The Set-Up: Week three of Halloween "Don't Make a Scenes," this one from Tim Burton's Ed Wood. Burton's film is a labor-of-love—a sort of left-handed tribute to Wood's kitchen-sink approach to making films (and reflecting the director's own love of cheesy special effects and "persistence of vision").
Not a lot to say here. The scene, like most of the film, is funny, poignant and pathetic, but has that Burton-esque love for "the underdog outsider" and the "foster family-team" aspect of movie-making. The film, and its Wood-Lugosi bonding is also reflective of the director's respect and devotion to his own horror movie hero, Vincent Price (who never resorted to pity or drugs, but took his work in the grave-trenches of the genre with humor and an air of incorruptible elegance), featured in his short Vincent and in Edward Scissorhands.
Horror is not the bottom of the food-chain in Hollywood (or wherever you can make films...like Pittsburgh), but it is six feet under the surface, with limited budgets and (hopefully) abundant ingenuity. You've got to be "a trooper" working in that realm, selling snake-oil as if it was love-potion...or bat's blood. Make the fantasy real...or as real as possible...and if you scare the rubes, you have their respect—and a limited amount of power over them.
And, if you're very good (or in Ed Wood's case, very bad), they'll never forget you and that is something like immortality. A fantasy made real.
The Story: Hollywood bottom-feeder Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) has secured funding for his horror opus Bride of the Monster, allowing him to cast friend and screen icon Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) in a central role, but not enough to actually rent a prop octopus (which is obtained by breaking into a prop warehouse earlier in the day). They have to return the snatched cephalopod before the warehouse opens for business the next day. Night shoot!
IN A DUSTY PARKING LOT
Bela sits inertly in the back of an open car. He weakly hails
BELA Eddie, I'm so tired...
BELA I don't know if I can handle a night shoot...
ED Nonsense! You look great --
(suddenly he catches himself; he speaks more sincerely)
ED Look, uh, why don't you lie down and take a little nap? We'll film around you for a while.
BELA Thanks, buddy...
ED You're welcome.
Ed smiles warmly, then walks off.
Bela stares after him, then absent-mindedly searches through
Finally, he finds what he's looking for -- a rubber tube.
Bela looks to make sure no one's around, then ties the tube around his upper arm...
AT THE SET - LATER
Crew members have dammed up the end of the river, and Bunny fills it with a hose. There is now a foot of water.
Ed stands at the shore, admiring it.
ED Hey. This is looking fantastic!
(he turns to Paul)
ED Paul, where's the octopus motor?
PAUL MARCO What octopus motor?
PAUL MARCO (defensive) Hey, don't blame me! You didn't say anything about no motor when I was up on that ceiling!
PAUL MARCO What's he talking (about)?
Ed and crew walk to the other side of the pool.
ED Paul lost the octopus motor!
Bela stumbles up, with a dazed smile.
BELA Alright! Let's shoot this fucker!
BELA Out there?!
(he points at the water)
BELA What happened to the stream?
ED This'll look a lot better. We have to match the stock footage of the octopus underwater.
BELA Oh, for Christ's sake.
Bela rolls up his pants and wades out, into the water. He screams.
BELA Goddamn, it's cold!
ED Once you're in it, it warms up.
BELA Fuck you! You come out here.
BELA Throw me that whiskey.
A crew member throws Bela a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Bela pops the cap and chugs half the bottle in one swig. Helicks his lips, then climbs onto the octopus.
BELA Okay! How do we turn this thing on?
ED Well, somebody misplaced the motor. So when you wrestle the octopus...
ED ...shake the legs a bit, to make it look like it's killing you. Okay!
Bela stares, deadpan.
BELA Do you know I turned down "Frankenstein"?
BELA After I did "Dracula," the studio offered me "Frankenstein"! But I turned it down...
BELA ...the part wasn't sexy enough.
BELA It was too degrading for a big star like me.
The crew glances at Ed.
ED Bela, I've got twenty-five scenes to shoot tonight.
BELA Oh. Sorry. Don't let me slow you down.
ED Alright! Let's put it on film.
CAMERAMAN We're rolling!
CAMERAMAN Ed, we don't have sound!
Bela takes another swig of J.D., then throws it off-camera.
Bela starts flailing around the octopus legs and SCREAMING in
This image is truly ridiculous.
Ed is pleased.
Some crew members nod: Pretty good.
ED And CUT!
ED That was brilliant!