Yesterday, this column reviewed “My Week with Marilyn,” which is about a film production and is set in the 1950s. Another movie about the film business in the 1950s is “Ed Wood.” Although both movies are based on true stories, “Ed Wood” offers a glimpse into a particularly wacky director’s approach to movie making.
“Ed Wood” tells the story of a young director (played by Johnny Depp) who loves movies and is desperate to make them. But he does not approach any aspect of creating them conventionally. His approach to finding material, financing his projects, casting and creating them is outlandish, at best. A relentlessly enthusiastic transvestite, he is attracted to off-beat stories with sexual content. Consequently, he struggles to find someone willing to hire him. However, he continues to meet people, all individuals with their own foibles, who allow him to have some semblance of a career as a movie maker. It starts when he meets an aging, drug-addicted star, Bela Lugosi (played by Martin Landau). They become friends and when Ed can cast him in a movie, he is hired to direct “Glen or Glenda.” After its release, “Glen or Glenda” becomes very poorly received and Ed’s reputation in the official film-making community is ruined. But he does not allow this to deter him.
“Ed Wood” tells a fascinating story, and the fact that it is based on a real film maker adds to its impact. Even in the 1950s, the lure of Hollywood was enough to motivate many outside the industry to support even a weak filmmaker. The last movie he makes (in the film), “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” is financed by a church.
Director Tim Burton filmed “Ed Wood” in black-and-white, and it looks great. Also, it helps recreate the feel movies and television shows from the 1950s.
Johnny Depp is excellent in the lead role. He imbues Ed with relentless spirit and embraces the transsexual scenes with gusto and feeling. Martin Landau is equally good as Bela. He is unrecognizable with his makeup and accent. His performance won an Academy Award. Another strong performance is by Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Ed’s long-suffering girlfriend.
Viewers interested in movie history will enjoy “Ed Wood,” and it is also a great choice for fans of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.