Tag Archives: Martin Landau

Tim Burton

Last week I went to the Tim Burton exhibition at ACMI here in Melbourne. I haven’t yet written about this experience as since then I have caught quite a bad case of football fever and have had a hard time concentrating on anything other than Saturday’s big game between Collingwood and St Kilda.

I found the exhibition to be quite interesting as it focussed mainly on Burton’s early work when he was at Disney and the stuff that inspired him.

There was lots of stuff from Nightmare Before Christmas and his stop motion animated movies, but very little from Batman or Batman Returns or any of his popular movies.

I like Tim Burton and there are some movies of his that I enjoy but I also think that he is massively overrated. I think that a lot of times when he is doing adaptations of other people’s work he takes creative freedoms a bit too far. An example of this I think is on the design of the Penguin character from Batman Returns. Nowhere in the Penguin’s 40 years (until then) of comic book history did he ever have flippers or live in the sewers.  Despite Burton being a self-confessed comic book geek he must have known that he would piss off the Batman fanboys by doing this.

Then there are his versoins of Charlie & the Chocoltae Factory and Alice In Wonderland. My problem with these films is that they take too many liberties with technology and CGI and look too freakishly unrealistic to work. Seeing Helena Bonham Carter‘s massive head bobble around just freaks me out and screams of uncanny valley.


North By Northwest

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited)
Written by Ernest Lehman
Starring Cary Grant
Eva Marie Saint
James Mason
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Robert Burks, ASC
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) July 28, 1959 (US)
Running time 136 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Along with Psycho and The Birds, North By Northwest is perhaps Alfred Hitchcock’s best known work. Of all of Hitchcock’s films North By Northwest is probably the one that is the most critically acclaimed. It is also the film that contains a couple of the most well-known scenes in all of Hitch’s movies and indeed of all of cinema. While the shower scene from Psycho may be the most famous of Hitchcock’s signature scenes, Cary Grant being chased by the crop duster through the corn field in North By Northwest as well as the backdrop of Mount Rushmore while Grant and Eve Marie Saint battle their would be assassins have both become just as iconic in their own right.

In this exciting movie Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a nobody advertising executive who is mistaken for fictious spy George Kaplan. He is initially kidnapped by a couple of thugs who believe he is the spy Kaplan and who try to murder him. Once he escapes a cat and mouse adventure begins, with Thornhill being chased across the United States as he searches in vain for Kaplan. The film is just thrilling in every sense, with this being one of Grant’s best films. Bernard Herrmann’s score is once again brilliant and matches the excitement of each scene.  In my opinion this is simply a great film that everyone should see once in their lifetime.

* Early in the film watch for a cameo by Ed Platt as Thornhill’s lawyer. A few years later Platt went on to play the Chief in Get Smart, my favourite TV show of all time!!!


Ed Wood

Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Tim Burton
Denise Di Novi
Written by Screenplay:
Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Book:
Rudolph Grey
(Nightmare of Ecstasy)
Starring Johnny Depp
Martin Landau
Patricia Arquette
Sarah Jessica Parker
Jeffrey Jones
Lisa Marie
Bill Murray
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Stefan Czapsky
Editing by Chris Lebenzon
Distributed by Touchstone Pictures
Release date(s) Limited release:
September 30, 1994
Wide release
October 7, 1994
Running time 127 min.
Country United States

Edward D. Wood Jr. is world-renowned as having directed some of the worst movies ever made. He was a director with lots of ideas and ambition but little talent or money. Most of the actors he used in his films were made up of friends, freaks and weirdos, as well as a drug addled and past his prime Bela Lugosi. Wood may have had little talent as a director and his films may be ridiculed as some of the worst of all time and they have an ill-conceived weirdness about them, yet they retain a sincerity in them and are never boring, which you cannot necessarily say about some of today’s big budget blockbusters.Despite his lack of talent and success there are very few Hollywood directors who can say that they have had their lives and career lovingly immortalised on film.

Depp is brilliant as Wood, in another of his quirkier roles. He plays Wood as someone full of childish enthusiasm for the movie business, and who doesn’t see his own limitations. He idolizes the great Orson Welles and in his own mind he is just as successful. I know that Burton must have taken a few liberties with the film, but I wonder if Wood honestly knew that what he was making was shit, or is he really thought of himself as an auteur making great works of art. Perhaps this is my own cynical nature that makes me think this, but there is no cynicism at all in Burton’s film. He and Depp portray Wood with all the reverence reserved for legends.

I must also make mention of Martin Landau’s Oscar-winning performance portraying screen legend Bela Lugosi, the original Dracula. He gives a sympathetic portrayal of Lugosi, who at the time he met Wood had hit rock bottom. His career was in tatters and he was in the grips of morphine addiction. A running joke throughout the film is when Ed tells potential backers that he is going to have Lugosi starring in his next movie project the response is usually, “Isn’t he dead?”.

This is a great little film that is very funny and quirky. It is a fascinating look at the life of someone who never knew that he was a failure and never gave up on his dreams.