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Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Ed Wood: Special Edition (1994)

Ed Wood: Special Edition (1994)

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Released 20-May-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Music Video
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Let's Shoot This F#*%@r!
Featurette-The Theremin
Featurette-Making Bela
Featurette-When Carol Met Larry
Featurette-Pie Plates Over Hollywood
Audio Commentary-Tim Burton (Director), Martin Landau (Actor), et al
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 121:19
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (83:21) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Tim Burton

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Johnny Depp
Martin Landau
Sarah Jessica Parker
Patricia Arquette
Jeffrey Jones
Bill Murray
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Howard Shore

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish Audio Commentary
Swedish Audio Commentary
Norwegian Audio Commentary
Danish Audio Commentary
Finnish Audio Commentary
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Edward D. Wood Jr. is a filmmaker who has fascinated me over my years as a film fan. I can still remember trips to the Valhalla in Westgarth as a film student to see the Plan 9 from Outer Space late session. Firmly entrenched as a cult hero among film fans as the unofficial ‘worst director of all time’ and maker of the ‘worst film of all time’, the character and motivation for Ed Wood always struck me as tragic, a fact heightened by his death in 1978 destitute and suffering chronic alcoholism.

    Wood was a man who honestly believed in the ‘magic’ of film, and thought he could bring himself to be a part of it and all that Hollywood could bring. Unfortunately, he was wrong. Simply, he was an abysmal filmmaker. He had the vision, but lacked the filmmaking skills that would allow those visions to become compelling cinema. His films suffered from terrible dialogue, laughable production design and wooden acting.

    Director Tim Burton’s Ed Wood focuses mostly upon the period that surrounds Wood’s relationship with washed up 1930s horror star Bela Lugosi. The relationship includes the story surrounding the resultant few pictures that the two collaborated on, including Glenn or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, and the infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space which only features a few short minutes of Lugosi, before his death forced Wood to cast his wife’s chiropractor to complete filming. To illustrate the kind of work Wood was famous for, Lugosi’s replacement was clearly taller and spent the remainder of the film with a cape covering his face.

    Burton has admirably captured the look of the era, including shooting the film on black and white film stock, and the casting is excellent. Martin Landau delivers a deserved Oscar-winning performance as Lugosi, and Burton favourite Johnny Depp is believable as the bizarre cross-dressing Ed Wood.

    Somehow, this biopic comes off as a little too clean and selective for my liking. Burton is perhaps too honourable to Wood in his film. There are many parts of Wood’s life that are not addressed, such as his alcoholism, and descent into pornographic writing and filmmaking. It also fails to mention any of the other films that Wood was responsible for within the period that the film covers. Wood was also interested in Westerns, and was involved in several films in this genre as well as a failed TV pilot. Similarly, Lugosi wasn’t the only washed-up star that Wood was able to convince to star in his films - he also had similar relationships with other actors from the 1930’s such as Lyle Talbot.

    Ultimately, all those things can be overlooked when considering the limitations of creating a film of this nature. What is difficult to accept is the fact that the film portrays Wood with continuing optimism. Whilst this is important as a tool to show his passion for film, towards the end of the period shown in the film Wood was suffering more and more from alcoholism and the tragedy of his life is less apparent on screen. That to me is disappointing; I felt that the tragedy of Wood’s life as a man who failed in Hollywood was a more compelling story. Nonetheless, I do recommend this film as a fan of both Burton and Wood. It is a well made film, and the story shown is still very compelling, if abridged.

    The commentary goes some way to explaining why the film took the direction that it did, but I’m left with the feeling that the reasoning given is more convenient to the filmmaking process than an actual creative decision. It is probably a more watchable film as it is, which when filming a biography can mean that dramatic license can overshadow truth, which is unfortunate.

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Transfer Quality


    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is quite sharp, although not quite at a reference level. I found the shadow detail to be good, with special attention given to this within the filmmaking process given the fact that it was filmed in black and white. The subtle graduations between light and darkness really add to the scenes in Lugosi’s house, and the filming locations used by Wood. There is some grain in the picture, but it is hard to grasp whether this was the intention given the period feel of the film, but unfortunately it wasn’t mentioned in the featurettes or in the commentary. It isn’t distracting entirely, but it is noticed. There is no low level noise apparent on this DVD.

    As mentioned, this is a black and white film, therefore no colour is measured. On another note, the greyscale is good, and the greys do not tend to green or other colours as they often can.

    MPEG artefacts are pleasantly few in this transfer. There is the slightest hint of aliasing on a wall heater grille behind Ed at 18:25. There are a few instances of film artefacts, such as lint on the left hand side of the screen at 99:42, but they aren’t distracting through the film.

    There are 13 subtitle tracks on this DVD. I sampled both the English and the English for the Hearing Impaired tracks. I found them both to be unusually accurate to the dialogue; I did not notice any abbreviations. Unfortunately, they do intrude onto the picture somewhat. I think that greater effort to ensure that the subtitles were further down the screen could have been beneficial.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 83:21, just as the lights go out on  a spook train ride with Ed and Kathy. It is not distracting to the film flow.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three audio tracks on this DVD, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s) track, a Spanish track of the same specification, and an Audio Commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    I listened to the English 5.1 track and the Audio Commentary.

    The dialogue was clear and crisp, and no issues with audio sync were noted in any part of the film. No clicks/pops or dropouts were heard in this rather clean audio track.

    The music in this film is credited to Howard Shore, and is very much in keeping with the horror films of this era, with lots of dramatic orchestral crescendos to illustrate a climax, and use of the Theremin to give the film a science fiction feel.

    Surround channel use is rather sparing in this film. It doesn’t really affect the feel of the film; I can imagine that overly zealous use of the surround channels could probably detract from the film’s feel. The subwoofer is well used to illustrate explosions and thunder in Wood's films, and gets a mild workout.

    I’m hesitant to award a low score for the surround/subwoofer usage as this is a good example of the ‘less is more’ adage.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Music Video (3:28)

    This bizarre music video is of the main title theme cut with images from the film and a scantily clad Vampira/Elvira-esque woman dancing around on the Plan 9 set. The song has no words, and is not credited. It is most decidedly weird.

Theatrical Trailer (2:17)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and not 16x9 enhanced, this trailer offers Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) audio. Just your standard run-of-the-mill trailer fare here. It is also subtitled in the same languages as the main film, as are all the extras.

Featurette: Let’s Shoot this F#*%@r! (13:55)

    Also presented in 1.66:1 not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) audio, this is a behind the cameras look at the making of the film. Informative and watchable, it is introduced by Depp in drag.

Featurette: The Theremin (7:23)

    An interesting, if a bit long, featurette on the Theremin, an unusual instrument used extensively in the score of the film. Also shows part of the sound recording process of the film including composer Howard Shore.

Featurette: Making Bela (8:15)

    Martin Landau and other production staff outline how the Bela Lugosi character was developed both from a production design and an acting standpoint.

Featurette: When Carol Met Larry (9:22)

    Another bizarre featurette that focuses on the transvestite element of the film and details the experience of the editor of a transvestite magazine.

Featurette: Pie Plates over Hollywood (13:50)

    Production Designer Tom Duffield details the filming process including the challenges of filming in black and white. This is quite interesting. Various production design elements are discussed.

Audio Commentary: Tim Burton (Director), Martin Landau (Actor), Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander (Co-Writers), Stefan Czapsky (Director of Photography) and Colleen Atwood (Costume Designer)

    This is an engaging commentary in which individuals are introduced by Landau doing his Lugosi impersonation. Dominated by Karaszewski and Alexander, this mildly scene specific commentary reveals some good insights into the process of making this film, and some of the back-story to these characters. It goes some way to explaining the reasons why the film doesn’t touch other parts of Wood’s life, but Karaszewski and Alexander give me the impression that this was too big a task to tackle for this movie, and they may be right.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title is not yet available in R1, and the R2 versions seem identical, therefore I select the R4 to be the version of choice at this time.


    Ed Wood is an engaging film, well acted and made. It may not appeal to everyone’s tastes as a biography of Ed Wood, but Burton has done an admirable job of bringing Wood to some mainstream success, a feat he was unable to accomplish in his own life.

    The film transfer is very good, with some grain.

    The audio track is also very good, suiting the film's style well, despite not using surround information to any great degree.

    The extras are an unusual bunch, with content unlike you will find on most mainstream releases. The audio commentary is engaging, with the writers carrying the bulk of the space on this track.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Pase (I hated bio - dome, but loved Jack Black)
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSonken DV-2600 Progressive Scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony VPH-1251QM CRT Projector, 100" 4:3 screen, 2.2 gain. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3801
SpeakersMordaunt Short MS95 mains, Equinox Eclipse center and 4 x JBL surrounds, JBL sub.

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