"Ed Wood: Special Edition"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ***** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Johnny Depp as ED WOOD
    Martin Landau as BELA LUGOSI
    Sarah Jessica Parker as DOLORES FULLER
    Patricia Arquette as KATHY O’HARA
    Jeffrey Jones as CRISWELL
    Lisa Marie as VAMPIRA
    George “The Animal” Steele as TOR JOHNSON

    Rated R
    Studio: Touchstone

    Directed by: Tim Burton
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Let’s not mince words. Ed Wood was an awful filmmaker. He was as awful of a filmmaker as Tim Burton is a brilliant filmmaker. But I do have to take issue with the popular moniker of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” being the “Worst Movie Ever Made.” There’s a lot of worse crap out there.

Don’t get me wrong. “Plan 9” is no picnic. It’s rough, disjointed and downright silly. But it is funny. God, is it funny! But even without its unintentional humor, it was a decent 1950s sci-fi flick. It was no “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” but neither were so many of its contemporaries. If anything, “Plan 9” is probably the worst watchable movie ever made. It’s warts make it fun. I’ve seen it nearly a dozen times myself, and it’s still fun.

“Ed Wood” tells the story of Wood in his heyday, when he was making films with the horror icon Bela Lugosi. For those who don’t know anything about Ed Wood, he was a director that existed below the radar in the 1950s. A cross dresser, Wood got his start with a failed cinematic adaptation of Christine Jorgenson’s sex change. Although the film was called “I Changed My Sex,” Wood made it about his own cross-dressing struggles and retitled it “Glen or Glenda.” Needless to say, it bombed.

The biggest claim to fame Wood had was Bela Lugosi as his key star. Martin Landau’s performance as Lugosi won him a much deserved Oscar. He managed to bring to light Lugosi’s challenges (like his 20-year morphine addiction) while making him completely lovable.

“Ed Wood” is easily the finest Tim Burton movie ever made. It is told with a lot of heart and a lot a reverence, not just for the real-life characters but for the era in which those movies were made. Burton uses archaic directorial styles to bring the audience back in time. By using sets and models in place of practical locations as well as wide shots in place of close-ups, the movie actually feels like a thing of the 50s.

Unfortunately, “Ed Wood” didn’t perform well in the theaters, but over the past ten years, it has become one of the classics of the 1990s. Now, after much anticipation and flip-flopping of release dates, Touchstone is releasing it as a special edition, complete with a trick-or-treat bag of extras.

A flock of deleted scenes are included, with most of them focusing on the lower points in Wood’s life. There’s also a behind-the-scenes featurette from the set ten years ago. Hosted by Johnny Depp decked out in Ed Wood angora, the “Let’s Shoot This F#*%@r!” featurette lets the viewer be a fly on the wall as several key scenes are shot.

Because the Lugosi make-up and the production design were characters in themselves, they are both featured in short documentaries on the DVD. “Making Bela” examines how Rick Baker transformed a very un-Lugosi Martin Landau into the Count himself. “Pie Plates Over Hollywood” focuses on the struggles that production designer Tom Duffield faced with shooting in black-and-white (which gave the film a phenomenal look but possible caused it to suffer at the box office) as well as making 1950s-era effects that were decent enough to look realistic but not so bad they looked sloppy.

Another featurette focuses on the use of the theremin (a Russian electronic instrument that makes those sci-fi woo-woo noises) in the soundtrack. While Ed Wood never used a theremin himself (probably because he could never afford one), composer Howard Shore used it very effectively in his haunting score.

In addition to a music video of the main title score, which features Lisa Marie gyrating about in her Vampira outfit, there’s also a well populated commentary track. Moderated by Landau’s Bela Lugosi, the commentary features director Tim Burton, actor Martin Landau, co-writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, director of photography Stefan Czapsky and costume designer Colleen Atwood.

The most amazing aspect of this movie is that the writing, directing and acting actually gets you rooting for Wood to make a bad movie. Any fan of Ed Wood’s schlock will know that “Plan 9 From Outer Space” was his opus, and its completion is the climax of the film.

Both hilarious and poignant, “Ed Wood” parades some of the most dysfunctional characters across the screen, and still leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s too bad that the real Ed Wood couldn’t have enjoyed his post-mortem honors. He seemed like a hell of a guy.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1) - Enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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