SCREENING #5: ED WOOD (1994) – 126 Min.


Tim Burton pays homage to “world’s worst” fringe filmmaker Edward D. Wood Jr., featuring some reenactments of Wood’s most infamous moments in film: GLEN OR GLENDA (1953), BRIDE OF THE MONSTER (1955), NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (1959) and PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959).

The film not only focuses on the artistic struggles of this director, but also sympathetically portrays his obsessions, his love life, and many of his unusual friends.

Martin Landau was awarded the Academy Award and the Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor for his role as the forgotten horror legend Bela Lugosi (“Dracula”, 1931). [The movie garnered its second Oscar for the Best Make-Up.] Wood is played by a very enthusiastic young Johnny Depp, and you can also enjoy Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette, Sarah Jessica Parker, Vincent D’Onofrio and other great character actors in this film.

Despite being critically acclaimed, this film is the first of Tim Burton’s legendary financial failures with only making back a third of its budget in the USA [the other ones are: “Corpse Bride”, “Dark Shadows”, “Frankenweenie”, “Big Fish” and worst of all “Mars Attacks!” which again interestingly is a different form of homage to Ed Wood!]. It also marks Burton’s first R-rated film.

For our course, this film marks a new beginning, and from now we will delve into more “modern” and adventurous forms of film production. It will be a break from the classics we have been watching so far, but despite being made in the 90’s, the films setting is the 50’s, and Burton choose to shoot it in B/W, probably aiming to look more “authentic”. It also will introduce you to a different type of film production away from the glamour of Golden Hollywood (despite those small production companies on “Poverty Row” being geographically relatively close to their big competitors).

Wood whose directorial efforts could be considered in the very best case as mixed pleasures, nowadays is admired by many for his strong independent spirit, being an “auteur” type of filmmaker, and having made with “Glen or Glenda” (1953) the world’s first “serious” film about transvestism and transsexualism. Many of his films are also “So Bad It’s Good” type of movies being very enjoyable for their cult audience. The University of Southern California is holding a yearly “Ed Wood Film Festival” in which students are competing to produce short films in Wood’s style. Wood’s films also have been shown in the TV program “Mystery Science Theater 3000″, and there exists even a new baptist group of “Woodites” who celebrate Ed Wood as their savior 🙂

IMDb link:


13 thoughts on “SCREENING #5: ED WOOD (1994) – 126 Min.

  1. It was a good experience to see B-movie like “Ed Wood”.
    I found a cultural difference between the old days and present; the difference in how a transvestite or the idea of a homosexual is perceived during the time period, 1950s. As one of modern people, it was surprising to see how Dolores reacts to Ed when he reveals his true identity as a transvestite. She is looking at him with disdainful eyes as if he is a monster or something. Apparently, she is disgusted to the way he really is. Now people are more open-minded toward these kinds of topics and there is more support; as reflected in this film, the concept of homosexuality was heavily discriminated and punished.

    One of the compelling elements in the movie is Ed’s unique personality as he does not interfere with the concepts of mainstream. I thought his passion and love toward films, enthusiasm and energy that he devotes for the film making are well portrayed in the movie.

    In the last scene, it is raining really hard on the day of the premier for “Plan9”. I was trying to figure out what is the meaning behind the heavy rain as opposed to his small success as a director. Since the last movie “Plan9” gets better reputation compared to previous ones, I was expecting it to be more like a happy ending.

    Throughout the movie, I found a sort of routine over the storyline. First, Ed is very confident about making a movie. He shoots only one take per scene in order to seek for actuality or reality. There are always turning points, where something bad happen such as not having enough budget to continue shooting a movie. At the wrap up party or premier, he gets a horrible reputation from people. Then he attempts to make a better movie next time and ends up making a crappy film again. I found it a little bit boring since it feels like the cycle is repeated over and over, but at the same time, it puts emphasis on his mentality to complete all the movies.

    I saw a lot of low angle shots throughout the movie, especially when Bela tries to conduct a double suicide with Ed. In addition to the low angle shots, the lighting and Dutch angle make the scene creepier and effectively draw viewer’s attentions.


  2. First of all, I would like to say that I was very surprised when knowing that the male lead is Johnny Depp since he looks completely different what he was young than what he looks like now. However, his incredible acting skill can be seen as Edward Wood in this film from his very young age.

    The movie presents the journey of Edward Wood, the young independent director, struggling in joining the film industry and the people he has met during the process. Edward is portrayed as a horrible movie maker due to the way he produces his works — he is eager, lack of passion, sense of art, and luck. He is not making art, but merely some works that are being shown on the big screen. There is no such thing as quality in the films he makes. However, surprisingly, he does create himself a new way to be successful. As what was discussed in the class, you either work really hard and produce a masterpiece in order to succeed, or being extremely terrible in order to be remembered. Ed Wood is no doubt the second one.

    It can be said that Johnny Depp had given this character a vivid personality. During the 19’s, although transvestites were unacceptable, Edward Wood did convince the public with his own way. He must have struggled with the situation of being a transvestite but having to hide the truth. He knows the pain and struggle better than anyone else because he is a part of it. That is why he is the best person to direct the film I Change My Sex!

    Still, I am profoundly impressed by the love-and-hate relationship between Ed Wood and the transvestites. Johnny Depp had perfectly described the pain and emotion through his profound acting skills.


  3. Ed Wood (1994) is an interesting movie. Eccentric in its own way, Tim Burton has made a good portrayal of the ‘Worst Director of all time’ in my opinion. He was also able to cast actors who closely resembles the real life characters. In addition, it includes cameos from actors who worked with Ed Wood on Plan 9 from Outer Space.

    I think having the film shot entirely in black and white is actually very effective. Since this is a biopic, I believe the black and white actually made me feel like I am actually watching Wood, and how he would be when he was still alive. As the main character, Ed Wood is a very interesting character. He works hard to get the films done, loves what he do and he never gives up. I would say he is also resourceful because he kept saving stock footage, thinking he might use it in the future.

    However, I don’t see myself watching this for another time. As much as other people like Ed Wood for his different style, I don’t find him good at all. I can’t even consider his art as experimental at all. In my opinion, he would be better as a film producer rather than a director.


  4. Ed Wood, directed by Tim Burton gives us insight into the life of the worst Director to ever grace Hollywood.
    Ed Wood, played by Johnny Depp comes across as a typical wanabee Director with a few screws loose. He was also an awful writer, actor and producer. What he lacked in filmmaking, he more than made up for in confidence, focus and panache. What we learn from filmmaking history, however, is that no matter the zeal one invests into their projects, a crappy idea will almost always result in a terrible production. The way in which Ed Wood was shot is typical of Tim Burton’s macabre style; emphasis on the dark occult that surrounded low-budget B and C movies of the later 1960s-80s. Ed Wood brings out the talents of some incredible actors, a part from the obvious Depp appeal we also get to see Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi struggle with his addiction on and off set. There’s also the darkly beautiful Lisa Marie as Vampira, hostess of the “Vampire Show” and later one of Ed Wood’s actors.
    Overall, although the film did not quite peak my interest, it was an interesting look into what can go wrong in Hollywood and Tim Burton’s style manages to engage the audience through to the very end.


  5. The first time I heard of Ed Wood, the “worst director of all time,” was during an April Fool’s Day marathon on one of the major network movie channels. It was a countdown of what they had considered the worst movies in history, including films by Uwe Boll and other infamously terrible directors. Not having anything else better to do… I still didn’t have the patience to sit through any of the films in their entirety, but I did have a morbid curiosity as to how bad they could get. The film at the #1 spot was Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” The host of the marathon admitted that the film was likely Ed Wood’s best film, although that didn’t mean much.

    Fast forward a few years, imagine my surprise when a friend of mine informed me of the fact that Tim Burton had made a movie about the director, with Johnny Depp starring as the man himself. I had to view the film myself, the concept behind the film had me interested. Considering the content, it had to be camp. So bad it’s good. It was indeed entertaining.

    Ed Wood was a sort of horror film for anyone who has ever considered becoming a film maker. Despite the fact that it was shot very much in the style of Ed Wood himself, it was incredibly well done. All of the actors performed their roles very entertainingly, especially Depp and Landau in their starring roles as Wood and Lugosi. That said, I do feel that the film spent too much time on Lugosi, and not enough time on the titular character himself.


  6. The screening of this movie definetly gave me a flashback of the trans gender course. However, where many films during that course impressed me a big deal (even resulting in rewatching some with my girlfriend), I can’t say I was too impressed with this movie.
    The scenes where the movie addressed Ed woods transgender feelings just came and went. I realize the main point of the movie was to portray how bad wood was as a director, but it felt unbalanced.
    The subject matter certainly interested me. Scenes where they had to run away from the police because they don’t have a permit are known to me and it made me smile.
    I think I would have liked it more if they concentrated on 1 movie that he made instead of several. I realize that you cannot portray a director as the worst in the world by only showing the making of 1 movie, but it sometimes felt rushed.
    I do have to say that I liked the laid back tone that burton did for this movie. I like a few Tim Burton movies, but I am definetly not a fan. Seeing this movie where Burton had to pull back a little felt refreshing.


  7. “Ed Wood” is Tim Burton’s biopic ode to Edward Wood Jr, who was a low budget movie director in the 1950s. He was awarded the dubious honor of Worst Director of All time at the Golden Turkeys Awards, but has acquired a cult following for his eccentricity and perseverance, and for the wackiness/terribleness of his movies.
    Ed Wood is definitely not a movie for everyone. You may like this movie if you; are a fan of the real Ed Wood, have a fondness for awful 1950s low-budget sci-fi and horror, or have a particular interest in that time period. I’m afraid I’m not a member of that niche target market, so this movie wasn’t for me.
    I wonder if Tim Burton made a rubbish movie as a direct homage to Edward Wood Jr himself. Firstly it is over 2 hours of the same situations repeating themselves: he gets money to make a movie, he makes a terrible movie that nobody likes, he manages to get some more money, he makes another terrible movie etc. Secondly, I clearly don’t find Ed Wood as sympathetic and interesting as Burton does. Yes he was eccentric. Yes, his movies were maybe charming in some sorry way. Yes, he persevered and never gave up. Yes he liked to cross-dress. No, I wasn’t fascinated by his life. No, I don’t want to watch this movie again.


  8. Watching Ed Wood, even though the films he was making were weird and out of this world there is one message that strongly hit me. I was very much encouraged to not be afraid of doing what I like or become what I want to be in the future. Even though it means that people would make fun of you because it doesn’t really matter. Even if a director like him that was named as the worst director of all time, became famous and on the brighter side he even got an award.
    Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) in this film was very passionate and you can see in his eyes that he loved what he was doing. At times I felt sympathy because most people didn’t understand his film but I thought many people cannot even find the courage to do what he did and it is to pursue what he loves and not be afraid of the critics.
    What I really like about this film is its unintended humour in this film. I also like that the characters are all different and all funny in their ways. They were all unique. The characters, the story, the film, and of course the director, Ed Wood.


  9. The film Ed Wood was exceptionally shot and carried the Tim Burton name well. My only experience with his movies proffers him as a producer. Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas for instance and films of that nature were actually directed by Henry Selick, so beyond those marvelous universes I felt Tim Burton had much to prove, to me, as a director since Edward Scissorhands. I’ve always been wary of films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Mars Attacks! But perhaps what I fear is the director’s personal tastes breaking the boundaries of film’s ‘necessity’ to entertain and satisfy.

    That being said I felt Ed Wood was stylistic and brilliantly shot. The story, however, was quite dry and lacking inciting actions. After Bella died, the montage was a refreshing change of pace. I like this movie for its legacy of Ed Wood and the struggle of filmmakers. But I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been informed of the intentions of the film beforehand.


  10. Ed Wood was an interesting film – It shows the life if maybe one of the most eccentric directors I’ve ever seen. He brings in a whole new meaning to beauty is in the eye of the holders because his films were only works of art in his eyes and the eyes of his close friends (whom also happen to be actors/crewmembers in his movies so of course they liked it). To his defense even with him being a terrible director and amateur actor. He was somehow able to produce 10 movies. The films he made makes movie directing look more like a hobby then a profession with his everything I shoot is prefect mentality. He completely ignores the timing of shots in reference to the time of the day he started the shoot, sets looked like they were made by high schoolers, all his actors were unknowns excepted for a couple old washed up actors whom he had idolized. He never took more than one shot and rarely had the funding for his films but somehow he still was able to get them published. You had to admire his tenacity to get the job done. They say all his friend agrees that what mattered most to ed wood was to get the movie finished as fast as possible.

    This film in my opinion touched on many issues. One problem was the treatment of transvestites and how they were seen in the public eye. Another was about acceptance and what one group of people may view to be the norm or good in contrast with another group. How far washed up actors can fall and then the main issue is about directors creativity and does one stick to their values or changed to make ends meet. I believe Ed Wood acted the way more directors wish they could; free to do what they wanted how they wanted without outside interference. Though the way he life things was very good.

    Overall I thought the movie was decent and before this movie I have near heard of Ed Wood. Find it interesting that he was able to get so many terrible movies produced


  11. Ed Wood is just one of those “So bad its good” films, which actually could have been what Ed Woods films could have been if they were made today. Edward D. Wood Jr was named world’s worst filmmaker and in the film we got to see reenactments of his films Glen or Glenda, Bride of The Monster, Night of The Ghouls and Plan 9 from Outer Space. Certain scenes were quite painful just to watch, for example when he presented his film to the studio and they thought it was a prank also the way he directed his films and how shamelessly he gathered money for his productions. For him it was all about finishing the film regardless of quality, and Johnny Depp really acted out the role as the desperate, oblivient filmmaker Ed Wood very well. The details of his cashmere fetish and almost naïve outlook on his own carrier was great. Sara Jessica Parker was not my favorite but I loved her in the break up scene when she finally had enough of Eds odd group of actors and friends, their peculiar movies and unusual themes. I really appreciate that Tim Burton chose to end the film in a fairy upbeat scene set at the premier of Ed Woods least hated film Plan 9 from Outer Space even if the after texts went on explaining that he ended up being the worst film maker in the world without ever making one single hit.


  12. To be honest, I did not think the movies that Ed Woods made are boring. Yes, sometimes his movies did not make sense and not interesting compared to other movies. However, I really like his attitude towards making the movie, and I believe his passion of making film creates some kind of strong message in the film. His movies did not have high budget but still I can understand what he trying to tell the audience. Doing something that people really want to do is hard, and people tend to give up or compromise to avoid conflict. Ed Woods on the other hand goes own way and did not care other people when he creates films. After watching this film, I can say that it will be worth to have title of the worst director since Ed Woods values more on how he can express his message freely. Talking about the actor of this film, I liked Johnny Depp’s acting of Ed Woods. I can imagine clearly how real Ed Woods are from his acting. I can see strong passion from Johnny Depp’s eye.


  13. It is very intriguing to me that a film like Glen or Glenda can get so much recognition for being a horrible film. Normally, films get recognized for being great but in Ed Wood’s case this was very much so the opposite. I am a big fan of Johnny Depp and I always enjoy watching him get so into a character. Ed’s positive attitude throughout the film is also very inspiring. Although ever film he makes is terrible, he still perseveres and strives to be the best despite the many hardships. To me, this film is far ahead of it’s time solely due to the fact that it openly talks about Ed being a transgender. There were many parts of the film where I felt slightly uncomfortable, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. I believe that films that push the limits of emotions and comfortability are interesting. In addition, Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors and I have seen that every film he does has the same theme or feeling behind it, this is surely relevant when it comes to this movie. Overall, I enjoyed the film, I loved the boundaries that it pushed and how it was very clearly ahead of it’s time.


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