!  Er....

No monsters here, kids.  Though we do get a fun look at the Killer Octopus from Bride of the Monster!  Plus during the Plan 9 shooting sequences there's the monsters in the film within the film!

Lugosi's funeral

Many people are quick to jump on the bandwagon and bash Ed Wood's films (as well as many others).  It's perfectly fine to not like a film, but something that I've truly embraced over the past year or so is the notion that there are no truly "bad" films.  Simply films that I like and films that I don't.  There are some films that are technically more proficient than others, but at the end of the day every film ever made deserves some respect.  Every film made has SOMEONE who worked on it and gave it their all.  Especially back in the Golden Age of cinema.  People put their hearts and souls into their films.  Maybe not the Hollywood execs...they're in it for the money.....but the crews, the actors, the directors.....they give it their all and they believe in their films.  So who am I to tear down a film because I don't like it?  I won't go into another rant on the current state of elitism in the horror genre in this day and age, don't worry.  What I will say is this:  Watch this movie.  Allow yourself to get lost in the crazy, zany world of Ed Wood and see if you don't come out the other side a little different.

Murray as Bunny Breckinridge 



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