Ed Wood

Ed Wood is a drama comedy about the life of the worst film director in Hollywood. The film is shot entirely in black and white and charts the bizarre career of writer, actor, director and producer, not to mention transvestite Ed Wood. A close friend of the great Bela Lugosi and with a strange angora fetish the story of the charismatic Ed is nothing if not interesting.

Ed and Bela practice Dracula´s hand

Ed has a vision, a vision of his greatness as a filmmaker. He sees Orson Welles as his only equal and aspires to the same acclaim with his first effort Glen or Glenda as Orson received for Citizen Kane. Sadly, though he has an overabundance of enthusiasm and a persuasive nature, Ed has absolutely no talent when it comes to producing films.

Ed (Johnny Depp) lives with his girlfriend Dolores Fuller (Sarah Jessica Parker) in LA and while struggling to get his film career off the ground he has a chance encounter with Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau), the original Dracula. The two strike up a friendship and when Ed discovers Bela has not worked in four years he vows to put him back in pictures. The fact he has Bela committed allows him to get a movie job and he makes the deeply personal Glen or Glenda, inspired by his own secret love of wearing women´s clothing.

The movie is a total disaster, everyone hates it especially Ed´s girlfriend Dolores who is also shocked to find out why her clothes have been disappearing. She breaks up with Ed, the movie distributor wants to kill him and Bela is descending into ever worse mental condition due to his drug addiction. Despite all this Ed is determined and you have to admire his drive in the face of such adversity.

The acting is thoroughly excellent, special mention must go to Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, this is a role which won him a best supporting actor Oscar and he really deserved it. He is incredibly convincing as Lugosi and turns in a really thoughtful and touching performance. Depp is slightly more tongue in cheek as Ed and gives a very sympathetic portrayal which keeps you rooting for him throughout. The rest of the cast features some great names such as Bill Murray as the confused Bunny Breckinridge and Patricia Arquette as Kathy.

Ed is watched by his backers from the church

The direction is superb and Tim Burton brings his usual distinctive stamp to this film giving everything a slightly caricatured realer than real feel. The movie is shot in moody black and white and this has a tremendous impact, it´s hard to imagine the film working so well in colour.

The next film Ed makes needs to find a budget from somewhere as the studio won´t back him any longer and so he turns to private investment. His entourage of strange friends continues to grow in no small part due to his magnetic personality. He succeeds in producing more films, with his most famous work Plan 9 From Outer Space funded by the church. The trouble is the films are very poor, he never takes more than one shot at a scene, even if there are glaring errors in it, every take ends with Ed shouting "Perfect"!

Despite the poor reviews Ed continues producing films and strikes up a new relationship with Kathy, a girl he met at the hospital while visiting Bela. As Lugosi fades from his life and this world Kathy becomes a new source of support for him and she accepts him for who he is. The film stops short of following Ed´s descent into alcoholism and early death, these are resigned to postscripts, and instead it chooses to end on a happier note in Ed´s life.

The script is excellent and this is a very interesting tale full of incredible characters that provide an intriguing mix held together it seems by a genuine love of Ed. The story strikes a good balance between drama and comedy, quirky in places but down to earth in others and the end result is a very entertaining two hours.

The most gripping thread in the story is the tragic downfall of Lugosi, the once proud and famous Dracula with the most piercing eyes in Hollywood has become an out of work drug addict, unable to cope and very lonely. Landaus performance is so impressive it has to be seen to be believed he brings a great deal of affection and emotion to the role and you simply cannot help wishing that Lugosi could somehow turn it all around or that Ed could turn it around for him, but this is real life and the best Ed can do is give Bela some comfort and happiness in his last few days.

This is a great film, as usual real life provides the best characters and Ed´s life was full of some of the strangest people to ever grace the planet. He achieved the immortality which he craved but he achieved it by being really bad at what he did and this makes for a bittersweet tale.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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