Edward Scissorhands is one of Tim Burton's best films, and one of the most important to his long term career. For the director, it represents both a beginning and an end. It marked the beginning of his collaboration with Johnny Depp, as well as a turn to a more mature style of filmmaking. It also was the last film of Vincent Price, who Burton idolized, as was clearly seen with his first short animated work, Vincent. It was a transitional film that reverberates through everything he's done after, up to and including his latest, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Dianne Wiest plays Peg, a suburban housewife who fills up her days selling make up door to door. The problem is, no one will buy anything from her. In desperation, she makes her way into a dark and foreboding manor at the far edge of town. There she discovers Edward (Johnny Depp), a strange looking young man with scissors instead of hands. In an act of altruism, she takes him home and he becomes part of the family. He's the talk of the town, and becomes beloved for outlandish and artistic hedge sculptures, dog stylings, and haircuts. However, small towns don't condone the different for too long, and soon Edward finds himself at the rough end of a lynch mob.
Tim Burton described Edward Scissorhands as a fairy tale. It certainly has elements of the fantastic, but it's dialed down from the extreme nature of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and Batman. Yes, the houses are painted all kinds of crazy colors, but they're still recognizable as normal suburban houses. Compare that to the mess of architectural styles in Batman, one film previous to this, and you'll immediately see how Burton has learned to rein himself in. The fairy tale comes out in the underlying themes. In ways, Edward Scissorhands is a more tragic "Frog Prince."
Johnny Depp was just a young lad when he starred as Edward, and he'd never made a more important film in his career. Look at the films he's made with Tim Burton, and you'll see much that makes up the best of both of their bodies of work (including the best work perhaps either of them ever did, Ed Wood). Even this early on, it's easy to see why the two have worked together so often. Depp is brilliant as the meek and misunderstood Edward. He brings the character to life, beyond even what Burton wrote for him.
Burton also works with composer Danny Elfman, who had worked with Burton on all of his previous films. This was an important film for Elfman as well, as his scores often felt underdeveloped. For the first time, with Edward Scissorhands, Elfman created a fully realized series of compositions, that both worked on their own and in conjunction with one another. In his own commentary, Elfman says that Edward Scissorhands may be his own personal favorite of his work, and it's hard to disagree with his assessment. All of the key themes that would punctuate Elfman's later work are present here.
This was the final film of Vincent Price, beloved horror film actor. Price was a huge influence on Tim Burton, so much so that he made an animated short, appropriately entitled Vincent. Price only has a few minutes of screen time, but they're poignant and a suitable swan song for an actor who enchanted and terrorized generations of people.
But as much as the picture was important for the people who made it, it's even better for the audience. The movie has real poignancy, especially towards the end. Depp's delicate performance tugs at the heartstrings without ever feeling sappy. While the love story between his character and Winona Ryder's feels a little anemic at times, it still has a genuine emotional punch that never fails to connect. In fact, this is one of Burton's most nakedly emotional films. A minor classic.
The Blu-ray Disc: