2016 – 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: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109707/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_14


88 thoughts on “2016 – SCREENING #5: ED WOOD (1994) – 126 Min.

  1. Ed Wood was amazing!

    This film nailed every point for not only b movie directors but directors on any media track to never giving up on what they believe in. The fact that Ed wood (Johnny Depp) was able to express himself being a cross dresser and purse what he loves to do without caring about what anyone else had to say about him or his film was incredible.

    The fact that this was a true story, opens my eyes even more! Even though he was nominated and won the “worst director” award.

    And for Bella Lugosi, he was a great character in the development in this film. In my opinion, he resembled very similar characteristics as Norma Desmond of “Sunset Boulevard” as they both knew their acting careers were left for nothing, in their heart, they still believed that they had much more to give to the audience being stuck under the lime light of a superstar.

    In my opinion, the character structure made the film going as the audience began to be one with the actors of the film.


  2. I really liked this film for a number of reasons. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a movie like it. First off, it was interesting to see a lot of well-known actors together in a film that was probably quite early on in their careers. I also very appreciate Karl for screening this movie for us on the subject of B-movies rather than an actual typical B-movie, which might have been quite hard to sit through or take seriously. I liked how this movie showed us the reasoning behind Ed Wood’s movies and his legacy. I find it very interesting how films can become notorious cult films solely because of how bad they are. When I was younger I thought that the only movies that can succeed or be famous are really good, critically acclaimed movies. It wasn’t until I saw Showgirls (1995) that I realized that cult classics don’t have to be good movies at all. The fact that a film can enjoy success because of a combination of how bad it is and people watching it because they are curious about how bad it is, is amazing to me. I didn’t know anything about Ed Wood before watching this film. I knew very little about low-budget, critically panned B-movies in general. But after watching this movie I really feel like I learned a lot about a lesser-known genre of film and the creative process behind it. I’m not sure how physically accurate these scenes were, but whenever it was shown how quickly and little effort Ed Wood put into perfecting his movie scenes, I was taken aback. It seemed like he didn’t care how the actual scene turned out at all, only that it was filmed. He mentions in the movie that this is part of the appeal, and he only shoots one take per scene because it seems more real. This part really stuck with me, because it was like he was filming a live, almost improvised performance and cutting them together to make movie scenes. It reminded me of Saturday Night Live, how because it’s a live sketch comedy show, the actors only get one shot at getting the scene right. The times when they break character always add to the comedic element of the show, and it’s basically how Jimmy Fallon became famous. I wonder if for Ed Wood he viewed the choppiness and improvisational aspect of his one-take scenes as a defining asset to the film and his overall filmmaking style.


  3. So is this a mianstream film or a B film? Seeing as the film only made 5 mil back on a 18 mil budget I think this film would have to be classified as a b film yea? But wait a moment. The actors in this film are all a1 top of the line actors! Young and Fresh Jonny Depp’s acting was amazing as always. It was nominated for golden globes and academy awards and critics reviewed the movie with favorable scores. So what was the mystery that led to the bombing of this film?


    1. I think this would still be considered a mainstream film because of it’s relatively high (compared to low low budget B movies) 5 million dollar budget and also because it was released through Walt Disney Studios. However there were a lot of young and up and coming actors in this film. I’m not sure how relatively unknown a lot of the actors were at the time the film released, but I do know that Johnny Depp already had a considerable following after being on 21 Jump Street and a few other successful films before this one. It’s kind of confusing since this movie was about one of the most famous directors of B/Z movies of all time, but it was released to the mainstream, only it didn’t perform well at the box office.


  4. Ed Wood is well known for worst Directer of all time. Tim Burton has created yet another strange and dark film showing Hollywood’s super star Johnny Depp. It was quite a change from his usual delightfully artistic and creepy family or children’s films like The Nightmare before Christmas, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands with its’ adult themes and R-rating. Ed Wood follows the story of a director and his struggles, passions and his companions which is quite different from his other films. This film stars a few of Hollywood’s famous actors and actresses including Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Vincent D’Onofrio. I honestly haven’t seen many films with Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette and Vincent D’Onofrio in them, but I can say Bill Murray was a pleasant addition to the cast of Ed Wood.
    This movie setting in the 1950s but filmed in 1990s, and I find it very interesting that Tim Burton made the decision to shoot the film in black and white. I can agree that it brings a sense of reliability and in all honesty, I enjoy watching black and white films (older films) rather than watching recent movie. Tim Burton’s movies are sometimes a little too strange and somewhat dark for my taste but they are still interesting to watch.


    1. your first sentence remind me this is one of the quiz question. i do agree that ED wood is worst director all the time because every thing he shoot he only take one shoot no matter what happened also he not like follow the content and just do whatever he like and whatever he want to do. I have been google his work online. I think if he born in the now the day probably people would not said he is worst directer. people maybe said that he has talent in the film production area. i think ED wood is a good movie for the people who interesting in the film making are because there are many trouble they might face during the film making process.


  5. Going in to this movie it was not something that I knew what I was watching before hand. you see Jonny Depp, and Bill Murray and think of two A list actors who are about to straight up knock this out of the park. The combination of the two made this very interesting for me, because that leaves a film wide open to go anywhere as these two are simply amazing. But, I have never thought his movie would go where it did. Absolutely hilarious.

    But this movie went to a place that I didn’t expect as funny as it was. In this era giving a serious and outspoken view point of a cross dressor/transgender issues makes this movie historical. That is in that no other movie has ever gone here before and shown this in a light where it was for the main actor. Ed being a real person, which sadly i didnt figure out until the credits, makes it even more interesting to me as I would have thought that this was so taboo in that era that he wouldnt have gotten any job in that town what so ever. Yet, that probably explains how much a small town kid knows about hollywood.


  6. Ed Wood was nothing I would have expected honestly with its very subtle humor and had the audience thinking what Ed was going to think of next.
    Before watching this film I was a bit iffy about it and thought it was going to be a boring film. But after the first screening, stopping mid way through was such a cliff hanger for me!

    Out of any film course ive taken, I was never that anxious to going back to class to finish watching this film. I could have finished watching it at home via the internet but I wanted to listen in on what others had to say about the film positively or negatively. But upon reading other people’s comments about this film, mostly everyone had positive things to say about this film as it surprised everyone about how well made this film was.

    If any of my friends are thinking about taking this course next, I will definitely tell them to look forward to Ed Wood, very great film.

    Ed and Bella’s relationship was very touching to watch.
    From Ed seeing Bella through the windows of the casket shop until the last film he took of Bella as he walked out of the door and smelled the roses in the front yard. Ed always had his back and never stopped caring for him as he was his idol.


    1. Ed Wood. Ed Wood Ed. Wood. A very interesting film. I think this film has one of the most interesting cast, crew, and plot that we have screened in this class. The moment that I saw Johnny Depps’ face on the cover I already got excited to see what the film is about. I was being a little bit biased already before seeing the movie because I love Johnny Depp so much. Also, knowing that the films that Johnny Depp that I have seen so far were all so awesome. There is just something about his acting that makes films special I think. I think he embraces and internalize the characters that he plays. Having to see that is almost so haunting. So with that already in my mind I was kind of already eager to see how this film is going to interest me.

      I find Edward Wood is one of the unique director/producer that we have talked about in class. In this film I saw how ambitious he was as a director. I can tell that he had a very personal style on doing his films. Such as from choosing the actors for his films and also picking locations for sets. I think people that sees his films recognize that it is his work because of the uniqueness of style that he brings to the table. Now when I say that, that does not necessarily mean that he execute his work well. Hence having the title of being the worst director of all time. However I give him props to how he brings his films all together considering that most of his work are independent. I also gotta give him props to openly admit that he’s transgender as a filmmaker during that specific time too I don’t think that would have been easy for him. I think hes a great producer but seeing this specific film about him I dont know if I like him as a director just because he goes overboard on so much stuff.


  7. Ed Wood was known as the worst producer in Hollywood, but I like him. He lived honetly to him. And I like him because he openly show transgender problem with humor. At that time, transgender was though wired or strange, but he did not shame his hobby to wear woman clothes. He was not afraid how the audience thought about him. He showed his problem with humor so the audience can accept it I thought. Even though he was the worst producer, he was necessary for B-movie industry. He impoved B-move style of being freedom and being creative. I like this film and him overall.


  8. Ed Wood may be the most un-Hollywood Hollywood film of the 90’s. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to see this film as it showed me everything about film that I would have never had been able to learn otherwise. Directed by a director I have mixed feelings for, Tim Burton, Ed Wood shows a close-to-real glimpse into the real-life director Ed Wood and his “process” into film. Widely known and dubbed as the “Worst Director of All Time”, Ed Wood made a name for himself in Hollywood’s film industry whether it was in the way he wanted to or not.
    One main theme included in this film seems to be a feeling that everyone that has ever entered a career or attempted anything in the creative arts has felt at some point in their path. The consuming fear that is ever-present throughout everyone’s process, “Am I any good?” “Should I quit now?” “Will anyone even watch this?” “Wha if they reject me?” As an artist myself, (of the musical variety, not film, but creative arts nonetheless) I can confirm that each and every artist most likely uses any and all kinds of strategies to overcome or deal with these feelings. Some artists use eccentricity, arrogance, or diffidence. Others find easier and more morally comforting ways. And others just plain give up. It’s sad but true. How you can be your own worst critic, how you can be your own downfall, and very easily I might add. But failure always walks hand in hand with success. There can be no failure without success and vice versa. Either way, both can lead to something great. Tim Burton, fortunately, knew this.
    Now looking at Ed Wood and hearing a part of his story, I learned the most obvious, difficult, and extremely cruel lesson that comes with life. Sometimes, you can be extremely passionate, as passionate as you can be towards a goal, you can believe yourself to the fullest till you’re so full of positivity and adrenaline that you feel you can produce a whole new universe, like you can outmatch God himself, you can work as hard as you possibly can, every day 24/7 for years and years!…and still fail. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how hard you work, how many people believe in you, you will just fail. Simple, yet one of life’s cruelest lessons that few people will ever truly acknowledge during their lifetime. Tim Burton told this story, of Ed Wood, of his sad demise. Ed Wood died just short of his 60th birthday, broke, drunk, most likely miserable, and broken. Hollywood did not want this story of utter failure to be told, of course, why would Hollywood, an industry, although born and thriving off of people’s failures, that has tried their hardest to promote the “believe in yourself and anything is possible!” “wish upon a star and all your dreams will come true!” for years and years now, want a story of harsh reality and truth to be told? This is why Ed Wood is the most un-Hollywood Hollywood film ever made, and this is also why it’s one of the greatest Hollywood films ever made.
    Now that I’ve covered the depressing part of the film…Moving on to another important part of the film. Ed Wood’s sexuality. Ed Wood is revealed to be a transgender early on in the film and it’s obviously something he’s not quite ready to share with the world. How does Ed Wood being a transgender and Ed Wood being a terrible director relate? I honestly can’t think of a good relation except for the fact that this film was just telling us Ed Wood’s life story, not trying to make his sexuality and his profession somehow relate. I find it kind of funny though, that Ed Wood could have so much confidence in his directing skills no matter how much he failed, but not have enough confidence to reveal his sexuality to everyone. Confidence comes in strange forms and of course I understand how terrifying revealing one’s true self can be. It can even be considered the scariest thing possible for some people.
    Speaking on Wood’s confidence in his directing skills, at one point in the film, while reading a review of his play Wood enthusiastically says, “Look, he’s got some nice things to say here. ‘The soldiers’ costumes are very realistic.’ That’s positive!” This one line really represents Wood’s entire viewpoint on his career, no matter how bad it gets, he always somehow forces out a silver lining! It’s hilarious but depressing at the same time. A fun fact from the real Ed Wood, apparently the opening title and credits sequence budget for this film cost more (estimated) than the entire budget of any of the real Edward D. Wood Jr.’s films. It’s a wonder to me just how mocked and ridiculed and beaten down Wood was getting from Hollywood and even his peers and yet, he never gave up did he? I mean he did at some point much later in his life but from the section of his life we viewed in class, he really never gave up. I think the main takeaway from this film for me was, believing in yourself is extremely important. No matter how cheesy that sounds, I have 100% faith that belief in yourself can get you AT LEAST 80% of the way to your dream. Wood lived out part of his dream, he got plays and films out, he did it. They weren’t successful of course but he got them out there in the world!
    Going back to Ed Wood’s sexuality in the film and how it correlates with his being an unsuccessful director. I honestly don’t think it relates. Or I really hope it didn’t. Ed Wood’s love for cross-dressing is who he is as a person. He chose this, and it’s what he is most comfortable being in, whereas being a crappy director, well that wasn’t really a choice was it. Whether he liked it or not, Wood just had no talent! Sad to say, but at least he got to be his real, true, self and put it out into the world before his cripplingly depressing death.


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