Ed Wood is considered the worst director who ever lived. He held this title for so long, and it wasn’t until recently that my generation has established new cult heroes of awful cinema such as Tommy Wisseau and Uwe Boll and seem to have forgotten Wood somewhat. Beyond that, there is a belief that “Plan 9 from Outer Space” is actually not the worst film ever made but one of the BEST films ever made, that it’s awful sets, performances and effects and complete disregard for continuity was all brilliantly intentional and ironic. Only in the 21st century would such a mindset develop.
It doesn’t help that Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood,” despite being released in his heyday of the ’90s, despite being one of his most critically acclaimed films and despite starring his eternal frontman Johnny Depp, is one of his least known films amongst the many Burton fanboys still agreeing how great “Alice in Wonderland” was (it’s not).
In this film, Burton doesn’t necessarily vindicate Wood as a genius, but he is sympathetic to him, and he recognizes a certain level of genius (albeit one that doesn’t indicate something “good”) in him absent from most other directors of all time. Depp infuses Wood with a sheer level of optimism and grinning credulity for everything around him, and such was the way Wood directed his movies, in love with every shot and every line of dialogue as a work of art. It’s not that he was blind to his own failure as well as other’s greatness. In his mind, everyone was great.
The film is hilarious, one of my favorite lines being, “Aren’t you a fag? What? No, I’m just a transvestite.” Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, who starred in numerous Wood films, is terrific, as is Bill Murray as an arguably odd and unnecessary character, Bunny Breckenridge. The black and white cinematography has that great ’50s B-Movie vibe, and the scenes in which they recreate “Plan 9 from Outer Space” are priceless in their precision to the film (which I’ve seen, and yes, it is terrible in an amazing way).
I’m not sure on the accuracy of the film historically, but it’s great fun and actually one of Burton’s best.