Martin Landau won an Oscar from his third nomination for portraying Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood.
Martin Landau's performance as the has been drug addicted Bela Lugosi is simply an outstanding performance. The first incredible part of his performance is how much he simply is Bela Lugosi in this role. I never at all saw him as Martin Landau in the performance, all I ever saw was Bela Lugosi. Landau is amazing in that every single time I have seen the film I have never questioned for a second that he was Lugosi, he just was this. The amazing part is that the make up was only part of this. More importantly was the way managed to introvert his manner, into the distinct way Lugosi walks and moves. Something even more impressive though is the fact he is able to realize the eyes of Lugosi, that one would think only Lugosi has, but Landau is able to convey the same mysterious feeling from his eyes as Lugosi had been able to which is simply amazing.
His performance though is not only a perfect embodiment of Lugosi but also a brilliant comedic and tragic performance as the broken down Lugosi. Landau handles the comedic aspects of Lugosi with gusto. The film exploits Lugosi's presence and accent, also exceptionally well done by Landau by the way, for great comedic effect. The whole swearing, and anger is surprising how funny it is without being forced. I really thought Landau did wonders with Lugosi's swearing, he firstly actually made it sound natural, but also utilized it for rather brilliant comedic timing. Landau simply has hilarious moments throughout his performance, particularly when he has to fake a struggle with a non functioning Octopus prop, or when he flips out at the mention of Boris Karloff. Landau performance simply is a pitch perfect comedic performance.
The astonishing part though is how effective of a dramatic performance he gives as well. I really find his creates an intricate portrait of a sad man who has gone far past his prime. Landau's performance is sad and quite profound. In his face Landau shows a really sad history of a man whose truly fallen from what he once was. Landau shows that Lugosi truly wishes for a time once again. That he wishes for some sort of success even though he saddened by his past and his current failures. Landau performance only ever contains honest emotion in conveying the struggle of this sad man with the utmost poignancy and power. Something interesting to note is Lugosi is a morphine addict. Most performances would focus only or too much on this aspect, but Landau simply weaves into the whole of Lugosi. Landau portrayal of his withdrawal and sickness is superb as well, but it just shows how brilliant this performance is when that aspect of Lugosi is only a small part of his performance.
Landau does not only portray his as sad or funny, but also does show a certian amount of exhilaration from meeting Ed Wood. Landau shows honestly that Lugosi enjoys acting, even acting in the terrible films of Ed Wood. Landau shows the perfect amount of energy and joy he has when eh is performing in the films, it is quite astounding how Landau shows Lugosi joy of performance within his own performance. Another aspect of some joy in Lugosi's otherwise sad life is his friendship with Ed Wood. I think both actors actually are very good in showing that Lugosi and Wood honestly have a very sweet friendship with one another, a simple friendship but a very effective one. Overall Landau's work is just astounding, it is a truly exceptional piece of actor that honestly puts other performances to shame since it never simplifies his character or his performance. It is not only an embodiment of a real person, but also a brilliant, sad, funny, thrilling performance. It really is just one of the best performances I have seen, period.