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Ed Wood: Special Edition

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A
Video/Audio/Extras: A+/A/B

Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Based on the book by: Rudolph Grey
Produced by: Tim Burton and Denise Di Novi
Starring: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jeffrey Jones, Patricia Arquette, Lisa Marie
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it

Tim Burton's films have always been popular with the Goth crowd due to the main characters in his films always being outcasts with not that many friends. From Johnny Depp's scary Edward Scissorhands to even Batman before Joel Schumacher screwed up the franchise by bringing in Robin and Batgirl. Johnny Depp's second collaboration with Tim Burton, Ed Wood brought about a character that everyone could relate to, not just the Goths. An optimistic fellow (much like myself), Edward D. Wood, Jr. always overcame life despite the terrible plaudits brought upon him. The writers of the film, Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander were originally going to rip apart Wood much like the people who did so in real life, but when their debut screenplay, Problem Child ended up being a terrible kiddy film thanks to the constant studio interfering, they decided to make the film an homage. That idea brought in Tim Burton who loved watching Plan 9 From Outer Space and Bride of the Monster as a child. The project was filmed in black and white and in the end became Tim Burton's best film. How ironic that a film about an incompetent director ended up becoming so good.

Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) is a poor theatre director who moves to Hollywood to direct features. Along with his girlfriend, Dolores (Sarah Jessica Parker), and a bunch of his peculiar friends, he wants to be a success. He also meets his idol, Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau), who has become a washed-up drug addict. His first picture, Glen or Glenda (mostly inspired by Ed who is a transvestite) is a flop, but he is already planning for a come-back with Bride of the Monster. That movie also flops, but Ed is not done yet and continues to write different screenplays which get rejected and rejected by each studio that reads it. Each day, Lugosi becomes more and more sick and is soon put in the hospital. It is then that Ed attempts to create the film that he 'will be remembered for', Grave Robbers from Outer Space (which would later become the infamous Plan 9).

Tim Burton's direction is at its best in Ed Wood especially in scenes involving both Wood and Lugosi. That brings me to my next point involving Johnny Depp and Martin Landau's performances. Johnny Depp's performance as Ed was inspired by the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz and Casey Kasem and it shows in his work. Depp makes the famed director someone you can root for and not dislike. Martin Landau's turn as Bela Lugosi is perfect and he's got all the right characteristics from the thick Hungarian accent to the mouth movements. He got a very well-deserved Oscar nomination for his work in the film (I say nomination because I believe Samuel Jackson should have won that year for Pulp Fiction). Bill Murray and Jeffrey Jones also give magnificent performances as two of Ed's many quirky friends. The only bad performance comes from the always annoying Sarah Jessica Parker playing Dolores. Howard Shore taking over for Burton regular, Danny Elfman composes a creepy but wonderfully eery score which the real Wood would have loved and Tom Duffield's sets work well in the black and white, 50's look of the film. Ed Wood gets a well deserved "A" grade. In terms of DVD transfer, the black and white is perfectly done. It appears clearly on the screen without anything blending into the background. This is "A+" quality. The sound is also good with the spooky sound effects and rain being the only sound needed for this type of feature and earns it an "A" grade.

Despite this DVD release being postponed so that Touchstone could take out a short documentary which they didn't have the rights for, the extras are still bountiful. The first extra is an audio commentary which is obviously filmed separately. The participants are Tim Burton, Martin Landau, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, cinematographer Stefan Czapsky and costume designer Colleen Atwood. They provide great points on how each got involved in the production, writing the screenplay, the black-and-white photography, the makeup and the real Ed Wood. It would have been nice to have brought in Johnny Depp so that he could talk about his performance and the constant interfering of Lugosi saying the person's name before they begin talking is annoying. Overall, it's not a bad commentary.

Next are five deleted scenes, I had read the shooting script beforehand so I knew what happened in them, but it was interesting to see them on the screen and acted out by the stars of the film. They're fun but it's understandable why they were taken out. These are followed by four featurettes. "Let's Shoot This F#*%@r!" takes a look at a filming on the set with an hilarious comment from Depp about how this is his second film with Burton where he is playing a character called Edward. I always like watching scenes being filmed so this was great to see. "Making Bela" looks at the creation of Bela Lugosi with notes from mostly Martin Landau and the film's makeup artist, Rick Baker. It is also trenched with historical goodies about the real Lugosi and since I'm a huge fan of Baker's work, this was a great little documentary. "Pie Plates Over Hollywood" takes a look at the film's set and is probably the least interesting of the featurettes, but it's still nice to have on here. Finally, "The Theremin" takes a look at one of the instruments used in the film. I really like movie scores so this was fun to see.

Finally, the DVD ends off with the theatrical trailer and a strange music video with women dancing in a graveyard on cue with Howard Shore's music. As mentioned before, it's strange. Overall, the DVD presents really good special features, but it leaves you asking for two-hour documentaries on this film and the real Edward D. Wood, Jr. The extras get a "B" grade mainly because it left me wanting more. Still, it's better than nothing.

Despite the need for more extras, Ed Wood still makes a good idea for a purchase, especially if you're a fan of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. It's an excellent look at the life of a famously trashed director.

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