Thursday, January 8, 2015

Another review of that surreal Ed Wood classic, 'Glen Or Glenda'

Glen Or Glenda, 1952, 67 minutes, BW, Screen Classics Productions. Directed by Edward D. Wood Jr.. Starring Bela Lugosi, Daniel Davis (Ed Wood), Lyle Talbot, Dolores Fuller, Timothy Farrell, Tommy Haines, Charles Crofts, Conrad Brooks, Captain DeZita. Schlock-Meter rating: 9 stars out of 10.

By Doug Gibson

I first saw Glen Or Glenda? when a copy of the video arrived as part of the press kit for the mid-90s film "Ed Wood." The copy was murky, very dark and difficult to understand. It also ended abruptly without any final credits. As a result, I wasn't too impressed.

However, I learned later there were better versions available with more of the film so I invested $10 and purchased Rhino Home Video's print. I saw a much different film that is a must for Ed Wood fans and an excellent addition to any cult movie library.

Like any other Ed Wood film, it's a ridiculous story, incomprehensible at times and very poorly acted. However, like any Ed Wood film, it is unique and the actors surprisingly inspired. The plot: A transvestite commits suicide while in drag. A cop talks with a psychiatrist, who tells the cop that society must seek to understand transvestites and those who seek to change their sex. The psychiatrist tells the cop two stories: One is of a secret tranvestite (Davis/Wood) who wants desperately to wear his fiance's (Fuller) angora sweater. The other tale recounted is of a WW 2 war hero (Haines) who wants a sex change operation. All of this is sort of overseen by a spirit (Lugosi) who sits in a chair covered with fishing net and ominously spouts nonsense like "snips and tails and puppy dog tails," "pull the string," and "the story must be told."

The acting is just awful. Wood's girlfriend Fuller doesn't rise to the level of an eighth grader playing Juliet. The scene of her expressing her mental torment when Wood asks to wear her sweater is pure camp. Throughout the film the uninhibited Wood strolls through Hollywood dressed in drag looking in store windows. The dialogue is atrocious: "Give this man satin undies ... and he can be a credit to his community and his government." Like many micro-budget productions, much of the film utilizes voice-over narration.

Still, it's a great cult fim and merits its nine stars on the schlock-meter. Wood's creative chaos is in full force and it makes for deliriously entertaining scenes. Stock footage just swirls throughout this fun film. There are shots of buffalo stampedes, steel mills pushing out hot metal, military battles, kids playing ball and more. Wood's frenetic energy keeps the pace fast. Indeed, the only time the film slows down is a few moments of cheescake semi-bondage scenes of women in underwear (not directed by Wood) that producer George Weiss added for the "raincoat" crowd.

Cult movie fans will love the montage scenes where Glen dreams of telling his fiance of his secret. He's attacked by all his friends including the devil, delightfully performed by DeZita.

Glen or Glenda? as silly as it is, was actually a fairly courageous topic for Wood to tackle in 1952. It's pomposity and lack-of-tact direction made it a cult film rather quickly. Indeed, it was haunting midnight movie houses in New York by the 1970s. 60 years ago, very few would imagine it would still be viewed often today. Watch it below:

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