Senior HTF Member
- Feb 24, 1999
Ed WoodStudio:DisneyYear:1994Film Length:127 minutes Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.85:1 OARAudio:5.1 DDSubtitles:English (captions for the hearing-impaired), SpanishSpecialFeatures:Commentary (with Director Tim Burton, Actor Martin Landau, Co-writers Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, Director of Photgraphy Stefan Czapsky and Costume Designer Colleen Atwood), Deleted Scenes, Behing-the-Scenes Featurette, "Pie Plates Over Hollywood" featurette on the look of the film with Designer Tom Duffield, Featurette on the "theremin" musical instrument used to create the authentic sci-fi sound for the score...ReleaseDate:2004 (we hope)
This review was begun on April 2nd when HTF member Nils was kind enough to send me his copy of the recalled disc. The new official disc is virtually identical to this former disc except for the ommision of the transvestism featurette...so I'm choosing to simply modify the original review and put comments that review specifically to the issue of getting the pre-screener in a silver-colored font to make the "combined" review easy to understand.
Apr. 2nd: No, this is not another April Fool's prank. But neither is it the review of the "official" Ed Wood DVD you're all waiting to preorder. In the brief window of availability that the now-recalled Ed Wood DVD appeared on a few store shelves, our own Nils Luehrmann was able to procure it and graciously sent it to me to review (and has been patiently waiting to see this review posted!). No one really knows why this disc was pulled as promptly as it was released, but my suspicion is that it may have something to do with a rights issue regarding some of the bonus materials. I suspect that when the "official" DVD is finally released, that picture, sound, and general presentation will be identical to this disc and that the only perceived difference (if any) will be in the special feature content. If this thread is still active by the time the new disc ships I plan to update this review to reflect the final analysis.
Now considered a cult-classic, Tim Burton's Ed Wood has enough to recommend it on its own even without the hullabaloo of evolving into a fan-adored icon. Ed wood is an unconventional film, and in my opinion possibly one of Tim Burton's best. Ed wood is a story that follows the life of aspiring young cross-dressing film-maker "Ed Wood". Burton invites us to accompany Ed on his personal journey as he struggles to fulfill his passion for film-making against all odds and succeeds in creating some of the (arguably) worst films ever produced; his crowning jewel "Plan 9 from Outer Space" is officially deemed "The worst movie ever made" and as such, is a film any good collector should also own on DVD.
Ed Wood cannot be characterized by the synonym of any typical genre. Though it's rife with humor and wit, it's not really a "comedy" in the traditional sense. And despite the movie's humor, it's surprisingly serious and deals with some uncommon issues like (not a comprehensive list) transvestitism, drug addiction, the struggle of an artist to produce something of real expressive value, and the rather affecting late-in-life story of Bela Lugosi. Yet despite the presence of sometimes serious life-issues, the movie cannot really be called a "drama" either. Burton is to be applauded for his frank and almost dispassionate style of dealing with issues that a lesser-director would have misused. An example: How often to you watch a movie who's main protagonist (Johnny Depp) is a transvestite with a fetish for angora--yet come away with the feeling that all of this is...ironically...a non-issue (yes I know we all have different personal measures for what's an issue and what isn't...I'm speaking to the general American audience here)? My assumption is that this might be owing to Burton's desire not to really "deal" with these issues at all, but rather more directly "present" them without a bias of emphasis or editorializing commentary. Burton doesn't fall prey to the more usual "playing tricks" with controversial/uncomfortable subject matter. At a personal level, I'm very respectful of this film and the way it candidly, and compassionately, deals (or doesn't deal) with issues that are seldom addressed in "Hollywood" movies with such integrity -- if at all. Burton shows you "Ed Wood" in all his multi-splendored glory. It's up to you what you do with it from there.
The last thing I'd like to say about Ed Wood is that one of the very finest performances you'll ever see in any film is Martin Landau's portrayal of Bela Lugosi in this film. Profoundly touching, Landau's work demonstrates true acting genius. If you spend time in the special feature section (assuming this feature is still there when the "official" disc streets), your respect and admiration for his performance in Ed Wood will deepen even more (as well as discover an appreciation for the makeup artist who helped make it possible).
Doug Pippel sums it up so eloquently in this thread that I just had to quote him:
I was also lucky enough to get a copy before it was pulled and yes
indeed, this is a great disc of a GREAT film. Burton's best effort to
date in my opinion. Everything clicks just right in Ed Wood -
script, direction, casting, acting, cinematography, editing - it all
works marvelously. Martin Landau's standout performance as Bela Lugosi
is absolutely perfect and heartbreaking. For me, this film is a perfect
example of a production that is much more than just the sum of it's
parts. Ed Wood is movie magic.
The Disc Presentation...
The disc that I received is a single disc in a standard keep-sake case with an insert booklet with printed chapter stops. Nothing dramatic, but perfectly serviceable and given the ample special feature content which, to my surprise, doesn't seem to adversely impact picture quality, it's sufficient. I'm sure lots of vocal HTFrs will have lots of complaining to do about the lack of a 2-disc SE, but at least here's one enthusiast who's content.
Guess what. No forced previews. And I have to say that the menu design is really fantastic--the menu effect is that you are seated in a theater with a bunch of 1950's moviegoers all waiting for the feature film to start. They get upset and throw popcorn whenever you make a menu selection. It's very cool, and tastefully non-irritating.
Wow. Coming to this DVD from my former CLV laserdisc is quite the eye-opening experience. The 16x9 encoded 1.85:1 image is near-flawless. Colors are rich, vivid, and bold yet never appear oversaturated. Ok, that was kidding--Ed Wood is 100% Black & White
Ok so what's not so perfect? Well, there is a bit of occasional "crawl" in facial detail that might be a case of mild DNR artifacting (who really knows). I wouldn't get too bent out of shape and even on my large-format viewing angle it didn't distract in any real way...but you'll see it if you look for it...just being comprehensive here. Also, and this *does* irk me just a little, there is some very mild "ringing" from EE on occasion. NOT dramatic and most viewers won't ever see it but those sitting 1.75 screen-widths or closer will notice it *occasionally* if they concentrate on the picture quality agenda. So not terrible but naturally we dream of the day when all such "electronic" artifacts are nowhere to be seen as we watch our movies on our 10-foot wall-sized screens with film-like naturalness. These are important lessons for the studios to learn now with SD-DVD because these same types of digital artifacts can easily find their way onto our future HD-media if, by then, the studios haven't already identified what they are and where they get introduced into the video-mastering process (in addition to identifying that they shouldn't be there...of course
Ok...descending from soapbox...
Put it together: Ed Wood really looks good. A few minor quibbles with some very minor/occasional EE and digital "crawl" are far outweighed by the stunning new transfer and highly detailed 16x9 encoded image. The subtle grayscale tones come through richly and gracefully, and anyone even THINKING about upgrading from their VHS or Laserdisc on the shelf should not even waste the time reading on before placing their order.
Picture: 4.5 / 5
Ooooh/Aaaah. Yeah, Ed Wood really satisfies me in the audio department. I don't think most of you will feel quite the same way so let me get the flaws out of the way first and then talk about the good stuff and why it does me the way it do.
The dialog is never irritating or harsh, but sometimes comes across a tad "dubbed". The use of 5.1 surround isn't aggressive and bass won't blow a woofer cone, and most of the front L/R spread is limited to music with a generally "center heavy" soundtrack for most follies, sound effects, and dialog.
Ok now what really works me the right way (yes, it's been a while, perhaps I need to get more a life? I digress...)--the musical score. WOW. Ed Wood is a very music-soundtrack-driven film. Consistent with Burton's style, the music soundtrack inserts itself as a key player of the film experience on equal par with any other facet of the genre. Music drives the mood, emotion, and strongly supports the visual language at every turn. When Burton decides to change scenes, or use a dramatic imagery device, you'll find the music amplifying the motion to almost essential effect. Now that I've expressed how important I feel Ed Wood's musical score is to the experience of this film, I'm pleased to say that what we have on this DVD is the sort of musical presentation that audiophiles just adore.
Musical timbres are natural and complexly (is that a word?) toned. Instruments in the orchestra never sound congested and are clearly "painted" into the soundstage with great detail yet without any glare or brightness. Percussion produces timbers that are almost eerily realistic with a bass "presence" that feels like the real sound of the instrument being struck. I'm not a musician, but what I'm assuming is a marimba or xylophone sounds so rich and textured it just gives me chills. Think that sounds funny? You're not an audiophile
Most impressive of all, the musical soundstage has an amazing sense of "air" and front-back holographic depth. Sounds feel "round" with a sense of size and dimension. Acoustic decay preserves low-level detail and ambient cues that paint each sound-source in clear focus with a sense of "space" surrounding it. Those of you with a collection of LDs will appreciate what I mean when I say that the musical score on this 5.1 soundtrack sounds "PCMish".
Don't invite your monster-truck-bowl friends over and expect them to run out and buy a home-theater system because you pull out Ed Wood to demo your new 5.1 system. But if you want to take care your inner-audiophile child deep inside, the soundtrack on this disc has lots of nurturing potential.
Sound: 4.5/ 5
I know that the bonus material is extremely important to many of you especially given the possible discrepancy between this disc and the future "official" release so I plan to really spend some time here...be prepared (p.s. preliminary summary is that the special features are plentiful and of genuine value).
[*]Feature Commentary: You get a lot of folks contributing: Director Tim Burton, Actor Martin Landau, Co-writers Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, Director of Photgraphy Stefan Czapsky and Costume Designer Colleen Atwood. I've got mixed feelings. I listened to a good bit of this commentary and overall found the content informative, interesting, and it really expanded my sense of appreciation for everything that went into making this film. All sorts of things are discussed by everyone involved: issues like the decision to film in Black and White, casting choices and issues surrounding various film challenges etc. All good stuff. What didn't thrill me was that the commentary is not scene-specific...it's just talking that goes on for 2 hours that has nothing to do with what's happening on screen. Might as well turn off the TV while you listen. I guess the flip-side is that you can listen to the commentary while you do work around the house where your visual attention is not required...like you'd listen to NPR while doing dishes or typing DVD reviews (just seeing if you're paying attention). Your call. I'm sure some of you just LOVE screen-specific commentary while others of you look forward to the commentary that you can play and get everything out of it while engaging your visual focus elsewhere. Your call.
[*]Music Video: It seems almost every Disney DVD has a “music video” special feature that somehow relates to the theme of the feature film. I had to chuckle when I saw “Music Video” listed as a special feature for Ed Wood; the mind tries to fathom.
Basically it’s a video montage with a “Vampira” character dancing seductively on the Plan 9 stage-set to the “Ed Wood” theme score. Lots of low-grade camera tricks and cheap film-effects like solarization and positive negative effects. It’s actually somewhat effective because it’s clear from the start that the creative inspiration here is rather tongue-n-cheek and carried out in true “Ed Wood” fashion. Video is 4x3 full-frame and audio is 2.0 DD stereo. While the newly acquainted Ed Wood viewer may live quite happily without ever watching this little snippet, I’m sure that some die-hard fan will just be thrilled that its here.
[*]Let’s Shoot this F#%@r! Introduced by Johnny Depp (in drag), this feature provides you with 14 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage that plays with on-the-set audio (but has no additional “third person” commentary to accompany). Three basic scenes are covered: Ed’s Strip-tease dance party at the meat-packing plant, some on-the-set of shooting Plan 9, and a bit of the scene where Bela wrestles with the rubber octopus. Casual viewers probably won’t find this content very gripping but fans are sure to enjoy. One thing that stood out for me was how “nice” Tim Burton seemed to come across as a director and how generally at-ease the whole team, film-crew and cast, worked together. Everything just felt very natural in the scenes that we’re shown.
[*]The Theremin: I found this very interesting. Composer Howard Shore explains how he wanted the authentic sound of historical 1950’s sci-fi era soundtracks, and so he managed to track down and utilize a “Theremin” which is an electronic instrument that creates the wobbly space-men-from-Mars sound so characteristic of the era. Theremin “expert” Mark Segal goes into quite a bit of detail demonstrating playing techniques and discussion the technical design of this unusual device. Watching this 7 minute feature is not only interesting and informative, but it starts to give you a good idea of the level of sincerity and commitment by the creative team to making Ed Wood a film with some real authenticity.
[*]Making Bele: Hands down this is the finest special feature on this DVD. Here we are treated to some excellent discussion and behind-the-scenes effort by Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau and makeup artist Rick Baker. I honestly can’t tell you how impressed I am with Martin’s masterful portrayal of Bela Lugosi. Watching the film, one can sense the depth and sincerity of Martin’s performance. However, after watching this special feature my sense of appreciation for both Landau and his makeup artist Baker borders on profound. Just to give you an idea of the level of dedication we’re talking about, in order to really learn to channel Lugosi, Landau spent hours listening to tapes of the Hungarian language and practiced speaking the tongue in order to familiarize himself with its pronunciation; enabling its phonetic structures to become a natural part of his speech. Additionally, he studied Lugosi, watching 35 of his films and several recorded interviews to try to learn to how to capture him…not just in terms of outward patterns of behavior, but in terms of internal motivations and feelings. For example, he learned that Lugosi was ashamed of his strong Hungarian accent (which type-cast him and limited his acting career) and so tried to mitigate his strong accent when he spoke. When Landau sounds “Hungarian” in Ed Wood, he doesn’t come across like an American with a very accomplished foreign accent…he portrays an American immigrant who attempts to subjugate his native dialect in favor of his new adopted English tongue. Genius.
Equally on-par with Landaus accomplishments is the work of Rick Baker. Rick succeeds in transforming Landau into a Lugosi so believable, that in the scene where Bela is sitting with Ed on Halloween watching some of his very own Dracula films (with real historic footage), and the camera cuts back and forth between the on-the-TV (real) Bela with the on-the-couch Landau, we as an audience feel comfortable trusting these two entities to be one and the same. Movie magic is demonstrated so clearly here to be the culmination of many individual talents coming together into something greater than the sum of their parts (to quote Doug Pippel ) Job well done.
[*]DELETED FEATURE: When Carol Met Larry: Here it is...the extra that got dropped when the disc was pulled at the last minute from the last release date...and I just have to pat my self on the back for having predicted that this was the source of all the trouble! I'll leave my review of this feature in tact for those curious about what was dropped (and why)...
Ok folks, I’m placing my bets that this is the special feature that gets nixed off the future “official” DVD-release. This 10 minute odyssey invites us to look inside the world of cross-dressing. Not your everyday Disney special feature
[*]Pie Plates Over Hollywood: This is more-or-less the “making of” featurette. Lasting about 14 minutes, I found this feature to be very engaging. We spend lots of time with Tim Duffield who is the production designer for the film. He discusses a wide range of facets behind production choices--from challenges with filming a B&W movie and having to make sure that color tones on the set designs would translate properly to the smallest details like tracking down a $4500 sheet of linoleum with the perfect 1950’s era pattern-motif to finish off the kitchen floor in the Glen or Glenda filming set. When Tim opens up his art journal that documents the myriad of patterns, colors and set designs that were all carefully assembled to play their role, you know these people really work for a living. So often we just “watch movies” and take for granted the immeasurable effort that has gone into making that 3 minute scene flash before our eyes. After spending a few minutes with Tim in this documentary you’ll have a difficult time watching any movie without wondering how long it took the production designer to pick out the color of the refrigerator that’s out-of-focus in the background of that 10 second on-screen conversation. These people really do care. And even if you can’t possibly imagine all that goes into making a feature film like Ed Wood, when it’s good, it’s good, and you can feel it when you watch it. Talent like Tim’s is partly the reason why.
[*]Trailer: Is that a Typo? Is he serious? A Trailer on a Buena Vista DVD? Ok…who wants to take a bet that this special feature won’t be on the final-production disc?
[*]Deleted Scenes: I count five. All have gorgeous (we’re talking women’s clothes gorgeous here) 16x9 transfers and generally have the same stellar picture quality of the feature film. BRAVO DISNEY. Audio is 2.0 DD. Were it not for that…it would be tempting to try to program your own “Customer-Fan-Cut” and incorporate your favorite deleted scenes back into the running feature film. Yes, I’m even going to talk about each deleted scene. Am I the reviewer from hell or what?
- Breaking In: A brief scene where Ed's crew are about to sneak into lot wherein lies the studio prop-warehouse in order to pilfer the giant rubber octopus. This scene would have immediately preceded the moment in the film when the crew enter the warehouse. Nice to watch, but the movie is no worse for not having it included and probably has better flow as a result.
- Escape: Sort of the flip side of the “Breaking In” coin, here we see just a few seconds after the giant octopus is removed from the warehouse and is being carried to the car. Same sentiment…the movie didn’t sacrifice anything by giving this one up and probably improved pacing a bit by shaving this off.
- Dinner at the Johnson’s: After his breakup with his girlfriend, Ed goes to have Dinner at the Johnsons (the zombie-monster character’s house). This snippet reveals a bit of character depth to Mr. Johnson as we meet his family and Ed gets a chance to talk about his breakup and converse with Mrs. J. Intellectually this scene has got some nice things to say, but in context with the rest of the film it would have stood out oddly causing us to wonder why we were spending time getting to know this particular character from Ed Wood’s acting crew without really taking us anywhere. Nice to have here on the DVD but I’m fine not having it in the film.
- Sleep Over: Ok, this one I disagree with being cut. Here we see Ed as he breaks up with his girlfriend and ends up spending the night at Bela’s where they have a bit of a heart-to-heart. Not only does this scene do a nice job of helping make clear the issues of Ed’s breakup, but it also serves to explore and strengthen the sense of bond between Ed and Bela’s friendship, and provide deeper window into Lugosi’s character at the same time. I think that Ed Wood would have been an even richer film experience and a better movie with this scene back in the feature film.
- Que Sera Sera: Bill Murray’s character spends some more time with the Mexican band here at the meat-packing plant. Didn’t change my world. Nice deleted scene but not missing it when I watch the movie.
Now that Disney has finally released it, you've gotta' get Ed Wood on DVD! Picture quality that is excellent with a fine audio presentation are the staple of any DVD I would consider recommending. Add to that that Ed Wood is a remarkable and unconventional film that comes to you on DVD with a satisfying spread of extras and what more is there to say?