Film Highlight: Ed Wood

Johnny Depp as Edward D. Wood, Jr. and Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood (1994)
courtesy of Touchstone Pictures

Like director Edward D. Wood Jr.'s own odes to the outcast, Tim Burton's highly personal takes on genre have often been accused of narrative incomprehensibility. Which is to say that the critics who noted, sans irony, that Ed Wood (1994) has next to no "story" are missing the point. As Burton is wont to favor mood over plot, Ed Wood (with Johnny Depp in the title role) salutes the filmmaking process over filmmaking prowess. Endearingly, Wood's frantic one-take style ("Cut! That was perfect!") seems to stem less from budgetary concern than a desire to praise the loyal cast and crew members who became his surrogate family. Wood's "dad," then, was the aging, morphine-addicted Bela Lugosi, played by Martin Landau with such incredible authenticity and pathos that the film becomes as much a Lugosi biopic as an Ed Wood one. Not that any of the events here took place, necessarily, as Burton surrenders whatever historical truth might have been available in favor of a sweetly mythic approach—which, again, seems entirely appropriate. As Wood's beloved psychic Criswell would say, "Can you prove that it didn't happen?"

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