Ed Wood

Ed Wood (1994)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Bill Murray, Jeffrey Jones
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Trailer

Tim Burton’s loving tribute to cult-trash director Edward D. Wood Jr. is finally available on DVD. The film tells the story of Ed (Johnny Depp) an aspiring film enthusiast who would do anything to get a chance to make movies. While he has no talent at all it seems, he nonetheless manages to convince and drive people by his sheer charisma and passion. When he meets aging horror icon Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) on day, he immediately befriends the drug-addicted actor and uses his name to open a few doors. Soon the two are making some of the worst- yet memorable – films in Hollywood history, including the extraordinary “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”

I don’t have many words for Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” other than that it is a wonderful and fascinating film full of great moments, a good sense of humor and some incredibly acting. This is Burton at his best. Martin Landau’s Oscar-winning performance as Lugosi is frighteningly real and heartfelt, while Johnny Depp’s radiance takes in viewers whenever he’s on the screen.

The DVD features an anamorphic widescreen transfer of the movie in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The presentation is enhanced for 16×9 TV sets and absolutely free of blemishes or defects. Not a speckle can be found in the picture, making this black and white presentation an incredibly pleasant experience. Whether he’s trying to create the realistic images of Hollywood during the 50s or recreating the flat-looking images of Ed Wood’s actual films, the presentation always makes sure the contrast and gray shades look simply perfect. No edge-enhancement mars the picture giving it a very sharp and detailed, natural-looking quality. The compression is also without flaws and no artifacts are evident.

A 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track supplements the presentation, that is well produced and mimics the 50s era soundtracks to perfection. Howard Shore made liberal use of the Theremin as well as musical styles and patterns form the 50s to give this score authenticity and the payoff is enormous. From the first frames of the mortuary in the rain to the closing frames, “Ed Wood” oozes 50s flair, and the music has a lot to do with it. Dialogues are very clear and always understandable in this track that also offers good frequency response and a wide dynamic range.

To complement the film and its intentions the DVD also contains some great bonus materials, such as a <$commentary,commentary track> featuring Tim Burton, Martin Landau, and other crew members as they all discuss the production. It is a wonderfully detailed and informative commentary that adds more than just a bit of insight into the world of Ed Wood, his movies, as well as this production.

Better yet, you will find featurettes on various subjects on the DVD, such as "Let’s Shoot This F#*%@r!" a behind-the-scenes look at the production with a lot of candid footage. It is great to see Burton on the set discussing scenes with the actors, or seeing them prepare for their scenes.
Also included is a featurette on the theremin the infamous musical instrument that created the wailing sound in many science fiction movies of the 50s. Its origins are discussed here and we also get to see a musician play the unconventional instrument in front of the camera, which is definitely something to behold.

“Making Bela” is a featurette with interviews by Martin Landau and SFX guru Rick Baker, who designed the makeup for the part, as they recall how they both approached the task of bringing Bela Lugosi to life. Again it is a fascinating look at how the dedication of these people goes the extra mile to not only create a shallow illusion, but to make sure it has the depth to convince on all levels. They both certainly lived up to that and both deservedly won Academy Awards for their efforts on this film. And I still find Landau’s transformation into the Hungarian character actor simply stunning after all these years.

"Pie Plates Over Hollywood" is a very exciting featurette that looks at the production design of the film and allows designer Tom Duffield to talk in-depth about his approach to the film. It certainly is no easy task to bring back to life 50s Americana but even I was surprised to see to what lengths the production team went to make sure everything looks and feels just right.

The release is rounded out by a handful of deleted scenes of varying importance, the “Theremin” music video and the movie’s trailer

While not everyone will agree, to me “Ed Wood” is one of Tim Burton’s best films, a real tribute to 50s SciFi and some of the people that made it happen. The performances he coaxed out of his actors, the whole design of conception of the movie, its look and atmosphere is all simply perfect, making “Ed Wood” a fascinating viewing for any fan of 50s horror and science fiction films. Ed Wood himself may have been the worst director of all times but after seeing this film you will have to agree that there was still something about him and his movies that was unique… and still is. Tim Burton managed to capture that essence of bad filmmaking, turned it into a forte and put it into a captivating production. I love this film and I love this DVD!