Ironically, instead of deriding Edward D. Wood Jr, the Medveds, to the contrary turned him and Plan 9 from Outer Space into objects of cultish veneration. Edward D. Wood Jrs films were suddenly revived as midnight favourites and the just-arrived video market allowed many of them to be rediscovered. Lost Wood films were unearthed some even given releases for the first time. Tracking down details of Edward D. Wood Jrs bizarre private life became an obsessive topic of fanzinish academia. Probably more articles, books and video have been dedicated to the worlds worst director than there has ever been to any other B-movie director. In fact, at the point of Ed Woods release, Edward D. Wood Jr was the only director one knows of to have a film made about his life the only other example one can think of is John Huston in Clint Eastwoods White Hunter, Black Heart (1990). Certainly, this changed somewhat after Ed Wood with Gods and Monsters (1998) about James Whale, Shadow of the Vampire (2000), which fictionalises the life of F.W. Murnau, Hugo (2011) about silent film pioneer Georges Melies, Hitchcock (2012) and one further bad movie director biopic about Art Nelson with The Creep Behind the Camera (2014).
Despite an impeccable box-office record with hits like Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Batman Returns (1992) behind him, Tim Burton had enormous difficulty getting the Ed Wood film off the ground, despite its relatively low budget. However, when one considers how much of a fans film Ed Wood is, this is not much of a surprise. Only the Wood cult can appreciate many of the films references or the films obsessive recreations of the sets and camera set-ups from Bride of the Monster and Glen or Glenda?. For a film pitched to such a minority audience, one can sympathize with the studios cold feet. Moreover, this seemed to be born out, with the film having only had a very modest financial success.
Tim Burton is to at least be commended for not turning the film into a freakshow. Considering that the hero of the story is a cross-dresser and the collection of wannabe sex changes, fake prophets and washed-up drug-addicts the film has on hand, it is remarkable that the film does not choose to deride and poke fun at them, as indeed the Medveds did. But then this is a Tim Burton film and the heroes in Burton films the likes of Pee-Wee Herman, Edward Scissorhands, Batman, The Mad Hatter are always the alienated and the social rejects. Instead of laughing at Ed Wood, Burton chooses to ennoble his pretensions.
It is peculiar to watch a film honouring one of the worlds greatest losers, but oddly enough it works. The films greatest strength is the sadness of the relationship between Ed Wood and the down-and-out Bela Lugosi. Martin Landau delivers a grand performance, be it pretending to wrestle an inanimate octopus, or showing the sad hunger for attention of any sort when he puts on his Dracula cape to scare some trick-or-treating kids or eagerly greeting tabloid reporters come to interview him in a drug rehab clinic. The makeup job and Martin Landaus mimicry of Bela Lugosis over-the-top acting style is uncannily realistic. The world of topsy-turvy trash culture values that the Edward D. Wood Jr Z movie cult embodies was surely best demonstrated by the fact that Martin Landau swept that years Academy, Golden Globe, LA Film Critics, New York Film Critics, National Society of Film Critics and Screen Actors Guild Awards for Best Supporting Actor most of the worlds top acting accolades for playing one of the worlds worst (over)-actors in a film about the worlds worst film.
Tim Burtons other films of genre interest include the kitsch Pee-Wees Big Adventure (1985), the bizarre ghost story Beetlejuice (1988); Batman (1989); the genteel artificial boy fairy-tale Edward Scissorhands (1990); Batman Returns (1992); the alien invasion spoof Mars Attacks! (1996); the ghost story Sleepy Hollow (1999); the remake of Planet of the Apes (2001); Big Fish (2003) about an habitual teller of tall tales; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005); the stop-motion animated Gothic Corpse Bride (2005); the horror musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007); Alice in Wonderland (2010); the film remake of the tv series Dark Shadows (2012); the stop-motion animated Frankenweenie (2012); and Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children (2016). Burton also produced Henry Selicks darkly brilliant stop-motion animated fantasies The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and James and the Giant Peach (1996); as well as the live-action conte cruel Cabin Boy (1994), Batman Forever (1995), the animated 9 (2009), Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2012) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016). The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? (2015) is a fascinating documentary about Burtons failed Superman Lives project.
Screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander had previously written Problem Child (1990) but went on to deliver a series of fine screenplays for biopics of controversial figures including The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Man on the Moon (1999) and returning to write Big Eyes (2014) for Tim Burton, as well as producing Auto Focus (2002), all also in the biopic field. More recently within the genre they wrote the childrens spy film Agent Cody Banks (2003), the Stephen King adaptation 1408 (2007) and Goosebumps (2015).
(Winner in this sites Top 10 Films of 1994 list. Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Martin Landau), Nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor (Johnny Depp) at this sites Best of 1994 Awards).