Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Denise Di Novi & Tim Burton
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
Director of Photograpy Stefan Czapsky
Music by Howard Shore
Cast: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Jeffrey Jones & Bill Murray
1994/127 mins/Color/5.1 Dolby Digital
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Touchstone Home Entertainment DVD
Ed Wood had to wait a long time to receive any notoriety for his films. Actually, it didn't come until after his death. And we have had to wait a long time for the Tim Burton biopic on the late director, ED WOOD. Touchstone Home Entertainment twice announced that the 1994 was coming to DVD, and twice the title was cancelled (for reasons which have never been made clear). But now, the ED WOOD DVD is finally here and the movie has held up very well. But what about the extra features?
Johnny Depp stars in ED WOOD as the infamous writer/director of such films as PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. The film doesn't attempt to tell the entire life story of Wood, but only examines a small (but significant) portion of it. As the film opens, Ed Wood is a struggling playwright and a "gofer" at a movie studio. He has a devoted group of friends (including Bunny Breckenridge (Bill Murray), Paul Marco (Max Casella) and Conrad Brooks (Brent Hinkley) and a live-in girlfriend, Dolores Fuller (Sarah Jessica Parker). And while Ed is generally a positive guy, he longs to make movies and often takes stock footage from the studio where he works.
Ed's world changes when he meets horror star Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) on the street one day. They strike up a conversation, which turns into a friendship. Ed is able to use Lugosi as leverage to make his first film (GLEN OR GLENDA) and a working relationship is born. Despite the fact that Ed and Dolores develop some serious relationship issues due to the fact that Ed is a transvestite, Ed plows on with his films with Bela. However, Ed's friendship and loyalty to Bela is challenged when he learns that the old man is a drug addict.
ED WOOD is that rare film that works on many levels, and despite that fact that it contains some truly weird ideas, it may be Tim Burton's most accessible movie. First of all, the movie is a great biopic. Sure, some liberties are taken with Wood's story (such as the fact that he made two other movies during the period of time covered in the film) and the movie only focuses on a fraction of his life, but it nonetheless does a great job of making this seemingly pitiful man's life seem very interesting.
But, more importantly, even if you've never heard of Ed Wood, the movie is still very engrossing and entertaining. (In fact, those who aren't familiar with Wood and his films may find much of the movie to be very far-fetched.) While Burton certainly brings all of Wood's nutty antics to the screen, as well as the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of his movies, he puts the characters first, and that's what makes this film work. We get to know Ed and his friends very well and Ed's infectious enthusiasm easily works its way into the audience. This is due in no small part to the incredible performance by Johnny Depp, who truly throws himself into the role and literally transforms before our eyes. The same is true for Oscar winner Martin Landua who, with a little help from Rick Baker, becomes Bela Lugosi. The subject matter and the fact that the film is in black & white may scare off many viewers, but those who check out ED WOOD will find a funny and heartfelt film which explores the life of a man who was always fully satisfied with his films...even if the tombstones did fall over.
ED WOOD finally arrives on DVD courtesy of Touchstone Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, and the black & white photography really stands out in this transfer. The picture shows only a hint of grain, although there are very minor defects from the source material evident, such as small scratches. The image shows very little artifacting and only a small amount of haloes around the characters. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, as are the surround sound effects which kick in during the montage sequences and with the theater audience noise.
The DVD carries a handful of extras, most of which are disappointing. Apparently the only change from the cancelled ED WOOD DVD release which still managed to make its way to some retailers is the omission of the cross-dressing featurette "When Carol Met Larry". Otherwise, everything is reportedly the same. We start with an audio commentary by Director Tim Burton, Actor Martin Landau, Co-writer Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander, Director of Photography Stefan Czapsky, and Costume Designer Colleen Atwood. As appealing at this may sound, the commentary is made up of snippets which were recorded separately and then edited together (save for Karaszewski and Alexander, who are speaking together). The result is a commentary in which the parts are much better than the whole. Burton will say something interesting here and Landau will say something there, but many of the comments are superfluous and dull. "Let's Shoot this F#*%@r" (14 minutes) is simply behind-the-scenes video with on-set footage of Burton directing. There are no interviews and no one speaks directly to the camera, save for Depp's in-drag intro and outro. The music of the film is discussed in "The Theremin" (7 minutes) in which composer Howard Shore and Theremin expert Mark Segal discuss this unusual instrument, but don't really give us any in-depth information about it. In "Making Bela" (8 minutes), Martin Landau talks about developing the role, while make-up effects wizard Rick Baker demonstrates how Landau's transformation was carried out. Production designer Tom Duffield talks about the look of ED WOOD in "Pie Plates Over Hollywood" (14 minutes), where he shows many sketches and photos from his private scrapbook. The DVD contains 5 deleted scenes (with a PLAY ALL feature) with run about 7 minutes and contain some nice moments, including one with Tor Johnson's family. The extras are rounded out by a music video (a song from the film's score with choreography by Toni Basil) and the trailer for ED WOOD, presented full-frame.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©
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