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Edward Scissorhands (1990, Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder)

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The Independent on Sunday wrote ‘whether his film is farce or satire or morality tale, or a dolly mixture of all three, I still can’t decide; but it’s a masterpiece of its kind, whatever kind that may be,’ about Tim Burton’s superb fantasy. Burton and his co-scenarist Caroline Thompson frame their fairytale reworking of Frankenstein as a bedtime story told by an old woman to her granddaughter.

A long time ago an eccentric inventor (Vincent Price) created the eponymous young Edward (Johnny Depp), but died before he could complete his work, leaving Edward with sharp scissor blades where his hands were to be. Edward lived alone in his creator’s crumbling castle until he was rescued by Avon lady Peg (Dianne Wiest), who took a shine to him and took him back to her pastel suburban home to live with her and her family: teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) and husband Bill (Alan Arkin).

Edward is initially terrified by life in a strange new world but his shear talents – his scissorhands equip him to be a superb topiarist and a haircutter of style and invention – soon make him a local celebrity. He becomes captivated by Kim, arousing the enmity of her boyfriend (Anthony Michael Hall). Then neighbour Joyce (Kathy Baker) tries but fails to seduce a mystified Edward, and begins a campaign of hostility among her fellow townspeople against the ‘freak’ in their midst. And Edward’s position becomes impossible when the suburbanites believe him guilty of crime…

Burton, whose key films include Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas and the first two Batman movies, made an inspired choice in casting Depp, then best known as the star of the television series 21 Jump Street and as John Waters’ Cry-Baby . ‘There he was on set covered from head to toe in leather’, said Burton, ‘with few lines to speak. ‘He’s pretty restrained, blank almost’, I’d say to myself while sitting and watching him perform. But when I saw the rushes, what he made come through I couldn’t believe either. He’d glaze his eyes over and put across the subtle torment of the character almost like a Walter Keane painting. The internal, simple style of acting he achieved was amazing.’

Village Voice agreed, stating ‘it’s a brilliantly behavioural performance’ while, wrote The Times, ‘Depp ingratiates himself without ever becoming mawkish.’ Depp’s deceptively passive performance serves as a potent catalyst on the actors who surround him, amplifying their portrayals without actually upstaging them and, noted Sight and Sound , Burton was ‘magnificently served by his cast.’

production details
USA | 105 minutes | 1990

Director: Tim Burton
Script: Caroline Thompson, Tim Burton,

cast
Steven Brill as Dishwasher Man
Alan Arkin as Bill
Winona Ryder as Kim Boggs
Vincent Price as The Inventor
Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands
Dianne Wiest as Peg
Anthony Michael Hall as Jim
Kathy Baker as Joyce
Robert Oliveri as Kevin
Conchata Ferrell as Helen
Caroline Aaron as Marge
Dick Anthony Williams as Officer Allen
O-Lan Jones as Esmeralda
Susan Blommaert as Tinka
Linda Perri as Cissy
John Davidson as Host TV
Biff Yeager as George
Donna Pieroni as Blonde / TV
Alan Fudge as Loan Officer
Brett Rice as Reporter
Marc Macaulay as Reporter
Stuart Lancaster as Retired Man
Gina Gallagher as Granddaughter
Aaron Lustig as Psychologist
Peter Palmer as Editor
Kathy Lockwood as Neighborhood Extra
Nick Carter as Neighborhood Extra (uncredited)
Tim Rerucha as Van Friend (uncredited)

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