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Ed Wood (1994, Johnny Depp, Martin Landau)



After Edward Scissorhands and two Batman films, Tim Burton’s next project was a simple bio-pic. But, being Tim Burton, it had to be the story of arguably Hollywood’s worst ever director, Edward D Wood Jnr, whose films, ironically, now enjoy a new found popularity simply because they are so awful (in fairness, other directors were making even worse Z-movies for the slew of drive-ins and small cinemas where the foyer poster was often more artistically important than the film).

Burton’s film follows Ed Wood (JOHNNY DEPP) as he pursues his dream to make films, gathering around him a troupe of actors who, to quote one critic, ‘looked like a cartoon portrait from Mad magazine.’ Among them were the camp Bunny Breckinridge (BILL MURRAY), Tor Johnson (GEORGE ‘THE ANIMAL’ STEELE) and Vampira (LISA MARIE). But most famous was Bela Lugosi (MARTIN LANDAU in an Oscar winning role), drug and drink-raddled but to Wood, still a star. The film follows Ed’s efforts to get three films made and seen, Glen Or Glenda? , Night Of The Ghouls and Plan 9 From Outer Space , using his talents to scrounge the money to finish the film as cheaply and as quickly as possible.

Burton doesn’t just play the film for cheap laughs, even though it teems with great one-liners. Wood’s cross-dressing is accepted by his cast and crew, even if both his girlfriend Dolores Fuller (SARAH JESSICA PARKER) and, later, his wife Kathy (PATRICIA ARQUETTE) do initially wonder why their angora sweaters lose shape. But it is the relationship between Wood and Lugosi that pins the character – Wood is like a son, driving late night to the ageing star’s house, encouraging him on set, helping him through bad times and genuinely caring for him, not because he helps sell the films but because he respects him.

The film, shot in luminous black and white by Stefan Czapsky, looks as superb as Wood probably thought all his films did and the cast throw themselves into their roles with brio – all of them could have stepped from Wood’s stage set onto Burton’s. But the award for stealing the film goes to VINCENT D’ONOFRIO in a cameo as Orson Welles who Wood meets in a bar, leading to the exchange of the film as Wood says, ‘Do you know my movies have even been recut after they were finished?’ to which Wells replies, ‘I hate it when that happens.’

production details
USA | 127 minutes | 1994

Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Scott Alaxander and Larry Karaszewski from Rudolph Grey’s book

Johnny Depp as Ed Wood
Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi
Sarah Jessica Parker as Dolores Fuller
Patricia Arquette as Kathy O’Hara
Jeffrey Jones as Criswell
G. D. Spradlin as Reverend Lemon
Vincent D’Onofrio as Orson Welles
Bill Murray as Bunny Breckinridge
Mike Starr as Georgie Weiss
Max Casella as Paul Marco
Brent Hinkley as Conrad Brooks
William James Myers as Tor Johnson
Juliet Landau as Loretta King
Clive Rosengren as Ed Reynolds
Norman Alden as Cameraman Bill
Leonard Termo as Makeup Man Harry
Ned Bellamy as Dr. Tom Mason
Danny Dayton as Soundman
Ross Manarchy as Camera Assistant
Bill Cusack as Tony McCoy
Lisa Marie as Vampira
Stanley DeSantis as Mr. Feldman
Biff Yeager as Rude Boss
Joseph R. Gannascoli as Security Guard
Carmen Filpi as Old Crusty Man
Lisa Malkiewicz as Secretary #1
Melora Walters as Secretary #2
Conrad Brooks as Bartender
Don Amendolia as Salesman
Reid Cruickshanks as Stage Guard
Lionel Decker as Executive #1
Edmund L. Shaff as Executive #2
Gene LeBell as Ring Announcer
Bobby Slayton as TV Show Host
Gretchen Becker as TV Host’s Assistant
John Rice as Conservative Man
Catherine Butterfield as Conservative Wife
Mary Portser as Backer’s Wife
King Cotton as Hick Backer
Don Hood as Southern Backer
Matthew Barry as Valet
Ralph Monaco as Waiter
Anthony Russell as Busboy
Gregory Walcott as Potential Backer
Charles C. Stevenson Jr. as Another Backer
Rance Howard as Old Man McCoy
Vasek Simek as Professor Strowski
Vinny Argiro as TV Horror Show Director
Korla Pandit as Indian Musician
Patti Tippo as Nurse
Ray Baker as Doctor
Louis Lombardi as Rental House Manager
Jesse Hernandez as Wrestling Opponent
Jim Boyce as Theatre Manager
Ben Ryan Ganger as Angry Kid
Charlie Holliday as Tourist
Tommy Bertelsen as Tough Boy
Adam Drescher as Photographer #1
Ric Mancini as Photographer #2
George Steele ‘The animal’ as Tor Johnson
Daniel Riordan as Pilot / Strapping Young Man
Mickey Cottrell as Hammy Alien
Lena Banks as Sexy Pedestrian (uncredited)
Maurice LaMarche as Orson Welles (voice) (uncredited)
Ada Tai as Vampira’s Friend (uncredited)
Arlene Tai as Vampira’s Friend (uncredited)
Rayder Woods as Car Vandal (uncredited)
Ralph Moratz as Extra (uncredited)