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Ed Wood: Special Edition

Tim Burton's affectionate 1994 biopic about "the worst director ever" is not just an elegiac serio-comedy and a showcase vehicle for actor Johnny Depp. Burton also found in Wood's story something worth saying about passion, dreams, and talent, and about how having two of those three things isn't the worst way to go through life. Burton discovered Wood's 1950s oeuvre on TV. Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, and most famously Plan 9 from Outer Space, with their shaky cardboard sets, lead-balloon dialogue, and pie-plate flying saucers, remain the standards by which all grade-Z crapfilms are measured. For Burton their cross-dressing, zealously clueless director's distinct style gave those schlocky midnight schedule-fillers a certain intoxicated power born out of Wood's passion for making them. Depp explodes out of his insular Edward Scissorhands to make Wood a near-manic, yet sincere and likeable, showman-huckster-dreamer and one of God's holy fools. However, where the film's heart and blood pumps is Martin Landau's Bela Lugosi, a washed-up ex-Dracula with a debilitating morphine addiction, a head muddled with soured memories of better times, and a hair-trigger foul mouth. Landau won an Oscar and a New York Critics Award for this role. The relationship between Wood and Lugosi is touchingly handled, affirming Burton's ability to imbue oddballs and outcasts with sympathy and warmth.

Touchstone Home Video's DVD release arrives with a source-print and anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) that keep the film's beautiful black-and-white cinematography right on target. The print shows some minor flaws, so viewers aching for "pristine" are forewarned. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is strong and clean, but not flashy. Extras include a good commentary track with Burton, Landau, the writers, and others. We also get quality behind-the-scenes footage, short production featurettes, five deleted scenes, and an odd music video.

—Mark Bourne

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