Ed Wood (1994)

“Movies were his passion. Women were his inspiration. Angora sweaters were his weakness.” Some have called him delusional, some have called him iconoclastic and some have simply called him the “worst director of all time.” Directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp in the title role, Ed Wood humorously traces the career of a man who pursued his own eclectic cinematic vision, which resulted in such B-movie, non-budget classics as Night of the Ghouls, Glen or Glenda?, Orgy of the Dead and of course the flick that has gone down in history as the worst film of all time, Plan 9 from Outer Space. Ed Wood definitely makes it clear that Wood was one strange cat. For instance, he directed his “masterpiece,” Plan 9, in drag—decked out in a blonde wig and angora sweater. As an aspiring filmmaker, Wood managed to assemble an entourage of some of the strangest odballs and misfits ever to grace the silver screen, including former screen legend Bela Lugosi (by the time he collaborated with Ed he was a corpse-like, full-blown junkie), Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson, TV personality Vampira and psychic Criswell. As usual, Depp turns in a solid performance as the main character, capturing all of the madness of Wood’s delusional existence. However, it is Martin Landau as Lugosi who inevitably steals the show. The performance seems to leap straight out of the pages of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (“His face came back into focus unbearably sharp and clear, burning yellow brand of junk searing the grey haunch of a million screaming junkies…”). Landau took home an Academy Award for his efforts. Wood himself died in obscurity in 1978 but he has ironically become immortal through his inept, pathetic but ultimately entertaining flicks. Favorite scene: Ed storms off the set of Plan 9 from Outer Space (still dressed as a woman) and enters the Brown Derby for a drink. He sees Orson Welles (Vincent D’Onofrio) sitting all alone, introduces himself and the two “auteurs” have an entertaining bitch session complaining about the lack of creative control they have over their respective films (for Welles Touch of Evil, for Wood, Plan 9). At one point in the conversation, Welles remarks, “Visions are worth fighting for. Why spend your life making someone else’s dreams?” The greatest and the worst actually discovering they have a lot in common! Nice touch. I also liked the filming of Bride of the Monster as a deadly tired Lugosi battles a huge fake rubber octopus (“…someone forgot the octopus motor!”). The excellent cast includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Lisa Marie, Jeffrey Jones, Bill Murray (as “Bunny Breckinridge”) and George “The Animal” Steele. By the way, Wood actually claimed to have stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War II dressed in bra and panties under his uniform.

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