Nowadays, "Burtonesque" is as much a reduction as it is a compliment. The gothic filmmaker's unique style has not only been ripped off endlessly, but also has diminished in stature thanks to his own middling movies. A great abundance of remakes and soulless Johnny Depp vehicles (though I loved "Dark Shadows") may have hurt his reputation, but back in the mid-90s, Tim Burton was the most exciting filmmaker on the block. He brought a surreal sense of humor to "Pee-Wee," a charming handmade quality to "Beetlejuice," a gothic sense of design and composition to "Edward Scissorhands," and an unabashed embrace of camp to the "Batman" movies - and then he brought all those factors to his masterpiece, "Ed Wood."
Though ostensibly the story of the real-life "worst director ever" Edward Wood (he was behind such classics as "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and "Glen or Glenda"), Burton's picture is less a biopic than it is a loving tribute. Filmed in black-and-white, often with shots and lines quoted from Wood's original films, it's meant to feel like a film about Ed Wood, directed by Ed Wood. He's always been a part of the corporate studio system, but Burton is clearly more a follower of the super-cheap B-movie style at heart, and you can feel it in every frame.
This is also the only film where his themes of equality and 'embracing the other' apply to real people, as opposed to vampires and chocolate mavericks and Pee-Wee Herman. The sensitivity and honesty pervading within Burton's crew of cross-dressers (Wood, portrayed by Johnny Depp in what may still be his best performance,) transsexuals (Bill Murray,) and other outcasts of the 50s culture (including Martin Landau as has-been Bela Lugosi) cuts through every cheap joke and sight gag. He's always been interested in families of misfits, and just about everything he's ever had to say about the topic is encapsulated somewhere in "Ed Wood."
Touchstone's Blu-ray release, which features crisp, grainy detail on the visual end and ports over all the features from the Special Edition DVD, is sure to please fans everywhere. The introductions and music videos are passable, but the deleted scenes and commentary (cobbled together from interviews with Burton, Landau, and others), are a must. "This is the one I'd like to be remembered for," Depp's Edward declares. The statement surely came from Burton as much as from the character.