Care for a fairy tale? Howz this?
Director/Writer Tim Burton got his start in Hollywood doing animator work at Disney. Disney long knew they had something in the energetic young, talented Tim but they probably weren't sure what (even tried to protect him from their own movies that they weren't sure about*). After sponsoring a series of his funky short films, Disney let him go out into the world to make his mark with Paul Reubens, aka, Pee Wee Herman. Together they made the delightfully madcap Pee Wee's Big Adventure.
Though Big Adventure was a roccoco confection of comedic film making, it also made an innocent satirical statement on the American lifestyle. It was accusatory without condemnation and remains a cult fan favorite.
Then came BEETLEJUICE, another innocent comedy that was just as funky and offbeat as Big Adventure but with a decidely darker theme. As a comedy it garnered both critical acclaim and audience appeal. Even more, despite its big box office, it too has endured as a cult fan favorite and marked Tim Burton as a Director in tune with the Goth fashion of the Industrial nations, as well as those who like Industrial music in the . . . uh . . . anyway.
When Tim Burton brought EDWARD SCISSORHANDS to the table, he did so with the kind of success behind him that allowed complete control over the project. More than any feature length film before, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS was entirely under Burton's command. The studio bosses couldn't even begin to fathom Burton's appeal or what made it click with mass audiences. They were more than happy to let the goose create his own gold.
What Burton produced was a film that made the studio bosses gasp in wonder. Without question, the film had all the depth of an arthouse movie, yet with none of the presumption or amatuerish quality. It clearly had broad based audience appeal, yet it also had the Burton stamp of being both out of step and unique.
It could be PR hype, but at the time it was said that that the movie brought tears to the eyes of some of the movie execs. It's easy to see how it could happen. For one thing, I don't know any big studio executives - at least none that will come forward and admit it. For another thing, I've seen girlfriends get all weepy watching this movie and even Jerry Seinfeld had an episode that featured two grown Italian men sobbing over the film, their differences dissolved in compassion for Edward.
Edward, as we're told in the preamble, lives in the decrepit house on the hill at the end of the neighborhood cul de sac. The neighborhood is a fictional 1960s setting of contemporary Americana. Like an alternate history tale, the setting is both the past and the present. The houses are a myriad of solid pastel colors and the cars are all from the 1960s and 70s.
As the movie gets started, Peggy (Dianne Wiest: THE LOST BOYS), a lone yet bubbly Avon lady, makes her sterile rounds through the neighborhood. No one is buying, no one wants anything, and doors are closed or slammed in her face, sometimes with laughter. Frustrated after a fruitless day, Peggy spies the old decrepit house in her rearview mirror and figures, 'What the hell?'
There in the house, Peggy discovers, first to her fright, Edward (Johnny Depp: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE, THE NINTH GATE, SLEEPY HOLLOW^, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL): A young man who wears his hair like that Hollywood Director, Tim Burton, but dresses like Michael Jackson when the gloved one is in one of his "moods".
When Edward steps out from the shadows, he raises his sharp blades and Peggy is horrified to see the long and deadly knives/scissors he carries on each finger. Then she realizes that the blades are no gloved weapon, but his actual hands, the blades are his fingers. As Peggy starts in terror Ed explains, "I'm not finished."
When Peggy asks where his parents are, Edward says of his Father, "He didn't wake up."
Nodding with compassion, Peggy decides that she should bring Edward into the world. That's when Merry Mishaps occur.
It sounds hackneyed but it's true: Wonderful performances are given by all.
Vincent Price (THE FLY, THE RETURN OF THE FLY, THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN!), plays the old, kindly inventor who, in his loneliness, is inspired to create Edward vie a heart shaped cookie. The inventor learns as he creates and Edward is built piecemeal, brought to life before he is fully developed. There are scenes of the limbless Edward learning things like proper etiquette as well as humor.
Like the Inventor's haphazardly intricate machines, so goes his mind however. The Inventor, though a genius, is far from perfect and, before we even see how it happened, we know that he died before he could finish Edward. Why the Inventor gave Edward scissors for hands remains a secret of his own kind, but flawed character.
Other great performances include Alan Arkin as Peggy's very laid back and overly understanding husband, Bill. Anthony Michael Hall is the selfish and cowardly Jim, and Kathy Baker chews the scenery as the tacky, creepy, bored and horny housewife, Joyce (wherever she goes, Tom Jones sings in the background).
A modern fairy tale in the realm of what has come to be called "Burtonesque", EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is bright, colorful, and dark all at the same time. Edward, like any good monster, is both supremely deadly and an object of pity. His deathly potential is only kept in check by the kindness of his heart.
The more cynical folks, particularly those who affect a jaded sensibility without hardly any life experience at all, may judge EDWARD SCISSORHANDS maudlin, and there are times when it nearly becomes sappy. But those moments are bordered by the helplessly deadly nature that is Edward. In one scene, Peggy's daughter Kim (Wynona Ryder: BEETLEJUICE, DRACULA, ALIEN: RESURRECTION), overcome by Edward's quiet kindness, asks him to hold her. Edward raises his long sharp blades, and slowly draws them around her. We can all see the danger, right? So can Edward, who lowers his hands and says, "I can't."
The film boasts make-up effects by Stan Winston Studios and led by Richard J. Landon. Music by long time Burton buddy Danny Elfman. This isn't the first time I've made mention of the hairstylist in a Johnny Depp movie, but Hair Designer, Yolanda Toussieng deserves special mention for this movie. If you've never seen it, you'll understand why in the first ten minutes of this film, and it gets crazier as the story progresses. Special mention must also be made of the sets designed by Rick Heinrichs, Paul Sonski, and Ann Harris. Kudos also to Art Director, Tom Duffield. All these talents and their crews came together to create the special atmosphere that Burton wanted and needed to communicate his dream of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS.
It would be nearly ten years before Tim Burton would make his first bonafide Horror movie with SLEEPY HOLLOW, but EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is a classic film in every sense of the word. It is a wonderful addition to any Horror film fan's collection, and is arguably Tim Burton's best movie to date.
Five Shriek Girls.
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