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"Greetings, my friends! You are interested in the unknown. The mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing you the full story of what happened. We are giving you all the evidence based only on the secret testimony of the miserable souls who survived this terrifying ordeal. The incidents, faces. My friends, we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Can your heart stand the shocking facts of the true story of Edward D. Wood Jr.?"—Criswell
Ed Wood (1994) is a biopic directed by Tim Burton about the career of Edward D Wood Jr., generally acknowledged as being the worst film director in the history of Hollywood. It focuses on a brief period in Wood's life, going from his early days of putting on terrible plays, to the completion of his magnum opus Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Despite being a movie about a terrible director, the film is notable for portraying Wood as a highly sympathetic character, helped immensely through Johnny Depp's portrayal of Wood as a wide-eyed, endearingly optimistic naif. Wood's experiences also echo those of most artists, and the film depicts Wood struggling to retain his artistic vision (as myopic as it is) despite interference from various, unlikely financial backers. It also deals with Wood coming to terms with his own closet transvestism.
This film is also notable for its depiction of the friendship between Wood and fading Horror star Bela Lugosi, memorably played by Martin Landau. Landau would go on to bag a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.
- Bad Bad Acting: This being a film about the life and work of Ed Wood, you can expect plenty of this.
- Berserk Button: Don't call Bela "Karloff's Sidekick". In fact, don't mention Boris Karloff at all.
- Camp Gay: Bunny.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Ed Wood, through and through.
- Deliberately Monochrome: As a tribute to Ed Wood's movies. This creative decision met a lot of resistance from the studio suits.
- Determinator: Wood is, if nothing else, a man of unparalleled drive and ambition, not letting anything up to and including complete lack of budget, dead actors, reluctant sponsors, or sheer lack of talent get in his way of portraying his artistic vision completely faithfully.
- Doing It for the Art: A big reason of why Ed Wood grabs the audience's sympathy is his conviction that what he is doing is Art with a capital A. Being played by Johnny Depp helps too, obviously.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Ed towards movies.
- Drugs Are Bad: Lugosi's drug addiction.
- Executive Meddling:
- Fat Idiot: Although the real-life Tor Johnson may not have been similar to the lumbering mooks he played in Wood's movies, this film really didn't portray him as someone particularly gifted with smarts.
- Giftedly Bad: The Movie of the trope.
- Going Cold Turkey: Morphine withdrawal is not pretty.
- Graceful Loser: No degree of failure can undermine Wood's artistic ambition.
- Happily Ever Before: It ends at the premiere of Wood's "masterpiece" Plan 9, thus not cutting into his decay into exploitation, porn and alcoholism.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Vampira is portrayed as something of a snob, but one can't help but see her point about not wanting to feature in an Ed Wood film.
- Keet: Ed Wood
- Large Ham: POOOOL DE STREEENK!!! POOOOL DE STREEEENK!!!
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: On the scene when Loretta wants Ed to choose a dress, he can'd decide, so she says to choose which one, the red or the green. Ed asks a worker to choose the red or the green dress, but he says he can't see the colours. And not because the movie is in black and white, but because he's colorblind. The look on Wood's face is priceless.
- Mistaken for Gay: A Running Gag. Each time Ed Wood's transvestism is brought up, he has to explain that he is "not a fruit" and "loves ladies".
Vampira: I thought you were a fag.
Ed: I'm not a fag, just a transvestite.
- Money, Dear Boy/Awesome, Dear Boy: Bela Lugosi's motivation for starring in Ed Wood's flicks goes from earning a quick buck to rediscovering the sheer joy of acting.
- Nice Guy: Ed is extremely generous and goodhearted, desperately trying to help his idol get back into the limelight.
- No Budget: Par for the course for Ed's movies.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: Among other things, the infamous flying saucers from Plan 9.
- Phony Psychic: Criswell.
- The Pollyanna: Ed Wood, again.
- Precision F-Strike: See "Berserk Button" above.
- Production Posse: Each new Ed Wood film is made with more or less the same cast and an unchanging crew. See True Companions below.
- Real Person Cameo: Conrad Brooks, an actor in Ed's compan played in the movie by Brent Hinkley, himself appears as a bartender.
- So Bad It's Good/Horrible: In-universe reactions to Ed Wood's work boil down to these two.
- Stylistic Suck: Again, this was pretty much inevitable.
- Took the Bad Film Seriously: In-universe: Ed Wood is unshakably convinced that his creations are fine cinema.
- True Companions: By the end of the film you wonder whether Ed Wood's cast and crew stick with him because they genuinely believe in his vision, or because for them it's almost as if they are some deranged form of extended family.
- The Unintelligible: George "The Animal" Steele had to work with a voice coach to imitate Tor Johnson's voice. Tor's combination of Swedish accent and jowelly enunciation means he practically mangles every line that Ed Wood writes. Not that comprehension is a particularly great loss.
- Steele didn't exactly do a good job. The strange, booming voice he works into the role is far from Johnson's own voice.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Among other things, the ending captions leave out that Wood ended up a broken, alcoholic porno director. Various other facts are manipulated throughout. But fans of Wood still like this film on the grounds that, well, it comes across as the biopic he would have filmed about himself.
- Viewers are Morons: Subverted; while Wood shows a blatant disregard for things like visual continuity and set quality, and justifies this by saying that no-one really pays attention to the smaller details, he does so because he's projecting his own way of watching films onto the audiences, rather than considering them to be... well, morons.
- Where Are They Now? Epilogue
- White Dwarf Star: Bela Lugosi.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Ed is this all over.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Lampshaded by Ed Wood.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Johnny Depp in an angora sweater. Not many people are going to have a problem with that.