The inspiration for Tim Burton‘s films comes from his fascination with the fantasy and horror of being a child. His propensity for terrifying maternal doppelgangers and animated corpses tap into the deep seated soul of a child’s mind. Likewise, Burton’s films often feel timeless because they cater to our most basal joy and fears. His film, Edward Scissorhands (1990) perfectly embodies these traits. While not typical Malevolent Dark material, this film represents a powerful swan song for one of horrors greatest icons, Vincent Price.
Also, its freaking Christmas. Watch something with some wholesome human values, you heathen.
Born of the Dark Knight, kind of
Burton was at the height of his career in the early 1990s, with Batman’s enormous success demonstration of financial viability, Warner Brothers planned and a sequel planned to further cement his name. This success bought Burton some street cred that allowed him to pursue a passion project in the gap. That film would concern the trials and tribulations of a “monster” with mechanical hands made of scissors and gardening shears. Much like Frankenstein before him, people could not look past his physical appearance to understand that beneath his metallic phalanges existed a young man with depth and feeling.
The director’s most devoted admirers came from the humorous tragedies of Edward Scissorhands. Its combination of horror and humanity makes Edward Scissorhands a beautiful and tragic tale. Edward presents a misunderstood character played by Johnny Depp. In addition to Depp, Burton also cast Winona Ryder as eventual romantic interest Kim. Clearly Burton possesses an affinity for these two actors. Lest we forget, Dianne Wiest plays Kim’s mother in a role perfectly cast for her smile and ability to convey small town neighborly values.
Vincent Price, A True Master
The real tie to the horror community comes in the form of Vincent Price. Price perfectly embodies the The Inventor, the man that lovingly creates Edward Scissorhands with nothing but love. His distinctive voice can both carry a horror monologue such as that to conclude House on Haunted Hill (1959). That same voice carried the emotion of never ending love and optimism for his own personal Frankenstein’s monster. We’ll say it 1000 times, Vincent Price is a national treasure and bedrock of American horror.
Vincent’s first film role was in 1938’s Service de Luxe, and he established himself in the drama film Laura (1944). His first venture into the horror genre was in the 1939 Boris Karloff film Tower of London. At the time of filming Edward Scissorhands, Price had developed Parkinson’s disease and emphysema; his symptoms were growing exceedingly bad. His medical issues forced him to cut his filming schedule short.
Regardless of the limitations, this movie serves a beautiful ode to his career because it captures most Price’s most exquisite qualities. As malevolent as his characters could be he, Vincent Price was a kind and sophisticated man. Burton’s film provides an outlet for this kind sophistication and provides a beautiful swan song to a brilliant career.
Edward Scissorhands would be the concluding performance of his remarkable career.
What About the Plot
The film begins with an elderly woman telling her granddaughter the story of a young man named Edward who has scissor blades for hands, telling them about a scientist (Vincent Price) giving creation to Edward Scissorhands in his laboratory. The Inventor passes away before he can give his creation hands. Edward lives in a crumbling hillside castle, alone, with scissor blades in place of fingers.
A woman named Peg (Dianne Wiest), finds the lonely young boy-like creature with scissor-like hands dwelling in the dilapidated old castle. It has elements of a fairytale and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He makes friends with the Ped, and she invites him into her home to care for him and get to know her family. Unfortunately, he is accused of a crime that he was tricked into committing. As a result, he becomes a paraiah, is forced to hide from the police.
Edwards eventually vanishes from that place. As she finishes telling her granddaughter the tale, the old woman identifies herself as Kim and claims that she never saw Edward again and that she prefers not to visit him. She believes that he speaks to her every time it snows. It’s Edward creating “snow” he makes when cutting ice sculptures.
The Artistry of Tim Burton
Tim Burton employs certain cinematic strategies like color symbolism. For instance, in “Alice in Wonderland,” Tim Burton made Queen Iracebeth’s castle intentionally dark and red to indicate that she was unpleasant or even violent, while he made Mirana of Marmoreal’s castle white to indicate peace and purity. For the character played by Johnny Depp as Edward, who resides on the outskirts of a happy suburb, Burton painted with gothic inspiration because he wanted to juxtapose Edwards existence with the idyllic suburb. This metaphor then collides with the reality that the bright colors of the town hides the real darkness.
Burton expertly creates Edward as an outwardly threatening being. His clothing could literally come from the closet of one of Clive Barker’s cenobites. His face is covered in scars and cuts and his skin is of the most pale blue pallor imaginable. This is where the brilliance of casting Depp sets in. Johnny Depp’s gentle and whimsical nature shines through his confused facial expressions. Much like Frankenstein’s monster tossing flowers into the lake with a little girl, Depp shows himself to be a most gentle monster. Fortunately for Kim, Edward Scissorhands never throws her in with the flowers.
On the inside, Edward is just a scared individual who has been living in isolation for so long that he is unaware of his surroundings. The thing that fascinates the most about this movie, is how Edward manages to be both self-assured and self-conscious at the same time, and how he struggles to live a reasonably regular life while using those hands of his. In this film, Johnny Depp doesn’t speak much, but his body language and facial expressions more than make up for it, holding the attention of the audience through emotional connection.
As an important side note, Tim Burton continues his long-running collaboration with Danny Elfman. Elfman’s ability to compose original works that seamlessly intertwine into the emotional fabric of a film are rivaled by none. His compositions provide an elegant connective tissue that pulls this work into a single cohesive whole.
Once again, Edward Scissorshands would likely not be on the menu here at Malevolent Dark. The overlap with classic horror fare like Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and the final performance of horror virtuoso Vincent Price constitutes an exception. While Tim Burton’s film tickles different sensibilities that standard horror fare, there’s really no denying that it’s a really good movie. It felt like a fun one to contrast this against killer Santa Clause movies and serial killers hiding behind the Christmas presents in a sorority house. It starred Vincent Price, so hush.
Edward Scissorhands (1990) - Bitter sweet finale for Vincent Price, a legend - Malevolent Dark
Director: Tim Burton
Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33