Ed Wood is a fictional biography film directed by Tim Burton. It stars Johnny Depp in the titular role of Ed Wood, a 1950’s movie director who has garnered a reputation today as the worst director of all time. His films are also considered terrible, with his most famous, Plan 9 From Outer Space, being widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. The film Ed Wood is about the career of this man, the people he met and the circumstances surrounding the production of his movies, and shares some unknown insight as to why his films turned out so bad.
The film is shot entirely in black and white, to reflect the era the film takes place in: 1950’s Hollywood. The film begins with Ed Wood and his friends, who make movies with him, reading reviews of a stage play Wood and his team recently made. They are very negative, but Ed is optimistic that they will one day make a major motion picture that he will be remembered for. He then goes to the studio to ask to be made director for a film about a man who undergoes a sex change. He says that he is qualified to direct the film, since Wood was a transvestite, and thus makes the film about a transvestite instead. This creates some difficulties between Wood and his girlfriend Dolores Fuller, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, and they eventually break up over Wood’s habits and failing career. While shooting the film, Wood has a chance encounter with Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian actor who famously portrayed Dracula in the 1930’s, portrayed by Martin Landau. Wood and Lugosi quickly become friends and Lugosi stars in several of Wood’s films. However, Lugosi is a struggling heroin addict, and towards the end of the film is admitted to a rehabilitation center. Throughout the film, Wood struggles to secure funding for his films and must often turn to unexpected sources of funding. For funding of Plan 9 From Outer Space, he asks for funding from a Baptist church.
This is one of the reasons that Wood’s films are so low quality, due to budget constraints, and that those funding the films demand bizarre additions, such as explosions and for their employees to star in leading roles. This is also why the film is called Plan 9 from Outer Space, as Wood initially called it Grave Robbers from Outer Space. Inexperienced actors also lead to unintentionally bad scenes, such as Tor Johnson, a Swedish wrestler. Lugosi’s bizarre roles in some of the films, such as his opening narration in Glen or Glenda, are put in because Wood was desperate to give his new friend and ailing addict work. The footage of Lugosi seen in Plan 9 was recorded shortly before Lugosi’s death in 1956.
The film is meant to portray Ed Wood and his team in a very lighthearted and optimistic way, overcoming problems and ignoring bad publicity and reviews to make films they have passion for. The struggles that Wood and his team face are meant to almost be inspiration to other aspiring filmmakers whose vision is ignored or interfered-with by their studio. Near the end of the film, Wood meets Orson Wells, one of his idols, who inspires him to continue filming Plan 9 and to work around the producer’s wishes.
Today, Ed Wood can be seen as not only a biography of the life of one of Hollywood’s worst directors, but a tribute to a man with a passion for filmmaking, whose vision was warped beyond its initial intent, but who never gave up trying despite that fact. Those who enjoy the feeling of a classic movie will definitely enjoy Ed Wood, as well as those who like film history.