The October Fear Fest continues here at EYG with a movie that may not be specifically a horror movie, but a film that tells the story of the creation of horror movies… or horrible movies. I find it fascinating how the movies that are about the making of the worst movies of all time turn out to be so memorable and wonderful. We recently had The Disaster Artist, the amazing tale of the making of The Room with Tommy Wiseau and this film is Ed Wood, who made one of the worst films of all time in Plan 9 from Outer Space.
The fact is that these movies are so good because they are not about the actual movie they made, but because they focus on the characters that were involved in them, and Ed Wood features the story of the ever eccentric and always energetic Edward Wood Jr (Johnny Depp). A young director, inspired by Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, made movies his own way. Quick. Without a bunch of costly reshoots or second takes. And he filled the films with his friends.
One friend in particular was Bela Legosi (Martin Landau), the star of Universal Pictures’ Dracula. Legosi had fallen on hard times later in his life when he met Wood, who was a huge fan. Legosi was broke, addicted to morphine and living alone with his dogs. Wood did not see this in the former star. He saw the man he remembered and he did what he could to return Legosi to prominence.
The Oscar winning performance of Martin Landau as Bela Legosi is one of the best parts of Ed Wood. Landau completely engulfs the Dracula star that you would probably wonder if this was actually Legosi himself. The relationship between Legosi and Wood carries a chunk of this movie and every time Legosi called up Wood and said, “Help me, Eddie,” you get a lump in your throat.
Johnny Depp is so full of energy and brings a remarkable comedic performance as the cross-dressing director who was seemingly oblivious to his shortcomings as a director. As ridiculous as he could be, Depp brought such a humanity to Wood, a man who cared for the people around him and just wanted to create something wonderful.
The film is just as funny as it is touching. There are so many great scenes where you have to laugh. The baptism scene where Bunny (Bill Murray), in response to the question of “Will you reject Satan” says “Sure” is just a riot.
There are many great performances here besides the aforementioned Depp, Landau and Murray. Sarah Jessica Parker plays Ed Wood’s first girlfriend, a rotten woman who is really just in it for her own career. Vincent D’Onofrio is brilliant in a cameo as Wood’s inspiration Orson Welles. Professional wrestler George “The Animal” Steele plays Wood’s infamous actor Tor Johnson. Patricia Arquette plays Kathy, the woman who becomes the second Mrs. Wood and stays at the side of Ed under all circumstances. Their side plot of a love story is heart warming among the chaos surrounding them.
Directed by Tim Burton, Ed Wood is a love letter to the idea of film making, no matter how poorly those films are made. The film is packed full with amazing performances from the talented cast, led by the tragic life of Bela Legosi through the eyes of Martin Landau. This is one of my favorite performances from Johnny Depp as well.
The choice to film this biopic in black and white created such a perfect mood that the film carried through every scene. It was beautiful to watch and a joy to experience.
I was inspired to rewatch this after the Top 10 Show episode about Movies set in LA and I am very glad I did. I had not seen this in a long time, and I remembered liking it the first time, but now after this viewing, I find this to be a near masterpiece. It is so good that it has inspired me to go watch Plan 9 from Outer Space…and not just the RiffTrax version of it either. Now that is the power of a film.