Revisiting Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands

One of the films that most defines Tim Burton's film making style, Carley celebrates the majesty of Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands...

“I’m not finished.” – Edward

With the success of 1989’s Batman, Tim Burton has been confirmed as a bona fide A-list director. This new found status comes with a lot of perks and the ability to fast track through any project you have on the burner.

Rather than head straight into Batman Returns or again go down the sequel path with Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian (a movie that was sadly never made, but apparently got quite close) Burton decided to push a story he had been working on for some time, the tale of a boy with scissors for hands who found himself in the American suburbs.

On a snowy winter’s night, a grandmother sits in a rocking chair telling her granddaughter the story of a man named Edward (Johnny Depp), who was a creation of a very special inventor (Vincent Price, in his last film role). The inventor raised the boy as his own and taught him how to be a gentleman. Just before the inventor could finish Edward, he died, leaving him with scissors for hands and alone in the gothic mansion up on the hill.

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Many years later after unsuccessfully selling her products in the town, Avon lady Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest) makes her way up to the mansion where she comes across Edward. After her initial shock wears off she decides she cannot leave Edward alone and takes him home with her where he is soon made to feel at home by her family, including her son Kevin (Robert Oliveri), husband Bill (Alan Arkin) and, after a rocky start (and ruined waterbed), daughter Kim (Winona Ryder).

The town soon becomes intrigued and enthralled by Edward and are even more impressed when he shows off his hedge trimming and haircutting skills. Two people, however, are not impressed with Edward relocating to the town: religious fanatic Esmeralda and Kim’s jock boyfriend Jim (a very bulked up Anthony Michael Hall).

Wanting to get closer to Edward, local desperate housewife Joyce (Kathy Baker) suggests they go into partnership together to open a hair salon. On a visit to the site she tries to seduce him, but a confused and scared Edward runs away. When later, over dinner with the Boggs, he mentions what had happened to him, they let it pass and carry on as normal.

Although hating him, Jim decides to use Edward’s special talent to break into his home and steal his father’s electrical goods to fund the van he wants to buy. When the alarm sounds he leaves Edward behind to take the blame. Once at the police station a psych evaluation shows that, because he has been alone so long, Edward has no sense of ethics. Sensing his inherit goodness, the arresting officer befriends him and releases him back to the Boggs.

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Meanwhile, as the gossip about Edward increases, Joyce, in a fit of revenge against Edward for rejecting her, tells the neighbours he tried to rape her.

As the town starts to turn against Edward, life with the Boggs carries on as normal. Setting up for Christmas, Edward begins to create an ice sculpture in the garden. The ice coming off resembles snow and Kim dances below it, only to be caught by Edward’s scissors as he is forming the shape in the ice. Taking this as the ammunition he requires, Jim begins to fight with Edward, who runs away.

Things go from bad to worse when Edward saves Kevin from being run over and, in a panic to see if he is okay, begins to cut his face by accident. Thinking that he is trying to hurt the boy the, neighbours soon begin to form a hate mob, chasing Edward as he makes his way back to the mansion.

Rushing to get to the mansion before the mob, Kim and Edward are reunited and she assures him Kevin is alright. Soon after, Jim arrives and the two fight, with Jim being stabbed by Edward and falling through the window down into the mansion ground to his death. Sensing that this is the last time they will see each other Kim professes her love for Edward and leaves, telling the mob below that Jim and Edward killed each other.

As the story ends the grandmother in her chair admits that she is, in fact, Kim and knows Edward is still up in the mansion because every Christmas it now snows.

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A gothic fairytale, Edward Scissorhands is a film about being on the outside. Based on Burton’s own feelings of isolation as a teenager in the California suburbs it is a part mix of Beauty And The Beast, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Frankenstein.

We have the lead character of Edward who, for all intents and purposes, has no sense of the actions his decisions make. On the other hand, townsfolk are supposed to be the ones who know right from wrong but are constantly making selfish and deceitful decisions. Who is the monster really?

Burton’s style is etched in every single scene of this movie. The gothic mansion with its sprawling gardens, the machines of the inventor, the chic pasty pale suburbs with neat gardens and matching homes and the entire look of Edward himself are lynchpins of the style that will represent Burton forevermore. His personal stamp is all over this movie, giving a soul to the heart already provided by the character of Edward.

Stepping away from his teen heartthrob image at the time, Johnny Depp is magical as the title character. A man with the soul of a child, when he first steps into the real world it is a whole new experience for him but his innocence is slowly chipped away, basically by the American dream, the perfect suburb, whose inhabitants are always looking for something new and exciting, but who are also easily turned.

Depp’s movements, his voice, even his eyes ache of a character that is trapped within a body that isn’t who he is, but which defines him nonetheless. This really was the first time the general public got to see how wondrous and encompassing an actor Depp could be and it also started a partnership between Burton and Depp that is still going strong today.

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Depp’s performance is enhanced by the wonderful supporting cast around him.  Dianne Wiest is wonderful as family matriarch Peg, who rescues Edward from his seclusion and is the perfect suburban housewife, with Alan Arkin bringing a great sense of dark comedy as her husband. Winona Ryder plays Kim admirably, but when both she and Edward are on screen Deep really does just take away all your attention and she really is more of a footnote.

As with all good fairytales, there is an intricate sense of sadness within this movie. Not everything is a happy ever after.

As an outsider, Edward was banished to his mansion forevermore as people could not accept him for what he is, although when it comes down to it, he is a better person then they are. But the sense of magic that Burton manages to input into this movie makes it a wonderful tale and beautiful film.

Burton’s next big screen adventure would be a much welcome visit back to Gotham and with The Penguin and Catwoman to contend with, get ready for the fireworks in Batman Begins.

Edward Scissorhands key info:Released: December 7th 1990 (US) / July 26th 1991 (UK)Distributed By: 20th Century Fox Budget: $20,000,000Box Office Gross: $86,020,000Best DVD Edition: Edward Scissorhands 10th Anniversary Edition