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Burton has fashioned a celebration not of bad movies but of what it takes to get an uncompromised vision on the screen. Disney's Touchstone Pictures finally put its faith in Burton. is Burtons most personal and provocative movie to date.
Outrageously disjointed and just as outrageously entertaining, the picture stands as a successful outsider's tribute to a failed kindred spirit.
Lugosi sat in a chair chanting Woodian gibberish ("Bevare.
Take care") that the great ham managed to alchemize into something genuinely eerie.
If Wood didn't exist, Burton might have conjured him up. Burton sidesteps that period to concentrate on Wood's age of innocence – the 1950s – a time when he churned out movies in a few days and watched them vanish from theaters even faster. Y., had come to California after being decorated as a Marine in World War II. Wood was determined to make it in the rebel style of his idol, Orson Welles. Tom Duffield's production design, Colleen Atwood's costumes and Stefan Czapasky's cinematography show why Wood is the touchstone for tacky.
Although he decorated himself by wearing a bra and panties under his battle fatigues, the twice-married Wood was a transvestite, not a homosexual. His directing technique was more a misreading of Will Rogers: Wood never shot a take he didn't like, even if an actor walked into a wall or uttered such immortal lines as "This afternoon we had a long telephone conversation earlier in the day." Wood showed real compassion for his characters – hardly the mark of a hack – but no discernible talent. The usually recessive Depp breaks form to express Wood's wide-eyed optimism. Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski also know their schlock; they created the movies. It's not satisfied by any insights into Wood's romantic life.
Even when Lugosi is raving about his arch rival Boris Karloff ("He doesn't deserve to smell my shit") or lost in a drug haze, Landau gives him a beleaguered dignity.