Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Edward Scissorhands (1990) * * *

(first lines)
Grandmother Kim: Snuggle in, sweetie. It's cold out there.

The movie opens with a snowy winter scene, as an elderly woman tells a story to her granddaughter (Gina Gallagher) about snow, and why it snows. There was a man with scissors for hands named Edward (Johnny Depp), the creation of an inventor (Vincent Price). The gentle inventor was inspired to make an artificial man due to the anthropomorphic appearance of his other inventions. He raised Edward as his son and tutored him in various subjects, but died while in the act of offering a pair of hands to Edward. He is left with only scissors for hands, an unfinished creation who now lives in a ruined Gothic mansion at the top of a hill, above a suburban town.

Many years later, local Avon saleswoman Peggy Boggs (Dianne West), after failing to make profits in her suburban neighborhood, visits the mansion on the hill. She finds Edward there and convinces him to move in with her family, then brings him to the town below. Her intentions are good, but she lacks wisdom in her actions. Edward's scissors initially are obstacles when it comes to eating at a table and sleeping in a waterbed. He befriends Peg's young son Kevin (Robert Oliveri), and after an initial misstep, her teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). Covered with white make-up and with only a few words of dialogue, Edward is painfully shy and delicate.

Peggy: Why are you hiding back there? You don't have to hide from me. I'm Peg Boggs, your local Avon representative and I'm as harmless as cherry pie... (sees Edward come toward her) Oh--I can see that I've disturbed you. I'll just be going now...
Edward: Don't go.
Peg Boggs: (sees his scissor hands) Oh, my. What happened to you?
Edward: I'm not finished.

Peggy: The light concealing cream goes on first. Then you blend, and blend, and blend. Blending is the secret.

The neighborhood soon accepts Edward in a perverse way, as the people see him as a curiosity. His scissorhands are an obstacle which prevent him from being fully accepted as a member of society. But he soon becomes popular for his masterful gift of cutting hedges into pieces of beautiful topiary art and arousing the dormant passions of women with his skillful haircutting. However, two of the townspeople, a religious fanatic named Esmeralda (O-Lan Jones) and Kim's jock boyfriend Jim (Anthony Michael Hall), dislike him immediately. Joyce (Kathy Baker), a "lonely housewife", suggests that Edward open a haircutting salon with her. While examining a proposed site, she attempts to seduce him, confusing Edward, who escapes the room in a state of panic. Edward attempts to bring up the subject of her actions while the family is having dinner, but no one reacts to the news. At dinner Peggy's husband Bill (Alan Arkin) reminds Edward that in society money is all that matters. If one cannot earn money, then one is not acceptable, and Edward is taken to a bank for a loan, but they will not give him one without the proper official papers that go with being a member of the society.

Bill: So Edward, did you have a productive day?
Edward: Mrs Monroe showed me where the salon's going to be. (turns to Peg) You could have a cosmetics counter.
Peggy: Oh, wouldn't that be great!
Bill: Great.
Edward: And then she showed me the back room where she took all of her clothes off.

Esmerelda: He has been sent first to tempt you. But it's not too late. You must push him from you, expel him! Trample down the perversion of nature! It's not heaven he's from! It's straight from the stinking flames of hell! The power of Satan is in him, I can feel it. Can't you? Have you poor sheep strayed so far from the path?
Edward: We're not sheep.
Esmerelda: Don't come near me!

He secretly falls for Kim, but she is turned off by his ungainliness. She makes fun of Edward and soon uses him unwillingly to break into her obnoxious boyfriend Jim's house. Wanting money for a van, Jim fools the guileless Edward into helping burgle his parents' house. The burglar alarm sounds and all but Edward escape, despite Kim's angry insistence that they return for him. The police arrive, Edward is arrested, but released when a psychological examination reveals that his isolation allowed him to live without a traditional sense of ethics. The arresting officer, Allen (Dick Anthony Williams), befriends the timid Edward, sensing his intrinsic goodness. The neighbors start to question their opinions about Edward's personality. Meanwhile, infuriated by Edward's rejection, Joyce gets revenge on Edward by claiming that he tried to rape her. Many of the neighbors begin to gossip and slowly turn against Edward. Suddenly the people in the neighborhood begin to see Edward as an outcast and a freak. During Christmas, Edward is hated and feared by almost everyone around him except the Boggs family. His initial naivety changes to feelings of frustration, rejection and revolt at people's ways. Edward also comes to realize that he can be dangerous to others, that he is unable to touch others without harming them because of the sharpness of the blades he has instead of hands.

Kim: Hold me.
Edward: I can't.
Kim: You're here... They didn't hurt you, did they? (Edward shakes his head) Were you scared? I tried to make Jim go back, but, you can't make Jim do anything. Thank you for not telling them that we...
Edward: You're welcome.
Kim: It must have been awful when they told you whose house it was.
Edward: I knew it was Jim's house.
Kim: You... you did?
Edward: Yes.
Kim: ...Well, then why'd you do it?
Edward: Because you asked me to.

Officer Allen: Will he be OK, Doc?
Psychologist: The years spent in isolation have not equipped him with the tools necessary to judge right from wrong. He's had no context. He's been completely without guidance. Furthermore, his work--the garden sculptures, hairstyles and so forth--indicate that he's a highly imaginative... uh... character. It seems clear that his awareness of what we call reality is radically underdeveloped.
Officer Allen: But will he be all right out there?
Psychologist: Oh yeah, he'll be fine.

While the family is setting up Christmas decorations, Edward carves an ice sculpture from a block of ice. The ice shavings create the effect of falling snow, under which Kim dances. Jim catches Kim's attention, whereupon Edward accidentally cuts Kim's hand. Jim assumes that Edward deliberately harmed her, and uses this as a pretext to attack Edward in a jealous rage. The situation worsens when Kevin is almost run over by Jim's drunken friend. Edward pushes Kevin out of the way, accidentally cutting his face in the process. The neighbors misunderstand the situation, thinking Edward attacked Kevin. Edward flees back to his hill-top mansion. The neighbors form an angry mob and pursue him. Officer Allen unsuccessfully attempts to turn back the mob by giving them the impression that Edward is dead. He fires his gun a few times and tries to tell them that it's all over. They continue to the mansion, presumably to kill Edward themselves to verify Officer Allen's claims that Edward is dead.

Kim heads to the mansion before the mob can get there and reunites with Edward. Jim follows them and battles Edward, and is eventually killed by him. Kim professes her love for Edward and convinces the mob that Edward and Jim killed each other in the fight. All the neighbors return to their homes, while Joyce is seen guilty and ashamed for making up the rumor about Edward.

The elderly woman from the beginning reappears, as she finishes telling her granddaughter the story. It is revealed that Edward is still alive and "creating snow" from his ice sculptures, which fall upon the valley below. The elderly woman reveals to her granddaughter that she is Kim. She refuses to visit Edward because she wants Edward to remember her the way she was in her youth.

(last lines)
Kim: You see, before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did. If he weren't up there now... I don't think it would be snowing. Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it.

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is a 1990 comedy-drama fantasy film directed by Tim Burton. The film is filled with humorous scenes, yet within the humour there are always darker overtones. It captures the delicate flavor of a fable or fairy tale in a live-action movie. Most of Burton's movies are visual spectacles with elements of fantasy, but EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is more tender and personal than the others. Johnny Depp, making his first successful leap from TV to film, captures Edward's childlike vulnerability even while his physical posture evokes horror icons like the vampire in NOSFERATU (1922) and the sleepwalker in THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919). Classic horror films feel a deep sympathy for the monsters they portray.

Burton conceived the idea for EDWARD SCISSORHANDS from his childhood upbringing in suburban Burbank, California. He said that he was often alone, and had trouble retaining friendships: "I get the feeling people just got this urge to want to leave me alone for some reason, I don’t know exactly why". During pre-production of BEETLEJUICE (1988), Caroline Thompson was hired to adapt Burton's story into a screenplay, and the film began development at 20th Century Fox, after Warner Bros. passed on the project. At the time, the budget was projected to be around 8 to 9 million dollars. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS was then fast tracked after Burton's enormous success with BATMAN (1989). He was now an A-list director.

The film is also the fourth feature collaboration between Burton and film score composer Danny Elfman. The movie sounds like a Tim Burton producton, very much like PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (1985). There are many choirs, very reminiscent of the music score for Roman Polanski's THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967). Burton should get a new music composer, because Elfman's music makes Burton's movies sound all the same. Elfman's style is at times moving, soft, wild, silly, weird and crazy. He has worked on many musical soundtracks since, but this one is possibly the most beautiful he ever created. The orchestra consisted of 79 musicians. Elfman cites EDWARD SCISSORHANDS as epitomizing his most personal and favorite work. In addition to Elfman's music, three Tom Jones songs are also heard: "It's Not Unusual", "Delilah" and "With These Hands".

It's a wonderful tale about love and kindness, but also about rejection and estrangement. It shows the limits of people's tolerance for what is different and how those who stray from the norm, commonly named misfits, awake mockery or fear from a society which will use them and then reject them, thus breaking their innocence and goodness. Though a harsh satire of deceit, gossip, jealousy, hypocrisy, as well as a tragic witness to the pain of not being accepted by others, the tone is still one of constant sweetness, gentleness and innocence.

Johnyy Depp's performance as Edward is truly touching and full of gentleness. Winona Ryder is subdued and unconvincingly blonde as the love interest, but Alan Arkin and Dianne Weist both give perfectly deadpan performances. Vincent Price in his last screen appearance plays The Inventor with genteel charm. Their good-nature shows humanity at its best while some other characters show its least pleasant aspects. Photography is quite beautiful and is thematically based on a strong contrast between Edward's universe, the dark noiseless castle, with the town filled with bright colors and voices. The gloomy castle is in fact a shelter from the seemingly happy outside world, which is in fact much darker and sinister underneath its bright colors. Of all Burton’s films this is the one that feels the most honest and heartfelt.

The cast also includes: Conchata Ferrell (Helen), Caroline Aaron (Marge), Susan Blommaert (Tinka), Linda Perri (Cissy), John Davidson (TV host), Biff Yeager (George), Marti Greenberg (Suzanne), Bryan Larkin (Max), John McMahon (Denny), Victoria Price (TV Newswoman), Stuart Lancaster (Retired Man), Aaron Lustig (Psychologist), Alan Fudge (Loan Officer), Steven Brill (Dishwasher Man), Peter Palmer (Editor), Marc Macaulay (Reporter), Carmen J. Alexander (Reporter), Brett Rice (Reporter), Andrew B. Clark (Beefy Man), Kelli Crofton (Pink Girl), Linda Jean Hess (Older Woman / TV), Rosalyn Thomson (Young Woman / TV), Lee Ralls (Red-Haired Woman / TV), Eileen Meurer (Teenage Girl / TV), Bea Albano (Rich Widow / TV), Donna Pieroni (Blonde / TV), Ken DeVaul (Policeman), Michael Gaughan (Policeman), Tricia Lloyd (Teenage Girl), Kathy Dombo (Other Teen), Rex Fox (Police Sergeant), Sherry Ferguson (Max's Mother), Tabetha Thomas (Little Girl on Bike), Tammy Boalo, Jackie Carson, Carol Crumrine, Suzanne Chrosniak, Ellin Dennis, Kathy Fleming, Jalaine Gallion, Miriam Goodspeed, Dianne L. Green, Mary Jane Heath, Carol D. Klasek, Laura Nader, Doyle Anderson, Harvey Bellman, Michael Brown, Gary Clark, Roland Douville, Russell E. Green, Cecil Hawkins, Jack W. Kapfhamer, Bill Klein, Phil Olson, Joe Sheldon, James Spicer, Nick Carter, Tim Rerucha (Van Friend), and L.A. Rothman (Girl in Diner). Danny Elfman composed the music. Caroline Thompson wrote the screenplay from a story by her and Tim Burton, who also directed.

The production design work is quite stunning--from the beautifully gaping bare castle walls and antiquarian gardens to the amusingly color-toned suburbia where products are known by generic brand names, and most imaginatively the flashback tour of Vincent Price’s robot egg and cake beater inventions, all designed in a sort of L. Frank Baum steampunk. The houses were painted in faded pastel colors to represent the generic nature of American suburbia with which Edward finds himself at odds. Burton explained that his depiction of suburbia is "not a bad place. It's a weird place. I tried to walk the fine line of making it funny and strange without it being judgmental. It's a place where there's a lot of integrity."

Burton said, "Dianne, in particular, was wonderful. She was the first actress to read the script, supported it completely and, because she is so respected, once she had given in her stamp of approval, others soon got interested." When it came to cast the lead role of Edward, Fox was persistent to have Burton meet with Tom Cruise. "He certainly wasn't my ideal, but I talked to him," Burton remembered. "He was interesting, but I think it worked out for the best. A lot of questions came up." Cruise wanted the ending to be "happier". Michael Jackson then lobbied hard for the part, but was unsuccessful. Tom Hanks turned it down in favor of THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES (1990). William Hurt and Robert Downey, Jr. both expressed interest, and were considered. The Inventor was written specifically for Vincent Price.

Lutz, Florida and the Southgate Shopping Center of Lakeland were chosen for a three month shooting schedule. The production crew found, in the words of the production designer Bo Welch, "a kind of generic, plain-wrap suburb, which we made even more characterless by painting all the houses in faded pastels, and reducing the window sizes to make it look a little more paranoid." Rick Heinrichs worked as one of the art directors. The key element to unify the look of the neighborhood was Welch's decision to repaint each of the houses in one of four colors. He described them as "sea-foam green, dirty flesh, butter and dirty blue".

The facade of the Gothic mansion was built just outside of Dade City. Filming EDWARD SCISSORHANDS in the Tampa Bay Area created hundreds of temporary jobs and injected over $4 million into the local economy. Production then moved to a Fox Studios sound stage in Century City, California, where interiors of the mansion were filmed. To create Edward's scissor hands, Burton employed Stan Winston, who would later design Penguin's prosthetic makeup in BATMAN RETURNS (1992). Depp's wardrobe and prosthetic makeup took one hour and 45 minutes to apply.

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS was released with positive feedback from critics, and was a financial success. The movie had its limited release in the United States on December 7, 1990. The wide release came on December 14, and the film earned $6,325,249 in its opening weekend in 1,372 theaters. It eventually grossed $56,362,352 in North America, and $29,661,653 internationally, coming to a worldwide total of $86.02 million. With a budget of $20 million, the film was declared to be a box office success.

The film received numerous nominations at the Academy Awards, British Academy Film Awards, Saturn Awards, as well as winning the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Both Burton and Elfman consider Edward Scissorhands their most personal and favorite work. The New York Times wrote "The chemistry between Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, who are both engaged in real life, gave the film teen idol potential, drawing younger audiences. In the case of Edward Scissorhands, it is a tale of misunderstood gentleness and stifled creativity, of civilization's power to corrupt innocence, of a heedless beauty and a kindhearted beast. The film, if scratched with something much less sharp than Edward's fingers, reveals proudly adolescent lessons for us all." Roger Ebert gave the film a negative review. He felt that "Burton has not yet found the storytelling and character-building strength to go along with his pictorial flair. The ending is so lame it's disheartening. Surely anyone clever enough to dream up Edward Scissorhands should be swift enough to think of a payoff that involves our imagination."

The DVD includes audio commentary by Burton and Elfman. Neither talk all the way through the film, and you may wonder when they will speak again. Burton probably speaks 12 to 15 times through most of the movie, but it sounds more like he's having little afterthoughts. Elfman's audio plays after certain music segments are done, and his background music plays over the dialogue so we hear outright how it sounds. Tim Burton's concept art is shown, about 7 pieces of art (5 concepts of Edward, 1 of The Inventor, and 1 of Edward's place in the mansion's attic). The featurette talking about the film is a letdown, as there is nothing notable. The only decent feature is the interactive menu, made like a pop-up book of the mansion Edward is found in. It's a great movie on this DVD, but the extra features leave much to be desired. In October 2008, the Hallmark Channel purchased the television rights.

Blog Archive