As one of the most overlooked films ever made, "Ed Wood" does for Tim Burton what "Malcolm X" did for Spike Lee and "JFK" did for Oliver Stone, it ruins any expectations one can have of Tim Burton, because he has set a standard here that he will never achieve again. An interest in the period in which it is set is essential, given the set decoration is the film's greatest triumph. It's not surprising that Burton's first "biopic" is about someone revered in the b-movie heyday of the 1950s - that spawned Burton himself. Burton must have felt he had to make this picture because without filmmakers like Ed Wood, Burton himself would have never existed. Set in seedy B-movie Hollywood in the mid 1950s - and wisely and beautifully shot in black-and-white, Johnny Depp plays the titular character; a young, talentless, but optimistic auteur who dreams of being a film director; going so far as to model himself after his idol, Orson Welles. Despite an over-reliance on stock footage, a tin ear for dialogue, and a fondness for wacky, exploitative horror and sci-fi fare, Wood wiggles his way into B-moviedom. Casting anyone willing to step before his camera, Wood cranks out a series of cheesy movies.
When he has a chance encounter with horror film legend Bela Lugosi, now a 74 year-old, foul-mouthed morphine addict wrecked by his lost fame, Ed sees his meal-ticket. Quick for his next fix, Lugosi doesn't seem to mind that Wood is also an out-and-proud transvestite with a particular fondness for Angora sweaters, and soon begins starring in Wood's features. Lugosi, played by Martin Landau, gives the story its biggest jolts of energy. Landau is hysterical in scene after scene utilizing the "dirty old man" routine. Remember, there is nothing funnier on earth than an old man who likes profanity. A gentle - albeit somewhat fictionalized - bond forms between Wood and Lugosi. Depp does a spectacular job of fleshing out Wood's quirky innocence and unbridled passion for moviemaking. This may also be the only Johnny Depp film where you actually see him smile!
What ultimately makes this film so stellar is the impeccable production and costume design and the crisp B&W cinematography; it literally transports you back to the clean-cut, wide-eyed days of the 1950s. I cannot recommend this film enough if you have an interest in the world of 1950s B-movies that produced titles like "Teenagers From Outer Space" and "Project Moonbase". This film functions quite well as a time warp. I liken "Ed Wood" to epics like "JFK" because like those films, this movie doesn't seem to be about what happens as much as how it FEELS to be there; and that's what draws me to the film every time I see it. With "Ed Wood", I'm not always interested in following the story, but I'm totally fascinated with being inside that world. Tim Burton did the best job that anyone could in taking you there.