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Ranking Burton-Depp partnerships by weirdness

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton bring out the weird in each other, through eight collaborations continuing this weekend with Dark Shadows. • Perhaps only Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro are as closely wedded, cinematically speaking. Depp and Burton are kindred creative spirits, digging for the macabre side of life, sometimes in graveyards. Which one is the other's alter ego is debatable. Neither gets as bat guano crazy when they're apart. • In honor of the release of Dark Shadows we've created the WEIRD-O-METER, ranking each Burton-Depp partnership according to sheer strangeness. See how many of these maniacs, misfits and miscreants you remember:

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990)

The role: A lonely young freak created by Vincent Price, thrust into a "normal" world — actually Pasco County — that doesn't understand him.

The look: Robert Smith of the Cure meets the next Ron Popeil invention as seen on TV.

Say what? "Mrs. Monroe showed me where the salon's going to be. … And then she showed me the back room where she took all of her clothes off."

Weird-o-Meter: Everything odd that Depp and Burton create harks back to this. Nothing less than a 10.

ED WOOD (1994)

The role: Hollywood's worst filmmaker ever and adored for it, a transvestite with delusions of creative grandeur that his budgets never matched. The strangest thing about Edward D. Wood Jr. is that he really existed.

The look: Clark Gable's scrawny, timid brother on a crystal meth binge.

Say what? "My girlfriend still doesn't know why her sweaters are always stretched out."

Weird-o-Meter: Like Wood's outer space plan, this one is a 9.

SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999)

The role: Ichabod Crane, just not the one Washington Irving imagined. Rather than a mild-mannered schoolteacher, Depp plays him as the world's first forensic scientist, investigating a series of decapitations by a likewise headless horseman.

The look: Relatively normal, with Depp ready to step onto the set of a Wuthering Heights remake.

Say what? "I should like to say that I make no assumptions about your occupation nor your ways, Witch, which are nothing new to me, whatever you are."

Weird-o-Meter: Depp wanted prosthetics disfiguring his face but Burton said no. That may have bumped up the score from a 4.

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005)

The role: Willy Wonka, master of candies and tormentor of naughty children.

The look: Michael Jackson's closet circa 1990, with Emo Phillips' pageboy haircut and Pee Wee Herman's childish derangement.

Say what? "Everything in this room is eatable, even I'm eatable! But that is called cannibalism, my dear children, and is in fact frowned upon in most societies."

Weird-o-Meter: One point for each Golden Ticket: 5.

CORPSE BRIDE (2005)

The role: Victor Van Dort, a shy man whose rehearsal of a marriage proposal accidentally raises a lovelorn zombie from her grave.

The look: Sleepy Hollow fashion redux, although Burton's animated caricature of Depp's face and physique is creepy.

Say what? After a compliment for Victor's dead dog Scraps: "You should have seen him with fur."

Weird-o-Meter: The only time Depp hasn't been the strangest thing in a Burton film: 2.

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (2007)

The role: A vengeful barber shaving clients much too close, dumping the bodies into his neighbor's meat-pie business. Depp sings!

The look: Bohemian 19th century costumes, pale skin with a maniacal streak of gray in his mane. The only things flashier are the razored tools of Sweeney's macabre trade.

Sing what? "There's a hole in the world like a great black pit. And it's filled with people who are filled with s---. And the vermin of the world inhabit it. But not for long."

Weird-o-Meter: Stranger than Sweeney's sociopathic behavior is how Depp makes him completely sympathetic. Mark it a grisly 8.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010)

The role: The Mad Hatter, guiding a young woman through her second tour of Underland with riddles and tea parties. And he futterwackens vigorously.

The look: Carrot Top run through a Project Runway reject's blender.

Say what? "You're not the same as you were before. You were much more muchier. You've lost your muchness."

Weird-o-Meter: This walking acid trip gets a 9.

DARK SHADOWS (2012)

The role: Barnabas Collins, dealing with a 200-year-old vampire curse and 1970s pop culture.

The look: Cadaver chic, with a comb-forward inspired by the original Barnabas, the late Jonathan Frid.

Say what? Seeing Karen Carpenter performing Top of the World on television: "What sorcery is this? Reveal yourself, tiny songstress!"

Weird-o-Meter: The strangest thing Depp and Burton could do by now is play it straight: 6.

Times movie critic Steve Persall can be reached at persall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365.

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Ranking Burton-Depp partnerships by weirdness 05/09/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 5:30am]

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