Tuesday, August 30, 2005

From the DVD Panache Library: 'Ed Wood'

One of my recent dips into The DVD Panache Library produced 'Ed Wood,' which I had recently picked up after nearly two years of delays from the studios. Won't you join me in a look at one of the more underappreciated works of the 90s? Please?

Watching 'Ed Wood,' it still amazes me that this movie was even made. Even though it had a great cast and a popular director, it was virtually guaranteed to do poorly at the box office since it was made in black and white about a person few knew anything about. But because of this, 'Ed Wood' will age gracefully thanks to Tim Burton's storytelling ability and one of Johnny Depp's best roles.

'Ed Wood' is of course a biopic of the title character, who gained fame posthumously as the alleged worst director of all time. Burton's lense shows the viewer that although his films lacked proper budgets, and arguably quality, Wood was a tireless worker who went to great lengths to see his visions on the screen.

Being shot in black and white gives 'Ed Wood' an advantage over other period biopics, giving it an air of authenticity and making its characters into near carbon copies of their real-life counterparts (Martin Landau's Bela Lugosi especially). The black and white direction to me acts like another character in the film, showing the old days of Hollywood and what gutter budget directors like Wood could get away with.

Even though Burton's film pays particular attention to his character's vices (Lugosi's morphine addiction, Wood's crossdressing), it never seems like he is trying to tear them down. Rather it creates sympathy in Lugosi's case and gives a window into how eclectic and brave Wood really was.

Burton made the smart decision of focusing his film on a key period in Wood's life, specifically the director's entry into Hollywood and the production behind a few of his most well-known, and reviled, films. In Depp, Burton found an actor more than capable of displaying Wood's unshakable confidence and his giddiness behind (and in front of) the camera. Depp said he based part of his character on Ronald Reagan, and it's easy to see, as Wood seems to roll every avalanche of bad news off his back with another smile.

But 'Ed Wood' is at its best when Burton pokes fun at the title character and the Z-budget movie industry as a whole. The best example of this is during the filming of 'The Atomic Bride' when Wood films two successive scenes of characters essentially just passing through a hallway for no reason ('He really wants to get through that door!') before the studio boss comes to inform Wood that another one of his checks bounced. Or during the octopus scene when Wood responds to a question with 'I've got 25 scenes to film tonight!'

The long-awaited DVD of 'Ed Wood' features an entertaining ensemble commentary which reveals that the decision to film in B&W came well into pre-production. Also included is a semi-entertaining collection of behind the scenes footage as well as an interesting look at the theremin, the unique instrument used to make most of the score.

1 comment:

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