Tag Archives: Tim Burton

Doin’ It For The Kids

And who said it was only high-brow French cinema that gets a nod on this blog. Shame on you!…..

So winter has hit Scotland after the four weeks of slightly warmer rain we like to call summer. This is traditionally a time for mass movie going for Lauren and I as there’s precious little else to do indoors in Edinburgh that generates any real fun, there is only so many times you can walk round that damn castle.

Last weekend we took in the new animation feature IGOR, which features the voices (because it’s all about the voices) of John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Izzard, Jennifer Coolidge, John Cleese and Jay Leno, amongst others. I have to say, I found this to be a nice little movie. British film critic Mark Kermode said it’s “a Tim Burton movie with all the Tim Burton bits removed” and while I can kind of see where he’s coming from, I think there’s enough in this film for it to stand on its own two feet, albeit just.

The film, like most contemporary mainstream animation, attempts to work on two levels by providing engaging material for both kids and their long suffering parents. The movie delivers some nice slapstick in the form of Scamper the suicidal rabbit who is voiced by the perfectly cast Steve Buscemi, there’s just something wonderfully defeatist about Buscemi’s delivery which works to great effect in this film. The nice touch here is that the rabbit is not actually suicidal but is just tired of living after being made immortal by the brilliant but totally ignored Igor, voiced by John Cusack. The third character in the trio of friends is brain that is simply a brain in a jar but ironically, is thick as mince in the neck of a milk bottle. Brain, like scamper, is the result of Igor’s inventive, but hidden talents.

The film is based in the fictional city of Malaria and follows Igor’s quest to prove to the world how clever he is by winning the annual science fair, this has been tough due to the fact that Igors are expected only to be bumbling servants to the ego maniac scientists that litter the city. It could be said that the Igor’s are held back because of the way they look, talent means nothing as long as you have an ego and beauty, very fitting when considering this alongside our X Factor obsessed society. Igor’s master is voiced by John Cleese and for me is the best drawn character in the picture, of course it’s this aesthetic that leads to the Tim Burton comparisons but I like it all the same.

On seeing his master blown up by his own stupidity, Igor seizes the chance to enter an invention, dressed as the work of his dismantled oppressor. Great hilarity ensues as Igor creates a Frankenstein woman who instead of being evil, is programmed to act like an actress. There’s a bit of a twist at the end that again, is more aimed at adults and goes as far as saying the government is corrupt and creating a smokescreen that leads to the population having a fear of what isn’t really there…… Sound familiar? This message isn’t too subtle either which led me to like the movie even more. Not that this is a great film, it’s only just reaching good, not a bad way to spend some time with your kids on a horrible Scottish afternoon however.

What REALLY gets on my nerves now is how little choice there is for kids under 12 these days. Back in the golden age of “the code” kids could pretty much go and see anything. You’re lucky if there’s 2 features specifically for kids at any one time in mutiplexes these days, and those are usually advertising vehicles for merchandise, this begs the question, where can modern children develop a love for cinema? If their parents aren’t pumping them full of old Marx Brothers, Preston Struges and Ernst Lubistch pictures, they’ve no real grasp of how wonderful the cinema can be…… I despair.

Don’t Get Rid of the Dead Wood!

You know you’ve seen a great picture when as soon as the credits start to roll you take action. You act as a direct result of what you’ve seen.

It happened last night.

The director was Tim Burton. The lead was Johnny Depp…..

The film…………. was ED WOOD.

The immediate action I took was to seek out the films of this passionate, yet sadly flawed filmmaker.(I’m going to dedicate a post to every film as it comes through) He has the unenviable honour of being voted the worst director of all time and having made the worst movie of all time, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. Yet this was a man who loved making films. He lived for it. And although mainstream success never came his way, He was always on the hunt for another picture, there’s something DEEPLY lovable about that.

Quoted below (if the internet is to be believed) is Edward D. Wood Jr‘s last public writing (It was apparently written only 2 weeks before his death in 1978) which is in the form of sleeve notes for the PLAN 9 soundtrack which was released some years later, it’s quite a touching piece which really conveys the man’s love for his work. I love the section on how he had to bring the picture in for $800 and managed it by doing 250 camera set ups a day, I’m not sure if that’s possible but you can bet your ass it wasn’t far off…….

After reading the piece below, feast your eyes on the PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE trailer, it’s bloody awful but I feel drawn to it like an aardvark to a ball of wool. Pay special attention to the military stock footage (also mentioned in the sleeve notes) he’s seamlessly woven into the picture. Beautifully rubbish.

“A SPECIAL NOTE FROM EDWARD D. WOOD, JR.
Writer-Producer-Director of “Plan 9 From Outer Space”
When the producers of this record album asked me to write some notes for the jacket, I was delighted. Needless to say, when I made “Plan 9 From Outer Space” in 1959, I never dreamed that it would still be playing on television to millions of loyal fans some twenty years later.

Of course, I always knew “Plan 9” was my finest work, but that doesn’t always guarantee a movie’s place in film history. So while big budget turkeys like “Cleopatra” and “Dr. Dolittle” quickly fade from the public’s memory, “Plan 9” endures. (Indeed, if I had guessed that “Plan 9” would hold up so well, I would have asked for more money up front.)
When I look back on those hectic early days, I kind of wish that dear old Bela Lugosi could have known that he was making a science-fiction classic in 1956. In point of fact, Bela thought he was shooting a horror film, titled “Tomb of the Vampire.” But after two days of location work, my good friend dropped dead without a warning and without giving two weeks notice. Since Bela had the lead role in the film, I couldn’t see any way to spread his five minutes of footage through a 90 minute movie, so the entire project was scrapped.

Another friend told me that I was crazy to throw away five minutes of Bela Lugosi footage, and he offered me the chance to shoot an entirely new film around the Lugosi scenes if I could bring it in under $800.00. I told him it would be no problem (don’t forget, $800.00 went a long way in those days), and six hours later I handed him the shooting script for “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” He was delighted and the deal was made.

Before you could say �Roger Corman,’ sets were built in my garage, clothes were borrowed from my closet (I personally supplied all the sweaters worn by Mona McKinnon in the film), and stock footage was purchased from Trident Films, Inc. Finally, friends who would work for nothing, and actors who would accept a cut in salary for a good role were hired. By cutting corners and doing 250 camera set-ups a day, we were able to finish the picture on time and under budget. (In fact, we had enough money left over to take the principal cast members to lunch at the Brown Derby.)

After some minor financial squabbles with the processing lab and several distributor back-outs, we finally premiered “Plan 9 From Outer Space” at the luxurious Brookdale Theater in El Monte. Some of the cast members were there, Tor Johnson and Criswell and Vampira, and we even rented a spotlight. (The damn thing never did work and I refused to pay for it. I also refused to pay for the theater’s toilet seat that Tor Johnson broke.) The party after the film was great fun, too. I can still remember the day one of our associate producers came up with the idea of digging up Bela Lugosi’s body and propping him up in his coffin in the theater lobby. It would have been a great publicity stunt, but the more I thought about it, the more tasteless the idea became. We ended up putting my plastic octopus from “Bride of the Monster” in the lobby.


The REAL Ed Wood.

The initial reaction to the film was predictably mixed… the fans loved it, and the critics killed it. Some of the reviewers actually made fun of our cheap cardboard sets. I mean, what did they expect for $786.27… the Paramount backlot? But time has proved the fans right. Not only is “Plan 9” a hit on late night television, but now it has been permanently preserved on this phonographic record, which contains nearly all of the film’s dialogue and music. I would be lax if I did not mention the wonderful music by Gordon Zahler. I think it is his finest work, surpassing even his superb scores for “Mutiny in Outer Space” and “Women of the Prehistoric Planet.”

Finally, a special note to all of my special friends. I am retired now, and living comfortably in the home of a good friend. I still keep a watchful eye on the Hollywood scene, and I still dream of the day when my sequel to “Plan 9,” “The Night of the Ghouls,” will be rescued from the Pathé Laboratory and released for all my fans to see and enjoy. Until that time, I manage to occupy myself by puttering in the garden and watching football on television.
So here is the record of “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed creating it.
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Edward D. Wood, Jr.
December, 1978

My new filmmaking motto, inspired by Ed, is “Strive to be great but if you can’t, do it anyway”….. Filmmaking is a great profession embedded in a shitty business. That should never put us off though.

Look out for the “Ed Wood and other skid row notables” season coming soon to J.I.C.