Edward Scissorhands

Review by Guido Henkel

Edward Scissorhands  (1990)
20th Century Fox

Length:        105 mins.
Rated:          PG-13
Format:       Anamorphic Widescreen · 1.85:1
Languages:English, French
Subtitles:    English, Spanish
Extras:        2 Commentary Tracks
                     Featurette
                     Interviews
                     Trailers
                     Concept Art

The name Tim Burton has always been a guarantor for visionary movie making and a very strong visually driven direction. This style makes him a very distinguishable director but at the same time makes him very unique as well. No one makes movies like Tim Burton and no one would even bother to make films the way he does, because most would be afraid by the oftentimes radical approach the imaginative director is taking to create his films. Whether it is "Beetlejuice," "Batman," "A Nightmare Before Christmas," "Mars Attacks!," "Sleepy Hollow" or most likely his upcoming interpretation of the "Planet Of The Apes", Burton always gives the material a spin that is unique and interesting, no matter how banal the subject matter may appear at first. With "Edward Scissorhands" he created a romantic drama with serious undertones - very serious and dark, indeed, to the point that the film’s opening almost plays like a classic horror film.

In an ominous castle a professor (Vincent Price in his last role) is creating life in the best Frankenstein manner. He has created Edward (Johnny Depp), a grotesque looking young man with a very gentle soul. From his prototype stages, Edward still has scissors as hands and just as the mad scientist works to replace the scissors with real hands he is struck by a heart attack and dies in front of Edward’s eyes.

As almost the same time an Avon Lady (Dianne Wiest) is making her round across the small town and decides to stop by the castle to see if anyone there could use a little make-over. Exploring the dark and looming castle she finds the fearsome Edward hiding in a dark corner. Unimpressed by his obvious disfigurement she soothes the pale young man and even tries to give him a better teint with one of her skincare products. Before long she realizes that Edward is all by himself in the castle and she takes him to stay with her and her family.

There, her daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) is scared of the queer young man, while her husband Bill (Alan Arkin) tries to hide his discomfort. But before long they all realize that inside Edward a warm heart is beating and that he has very unique talents. Extremely skillful with his hands he makes a great coiffeur and landscaper and soon the entire neighborhood of the quaint small town is spending time with Edward.

But not everyone shares these sympathies and some bad guys are determined to abuse the naive and innocent Edward. Suddenly he becomes part of a burglary and ends up in jail. Rumors spread like wildfire and suddenly once again, everyone is staying away from the lonely young man. Only Kim has faith. A romantic bond has grown between Edward and her and when the going gets rough she’s the only one to support Edward as the town flocks in on its prey.

The most striking aspect of "Edward Scissorhands" is its visual style. From the character of Edward, to the looming castle and the peculiar small town Suburbia, everything is stylized to extremes. The neighborhoods are all painted in bright pastel colors with houses that are as uniform as the attitudes of its inhabitants, and Edwards landscape artistry only furthers the impression of a completely artificial world. At the same time the castle interiors and exteriors have a dark gothic quality about themselves that could have come right out of a classic horror movie. It is a very charming look the film has and a very romantically simplistic one that works perfectly with the movie. Combined with the bizarre characters and odd attitudes, Tim Burton creates a fantastic world that is far removed from our real world - or is it?

Does the film fall flat of a narrative with all its focus on the visuals? Certainly not, although, since this is a rather traditional outsider story - told in a very different way - one could argue the plot is rather predictable. The presentation, the pacing and emotional impact created by the film is just as powerful and makes "Edward Scissorhands" a beautifully enchanting modern day fairy tale with a social subtext. Among all of Burton’s movies I always found the romanticism in this particular film the most magnetic, especially in conjunction with the beautiful music by Danny Elfman.


20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is now celebrating the movie’s 10th Anniversary with this special edition DVD and the movie has been completely remastered for this release. Presented in a 16x9 enhanced widescreen version in the movie’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the film is beautifully clear on this DVD and only emphasizes the dreamlike qualities of the movie. With colors that bold stand out, the visual presentation of the movie on this DVD is a sheer pleasure, with its subtle shades of pastel, the looming deep blacks and the strong highlights. Especially the deep blacks give the image depth and shadows that are finely detailed. Without bleeding or noise, the DVD brings out the very best in the film’s mesmerizing photography, especially the greens of Edward’s sculptures or the blue hues of the skies.
There is no notable film grain evident in the film’s presentation and the transfer’s excellent definition is immediately striking. No signs of edge-enhancement are visible anywhere and with the great color reproduction it creates a very pleasing, film-like look for the movie. The compression is entirely without artifacts, leaving the high level of detail of the transfer fully intact.

The DVD contains a 4.0 Dolby Digital audio track that creates a very wide sound stage. Although no dedicated LFE channel is included in the mix, the track is rich and with a very good lower end that gives plenty of dimension to Danny Elfman’s beautiful score. The highs are crystal clear and without any distortion, finely reproducing the chiming sounds and choirs that make up much of the film’s score. Surrounds are well integrated, especially for the music, and keep the viewer immersed in this world of stylized suburbia. Dialogues are always clear and kept at a level at which they are always very understandable. This is a beautiful surround presentation and for the most part you won’t even notice that lack of the 5th channel or the missing bass extension, as the track is nonetheless very rich and spatial. A regular Dolby Surround track n English and French is also part of the release, but either is not nearly as engrossing. The English track has a very compact quality and appears compressed, while the French track seriously lacks the low ends, creating a rather sharp sounding presentation.

The DVD contains two separate commentary tracks. The first one with director Tim Burton, is an informative audio commentary that covers a lot of ground in terms of his intentions and execution of the film’s production. With a lot of valuable information and behind-the-scenes details, as well as his deeper understanding for the characters, the commentary track is very good starting point for everyone interested in getting the bigger picture of "Edward Scissorhands." Although Burton is sharing a wealth of information there are occasional pauses during which he doesn’t have much to say, before long he usually picks up his comments again to fill the viewer in on some interesting tidbits from the production.

The second commentary track on the disc belongs to composer Danny Elfman and his score. In many parts Elfman lets his score speak for itself, which has been isolated in a stereo mix for this track. Whenever a piece is finished, he then begins explaining what he tried to achieve with each of the themes and motifs he used. Given Elfman’s very unique style and orchestration, this information becomes even more valuable for any fan of his work. He also explains how certain themes developed and how the outlines were for each of the scenes before he started writing the music for them. All in all, this is a very exciting and engrossing commentary track for everyone interested to hear and learn a little more about the art of scoring movies.

You can also find a short featurette on this DVD, running approximately 10 minutes. It features interviews with the cast and crew on the set during the shoot of the movie. It is a promotional piece that takes viewers behind the scenes. As a special treat it also contains one of the last on-camera interviews of Vincent Price. Designed to introduced the movie to audiences and to get them intrigued in Tim Burton’s unique vision, the featurette is a good piece to see how the film was initially promoted and introduced to the world. The same goes for the movie’s trailers that can be found on the disc. Two theatrical trailers and a TV Spot, as well as two Spanish TV Spots are part of the release. I found it most interesting how the visual quality of these trailers makes it even more obvious how important the correct presentation of the movie with its deep blacks and the saturated colors, is to achieve the desired effect. The pale and overexposed trailers hardly do justice to the beauty Burton is capturing in his film.
Additionally to these features there is a selection if interview segments by cast and crew members, each running for about one minute, and a small gallery of concept art.

Ever since I first saw "Edward Scissorhands" I fell in love with this movie. The music, the visuals, the story and the characters create a mixture that I find irresistible. This DVD of the movie from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment give fans now the chance to get even more out of this beautiful film. With a staggering presentation and the two separate commentary tracks you are in for a treat, learning and experiencing this movie perhaps in a completely new way. This delightful fairy tale deserved a pristine presentation - and that is exactly what it received!

    

August 11, 2000

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