A man wanders out of the desert not knowing who he is. His brother finds him, and helps to pull his memory back of the life he led before he walked out on his wife and son four years before... See full summary »
Harry Dean Stanton,
In the Salinas Valley, in and around World War I, Cal Trask feels he must compete against overwhelming odds with his brother Aron for the love of their father Adam. Cal is frustrated at ... 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
and generally speaking, you will eventually have to research this little gem. When describing I Changed My Sex, or Glen Or Glenda as it is better known, I must echo the thoughts of Andrew Smith, who so hit the nail on the head when he wrote "If you haven't seen any of Ed Wood's other movies, this one is a completely bewildering experience. If you have seen any of Ed Wood's movies, this is still completely bewildering". The film is both hilarious and tragic, yet it moves with a strange rhythm of its own that leaves one in no doubt that its author knows and means every word he is saying during its running length. Wood, bless him, had some of the loftiest ambitions as a director, wanting to promote peace, understanding, and even acceptance, in the 1950s of all times. When Tim Burton recreated a viewing of Glen Or Glenda by studio execs for his biopic, he showed the execs laughing and telling each other that this had to be a put-on. More than fifty years later, there are still people fighting just to be given the kind of respect that the "normal" take for granted, so I say it most certainly is not.
No, the real comedy in Glen Or Glenda is the sheer ineptitude Wood displays in composing his message. Directors frequently use stock footage when they can find some that suits their purposes, and can be edited to fit with their own footage. Ed Wood used stock footage indiscriminately, and Tim Burton's biopic celebrated the fact with a scene in which Wood as played by Johnny Depp bets that he could make an entire film out of stock footage. Sadly, the real Ed Wood died before he had a chance, but Glen Or Glenda is the closest he ever came. The IMDb states that twenty percent of this sixty-something minute film is stock footage, and it is never difficult to guess which footage. Footage of busy highways, planes flying overhead, poor lightning effects, soldiers doing their thing, they're all used in a haphazard manner, sometimes repeatedly, and they often only have a loose connection to the story Wood is trying to tell. Had Wood been able to sit back and think about what he is trying to do for a while, there is no telling what kind of heights he could have achieved.
Wood himself appears in the film as the titular character, a confused transvestite who imagines himself as a woman named Glenda. Aside from the daring manner in which he attempts to make his point, Wood makes one hideous woman. Having found myself out on the fringe of a society that thinks I am "disabled" and need to be "cured" myself, I honestly found myself hoping for the best outcome for Wood's character. In order to make his point, however, Wood weaves in short stories of two other transvestites. One of them takes the extreme step of enduring a sex change in order to become a woman, the other finds himself so disenfranchised that he fears being arrested again so much he commits suicide. The scary thing about this film is that if you edited out the transvestism and substituted such disenfranchisements as my position on the autistic spectrum or such things as schizophrenia, very little of the film would even need to be changed. That is how little society has learned since Ed Wood was a boy.
The other significant personality in Glen Or Glenda is Bela Lugosi, whom Wood shoehorned into the film. Speculation varies upon Wood's motives, but the accepted theory is that Wood wanted to help revive Lugosi's career, and would do anything in order to achieve this. With the exception of taking his time to carefully construct a good film, that is. In Glen Or Glenda, Wood makes usage of Lugosi that was best described in Flying Saucers Over Hollywood as "bizarre". Lugosi plays a character billed as The Scientist, but comes off more as an omnipotent puppet master. People who have not seen Ed Wood films before the biopic will think Tim Burton made up the "beware of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep" speech. If anything, Burton was being restrained about which bizarre speech to use in depicting Wood-ian dialogue. Nothing can prepare you for seeing the speeches in their original context, not even Criswell's hilarious ranting during Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Observant types will also note the presence of Delores Fuller, Wood's girlfriend at the time. Again, Burton dramatises her reaction to seeing the script for the first time, whereas the film portrays her as being accepting and forward-thinking. I cannot help but feel that Burton's portrayal is more accurate, as Fuller looks extremely uncomfortable in her role. She only appears for about fifteen minutes, but her delivery seems so mechanical, so lifeless, that she somehow manages to seem less talented than her cast-mates, if such a thing is possible. Whether Wood's direction was better-focused in this case than usual is hard to determine, but if the ability of the support cast to leave the stars (with the obvious exception of Bela) in the dust is any guide, then it should come as no surprise that Fuller would only appear in a very small role within one other Wood film. That she went on to write a number of hit songs tells you she made the right decision to stay behind the camera. While Wood would appear before the camera again, it was never as more than a cameo, a walk-on, or a bit-part.
I gave Glen Or Glenda a one out of ten. I generally only give this rating to films that are so bad they become entertaining as a result. Bold and well-intentioned as it was, Glen Or Glenda fits that description to a T.
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