Another true classic has hit Netflix’s Instant Watch service this week. I’ll give you a hint; it’s the title of this article.
But as the director of this film is quite prolific, it’s possible that it has been awhile since you’ve revisited this weird, wonderful movie. We humbly submit, for your instant queue consideration, Edward Scissorhands.
Who Made It: Edward Scissorhands was directed by Tim Burton, and many of his signature gothic tropes are alive and well within the film. The reason I think that Edward Scissorhands garners so much reverence, even among Burton fans, is that it was the last live-action original property we got from him. Since Edward Scissorhands, with the exception of the animated Corpse Bride, Burton has been working exclusively in adaptations of one preexisting source material or another. Even Mars Attacks was based on a trading card game. It’s not that adaptations are necessarily bad, but it’s a shame that someone with his imagination keeps playing in other people’s sandboxes.
Who’s In It: Edward Scissorhands stars Johnny Depp in the bizarre titular role. This is easily one of Depp’s most incredible performances. He plays Edward with such a sweet naiveté and amiable innocence all while buried under a mountain of wild hair and makeup. This was the first of what would eventually be seven collaborations between the two.
What’s It About: An Avon saleslady travels out of her typical route to the dilapidated castle overlooking her neighborhood. Inside she finds not a costumer, but a strange young man named Edward who has scissors for hands. He’s obviously been living all alone for years so the kindly woman decides to take him home with her. Despite his weird appearance, he is ingratiated into the community as a colorful oddity; all the more so when his creative flair for landscaping and hair styling is discovered. But soon the tide of public opinion turns against Edward, through little fault of his own, and he becomes a pariah.
Why You Should Watch It:
Of all of Tim Burton’s films, Edward Scissorhands is arguably the most unique. Most of that can be attributed to the stellar production design of Bo Welch. Welch managed to smash two very divergent aesthetics into one fantastic concept. We have gothic castles with interiors plucked from an Edgar Allen Poe nightmare juxtaposed against a quaint 60s style neighborhood drowning in pastels and conformity. Every single house is exactly the same design with identical diamond patterns adoring their garage doors. What’s really amazing is to watch the magic and surrealism of this outlandish castle bleed into the stuffy middle-class environment; suddenly these cookie-cutter houses are dotted with elaborate topiaries.
In addition to Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands boasts a tremendous supporting cast. Winona Ryder plays the young love interest. bringing a lot of the same offbeat severity from Beetlejuice, but with decidedly more optimism. Alan Arkin and Dianne Wiest are sensational as the parents of the family that adopts Edward; Wiest’s stalwart adherence to the lessons she learned in the Avon handbook—even informing her physicality—is hilarious. Anthony Michael Hall, just five years removed from The Breakfast Club, is convincing as the high school bully. But above all others, Vincent Price as the kindly old man who created Edward is the heart and soul of the movie. He is so frail and yet his old school horror legacy makes him a formidable presence. This would be the last time we would see Price on the screen before he retired to another plane of existence.
Another pair of reasons to see this film involves the score and the practical effects. As with so many Tim Burton films, the score in Edward Scissorhands was provided by the legendary Danny Elfman. There are many of his trademark elements at work within the score. The usage of haunting, echoing disembodied voices denotes the film’s most fantasy-laden scenes. But Elfman also creates interesting musical landscapes for the neighborhood to emphasize the provincial existence of the inhabitants. Overall, I think it’s one of the best scores he’s done to date. As you watch the film, and find yourself in awe of the design of Edward’s signature appendages, the man you should be praising is the late Stan Winston. As with every piece of this cinematic icon’s work, the scissor apparatus on Edward’s hands is as much a feat of engineering as it is an impressive special effect.
What I love most about this film is its basic concept. Edward Scissorhands is essentially Frankenstein’s monster comes to the suburbs. A few weeks ago I spoke of the underlying Frankenstein motifs at play in David Cronenberg’s The Fly; the risks of arrogance in scientific pursuit and how it can backfire. Edward Scissorhands also seems to have tinges of a modern Frankenstein story, but from the perspective of the monster. Edward is created by a scientist in a lab and introduced to villagers who quite literally chase him back to his castle with torches in hand. He wants to be one of them, but their intolerance unleashes his wrath and drives a wedge between them that ultimately precludes their coexistence.
Also, you know, he’s got those super cool scissors for hands.