Ed Wood (1994)/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Ed Wood (1994)
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They say that opportunities come once in a lifetime. Strangely enough this philosophy applies to today’s movie, Ed Wood. Even though the classic exploitation/drive-in/grindhouse era spans from the 20’s to early 90’s, the GCDB has had some post-93 works on here (Inside Deep Throat, Baadasssss!). Plus at the time I’m writing this it’s Autism Awareness Month. So what better way to let my autistic freak flag fly than to write on a movie from my hero: Tim Burton. But that bit of arm chair psychology is for another day, onto the other filmmaking idol of mine.

So we have Burton leading man, Johnny Depp taking center stage as the eponymous cult filmmaker. He put his Angora-laden soul to the test once he films Glen or Glenda. What started as a biopic on pioneering trans woman Christine Jorgensen morphs into a transvestite tale where Wood essentially confesses to the world that he likes to wear women’s clothing. During this we’re introduced to Wood’s hero, Bela Lugosi. The once “Dracula” superstar is now seen as morphine junkie has-been. But that doesn’t stop our dear friend from giving the former Dr. Wendegast some work

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Cut to the second act of the story which ironically is centered on the 2nd flick, Bride of The Monster. Here Ed and Bela give life to the story of a mad scientist taking revenge on the world by way of making an atomic race of supermen. Unfortunately things get dark where Lugosi goes to rehab and Wood’s girlfriend Dolores leaves him because she thinks he’s a freak for doing stuff like this. The bridge to the third act only goes sour as a heart attack does away with our fallen icon that is Bela Lugosi. This leaves Wood in a rut not knowing where to go until….

… Grave Robbers from Outer Space! Well that was the originally title until being deemed too blasphemous by the religious kooks funding Wood’s project. After some bickering and cross-dressing, the filmmaker stops by a bar and meets another hero of his - the great Orson Welles. One motivational speech later and Wood picks himself back up and makes this sucker come back to life. Our finale comes when the newly titled Plan 9 From Outer Space premieres and the crowd immediately goes wild. Wood and his new love, Kathy O’Hara then drive off to Vegas to get married and possibly stay afloat in the movie business. If only history were as kind to the real Ed Wood, but that’s a topic for later on in this review.

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To say that the performances are extraordinary would be an understatement. They’re works of art in itself for these fine players really know how to slip into their roles. Your forget that it’s Martin Landau and instead believe the real Bela Lugosi has come back to tell his story. Lisa Marie absolutely kills as the iconic Vampira and George “The Animal” Steele slips into Tor Johnson like a glove (or the infamous Halloween mask depending on your preference). Essentially the acting interjects more sympathy to feel for these characters.

That’s a thing I admire about this and Tim Burton in general. Through his movies (Beetlejuice, Batman Returns and my all-time favorite Edward Scissorhands) he gives a voice to the rebels that don’t fit in with society. It also makes you realize that Edward D. Wood Jr, was perhaps a real-life Tim Burton character. He was cast out from the glamorous Hollywood highlife and branded as “the worst filmmaker” of all time. Yet behind all the years of ridicule and mean-spirited jokes (screw you, Michael Medved) lies a man with heart wanting to be accepted by society.

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The closest to a glaring thing people mention about this movie is historical accuracy. Aside from skipping Wood’s crime flicks (Jail Bait and The Violent Years), there’s Bela Lugosi swearing and Dolores Fuller being seen as a square. I kinda get the Bela controversy, but I always assumed Fuller was covering up, especially when you read “Nightmares in Ecstasy” (of which “Ed Wood” was based on). She admits that not only could she not handle his cross-dressing, but she also “wanted a man that was all man”. Then a decade later, she walked it back blaming her breakup on his alcoholism. Hmmmm does the word “revisionist” come to mind, Dory?

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All that aside, “Ed Wood” is a touching tribute to a giant who just wanted to be loved. The story of this man ironically in a way is a fitting parallel to grind house culture in general. Each seems to be what happens when the stiff upper lips of white-picket fence America misunderstand the grass being greener on the other side. That lawn is just pink from the Angora sweaters with a touch of blood plus black and white stripes. The final scene with the meeting between Orson Welles and Eddy sums it all up. “Visions are worth fighting for.”

I give it 5 fake gravestones wrapped in fake octopus arms out of 5; check it out!

Review by Ken Hegarty

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