A woman is dying in her apartment. Two friends visit her and she tells them she wants to go to Chinatown. They convince her not to go, and then leave themselves. Unable to stand her ... See full summary »
"Glen or Glenda" tells two stories. One is about Glen, who secretly dresses as a woman but is afraid to tell his fiancée, Barbara. The other is about Alan, a pseudohermaphrodite who undergoes a painful operation to become a woman. Both stories are told by Dr. Alton, who also delivers an earnest lecture on tolerance and understanding. There is a second narrator, called the Scientist, whose commentary on the action contains more philosophical pronouncements than facts. The movie also has flashbacks-within-flashbacks and a strange dream sequence. We meet Insp. Warren, whose investigation of a transvestite's suicide leads him to learn more about men in women's clothes; Johnny, whose wife left him when she discovered what he wears when she's away; Barbara, oblivious to Glen's desire to wear her angora sweater; Satan, who invades Glen's nightmare; and others. Meanwhile, the Scientist will only offer cryptic advice. "Beware!" he warns. "Beware of the big, green dragon that sits on your ... Written by
A Classic? Without a Doubt. Don't Believe Me? Look Deeper.
The 1950s: a rigid and conforming time period in American history, a time when homophobia ran rampant and "diverse lifestyles" simply were not tolerated or glorified, came the 1953 transvestite drama 'Glen or Glenda'. 'Glen or Glenda' was Edward D. Wood's feature-length directorial debut and is considered by many to be one of the most obscure films of all time. Ed Wood's first "big picture" was quite a special one for him, the main reason being that it told a story very dear to him. Ed Wood was in many senses, the character of Glen/Glenda. The fact is, Ed Wood did find comfort in women's clothing and he did favor angora sweaters to the traditional shirt and tie which defined the era. These factors contribute to the film making, the effort, and ultimately the passion behind the film. Ed Wood was making a picture with a subject matter very dear to him and it comes through in this fine piece of work. Glen or Glenda is now considered to be a cult classic, but at the time it explored previously uncharted territory (not that this was a "smash-hit" when it came out in 1953 either). However, this is certainly not to say that the film is irrelevant to today's social standards, regulations, and expectations, on the contrary it proves to be quite pertinent to life in the 21st century.
'Glen or Glenda' opens with a character simply cast as 'Scientist' (Bela Lugosi) prophetically speaking of the society in which we live and its and loathing of the seemingly abnormal or unknown. He speaks of society's outcasts, the troubled world in which they live, and the problems they face in their day to day lives. The story ensues as the police arrive at the scene of a recent suicide. The victim was a well-known transvestite, cast out by society and all others around him. Among the police is Inspector Warren (Lyle Talbot). Troubled by this seemingly strange case, he seeks help in Dr. Alton (Timothy Farrell), a respected psychoanalysis who has encountered various transvestites in his line of work. He begins to tell Inspector Warren of a patient he once dealt with named Glen. Glen was engaged to be married to Barbara (Dolores Fuller), but had been hiding a dark secret from his fiancée; Glen (or Glenda?) was secretly a transvestite. Alton continues to tell Inspector Warren of the internal struggle within Glen: whether to tell Barbara of his secret lifestyle or to keep it to himself or to entirely stop wearing the clothes which make him feel so much like himself?
Although the subject matter, upon first glance, may seem to some a tongue in cheek jab at the transvestites and other "oddballs" of the world, it was not intended that way - nor does it come across as such after viewing the film. 'Glen or Glenda' is a startlingly solid effort at a fresh (and controversial) subject of the 1950s. Not only was the film fresh and innovative, but it prospered on a technical level as well. With excellent cinematography and pristine, appropriate lighting, the film is technically quite good. Dolores Fuller's acting is well-below average, but the other characters offer decent performances (Ed Wood's acting is curiously above average (seeing how he had little to no professional acting experience). Bela Lugosi's performance is, as always, a strong one with memorable dialogue. Although Lugosi is technically listed as a 'Scientist' in the film, symbolically he represents God. He is the one who pulls the strings; he is the one who has become filled with contempt for the human race and its judgmental nature. The symbolism within 'Glen or Glenda' is often overlooked and classified as "inept dialogue", but to an acute observer, it is astoundingly developed. The "green-eyed monster", mentioned by Bela Lugosi's character, can be interpreted as Glen's envy of women and their clothing. The seemingly random stock footage of the Buffalo represents the rush that Glen feels when symbolically transformed into Glenda. When realized, 'Glen or Glenda' is full of metaphoric meaning and symbolism, as well as a fresh plot, rife with unique social commentary.
'Glen or Glenda' is a film which does not dance around the subject matter. It recognizes an important (at least to director Ed Wood) and controversial social issue and discusses it in full, leaving nothing left unspoken. The film proves itself to be enjoyable and entertaining to watch throughout, with some memorable performances (for better or for worse...) and an interesting plot. With such originality and such passion, Glen or Glenda is a film which should be respected and treasured, rather than criticized for its below-average acting, seemingly strange dialogue, and obscure premise, for its pure outspoken zealousness in the 1950s, a period when transvestism and homosexuality were blatantly not openly accepted. Is this to say that these lifestyles are accepted today? Shall we consult Pat Robertson or perhaps George W. Bush on this matter? The film is just as relevant today as it was in 1953 when it was first released. Glen or Glenda proves to be entertaining and intriguing, full of obscure characters and a fresh subject matter: a film far ahead of it's time.
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