Edward Scissorhands [DVD]
Screenplay : Caroline Thompson (story by Tim Burton and Caroline Thompson)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 1990
Stars : ohnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands), Winona Ryder (Kim Boggs), Dianne Wiest (Peg Boggs), Alan Arkin (Bill Boggs), Anthony Michael Hall (Jim), Kathy Baker (Joyce Monroe), Robert Oliveri (Kevin Boggs), Conchata Ferrell (Helen), Caroline Aaron (Marge), Dick Anthony Williams (Officer Allen), O-Lan Jones (Esmeralda), Vincent Price (The Inventor)
In one way or another, all of Tim Burton's films are about misunderstood outsiders. Even when working with a well-known superhero in his 1989 hit "Batman," Burton still managed to focus on how others misperceived the Dark Knight as a menace rather than a crime-fighting crusader. In his biopic "Ed Wood" (1994), he portrayed Edward D. Wood, Jr., often considered worst director in the history of cinema, as a maligned artist, and in "Sleepy Hollow" (1999) he reinvented Washington Irving's Ichabod Crane as an ahead-of-his-time police investigator who is looked at with skepticism because of his then-unorthodox techniques.
One of Burton's best explorations of the hero as outsider is his 1990 film "Edward Scissorhands," a touching fable that takes place in a world where a cookie-cutter suburban development sits under the shadow of a huge, gnarled mountain topped with a crumbling Gothic mansion lifted right out of a Hammer horror film. "Edward Scissorhands" is an inspired piece of filmmaking that is disarming in its misleading simplicity. The film is structured very much like a fairy tale in that fairy tales are always simple on their surface, but their deep complexities are what keep them alive over the years.
The titular character of "Edward Scissorhands" is the creation of a kindly old inventor played in wonderful fashion by the experienced veteran Vincent Price. The inventor died before he could give Edward hands, so Edward has lived alone in the remote castle for most of his life with giant scissors that started as temporary replacements for his hands, but have become permanent. Played by Johnny Depp in one of his first major film roles (at the time he was best known as a teen idol on the Fox TV series "21 Jump Street"), Edward is a character who is physically terrifying until you see that he has the confused, curious face of a child. He is brought down from his castle one day when Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest), the cheerful local Avon representative who comes calling and finds him all alone.
The first half of "Edward Scissorhands" is essentially social satire, where screenwriter Caroline Thompson (working from a story she concocted with Burton) puts the bizarre-looking Edward smack in the middle of Southern California suburbia. The production design by Bo Welch ("The Birdcage"), in which the threatening Gothic castle overlooks tracts of uniformly shaped houses, each of which is painted a distinct pastel color and set against a stark, cloudless blue sky, is a stroke of genius in the way it contrasts old-style horror with comfortable conformity in simple, visual terms (frighteningly enough, the film was shot in a real neighborhood in Florida). The slightly disjointed sense of time and place is accentuated by the fact that home décor, costume designs, and cars make it appear that the story is taking place some time in the early 1960s, although there are references to modern electronics like CD players and elaborate home security systems.
All the busybody neighbors are fascinated by Edward's presence, and the attention they lavish on him is simply a lid on top of their deep-seated fears of what he represents: difference. Those fears explode in the second half of the movie when Edward, misunderstood as always, gets caught in a series of circumstances that make him look like a crazed criminal. Soon, the same neighbors who had been fighting over going to the supermarket with Edward are now whispering about how they always knew something wasn't right with him.
As Burton shows, the line between celebrity and scapegoat is a thin one, and an innocent like Edward who was simply going with the flow has no control over his eventual fate. Edward is a tragic figure in this sense, but also in the sense that he is a gentle, fragile soul who helplessly destroys everything he touches. It is not of his own fault that his "hands" are destructive, of course, but he is blamed anyway.
Within this story, Burton also manages to weave a convincingly sweet romance between Edward and Peg's high-school-age daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder). At first, Kim is frightened and somewhat off-put by Edward's presence in her home, a feeling that is exacerbated by her cruel bully of a boyfriend, Jim (Anthony Michael Hall in a bit of reverse casting from his days as the picked-on nerd in '80s John Hughes films like "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club"). However, Kim soon begins to see the fragile innocence of Edward's inexperience, and she becomes the one person in the story who truly understands him.
"Edward Scissorhands" works as a romantic fantasy and as a social satire, but it also has a great deal of straight humor. Some of it is at Edward's expense, as his scissorhands tend to get in the way of normally simple activities like getting dressed and eating. One of the funniest aspects of the film is the droll presence of Alan Arkin as Kim's father, a typical suburban dad whose understated comments and mellow response to the most fantastical of circumstances gives many scenes a humorous edge. He would go on to play a similar type of character to even greater perfection in "Slums of Beverly Hills" (1998).
Of course, Burton's darker tendencies can get the best of him. His ultra-dreary "Batman Returns" (1992) was, with the exception of some inspired prowling by Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, just depressing. Some of this darkness infuses "Edward Scissorhands," especially the violent climax that feels out of place with the rest of the movie, especially because it requires Jim to go from a bullying teenager to a psychotic would-be murderer in an attempt to provide unneeded catharsis. In fact, the ending is so bad in its clumsy conventionality that is brings the whole film down a notch.
Still, the majority of the film is executed very well. So few movies manage to attain a consistent tone, but "Edward Scissorhands" seems to rest effortlessly in the realm of the modern fairy tale while borrowing handily from a number of different film genres. There is probably not another filmmaker alive who could have conceived of this story and brought it to life in quite the manner Burton did. It is a testament to his original creativity and his insistence on making art at the outer edges of what is expected.
|Edward Scissorhands: 10th Anniversary Edition DVD|
|Audio||Dolby 4.0 Surround|
Dolby 2.0 Surround
|Languages||English (4.0, 2.0)|
|Supplements|| Running audio commentary with director Tim Burton|
Running audio commentary with composer Danny Elfman
Interview clips with cast and crew
Original concept art by Tim Burton
Two theatrical trailers Three television spots
|Distributor||20th Century Fox|
|The THX-certified anamorphic transfer in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio is near perfect. The image is very sharp without unnecessary edge enhancement, and the detail level is stunning, especially in the scenes taking place in Edward Scissorhands' Gothic castle. Colors look great; they are solid and vivid without looking oversaturated. The movie has a number of different color schemes, from the sun-drenched pastel suburban housing, to the castle, which looks like old black and white photography except the characters are in bright color. The transfer handles all of these scenes exceptionally well, without a trace of artifacting or dirt.|
|The Dolby Digital 4.0 surround mix is mostly subtle with the surround effects. The majority of the sound is kept in the front soundstage with only minimal use of the surround speakers. When Danny Elfman's lyrical, choir-heavy score comes on, however, the soundtrack comes alive.|
|This 10th Anniversary Edition of the film comes with a number of supplements, some of which are better than others. The disc is equipped with two separate running audio commentaries, one with composer Danny Elfman, which obviously focuses on the score, and one with director Tim Burton. Burton's commentary, like the one he did for Paramount's "Sleepy Hollow" DVD, is laid back and fairly informative, but it is punctuated by too many long periods of silence. Because this film derives from when he was a teenager, one would think he would have more to say about it. The disc also has "sound bites," which are brief snippets of interviews with cast members of crew. One very nice additional is a half dozen original concept sketches by Tim Burton that show the creative development of Edward Scissorhands as a character. Some of the sketches also turn up in the five-minute making-of featurette that is good, but unfortunately way too short. The disc also includes a nice collection of theatrical trailers, including two Spanish-language TV spots.|
©2000 James Kendrick