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I had a particularly masochistic day today, watching both Manos: The
Hands of Fate and Glen or Glenda, both of which have at some point been
claimed to be the Worst Movie Ever. Watching both movies in one day
made Glen or Glenda look good by comparison, but it is, by itself, one
of the most bewildering movies I've seen.
I say this not because of its pleas for tolerance in gender matters. That might have seemed odder in the '50s, when homophobia was more mainstream. We've since moved on to debating whether gays can marry. What's really striking about this movie, rather, is the extended surreal dream sequences and the inexplicable narration of Bela Lugosi. Throw Satan in there! Why not? A herd of buffalo stampeding below Lugosi? Why not? Being trampled by the herd would symbolize being run over by society for an urge to cross-dress, wouldn't it? Symbolism! Except the symbolism goes on way too long, one sensing in an effort by Ed Wood to drag his movie over the 60-minute mark. Eventually, it becomes incomprehensible.
And what of that narration? Bela Lugosi, "the Scientist," is kind of like a half-scientist, half-god character, who's also dark. He has skeletons around him for some reason. He says sinister things. Who or what is he? At the same time, a doctor is telling a police officer about Glen and Glenda. I'm reminded of the Nostalgia Critic's criticism of Rock-A-Doodle- who in god's name is telling the story? "The Scientist" or the doctor?
You can find some elements of this style in a movie like Ingmar Bergman's Persona- random flashing of unpleasant things, apparent dream sequences, a kind of god-like "narration" (a boy watching a TV), but that movie was competently done. Glen or Glenda becomes a giant non sequitur- not the worst movie ever, but worth quite the WTF?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When you mention the name Ed Wood Jr. to people, you think of bad
movies. Yes, Ed Wood Jr. was known for making really bad films, but
some of films were really groundbreaking for there time. Glen or Glenda
is the first feature length film that Ed Wood Jr. created. Glen or
Glenda starts off with the suicide of a known transvestite. A detective
goes to a doctor and learns two different stories about people, Glen
who is a transvestite who has not told his fiancé about his problem and
Alan a man who wants to be a woman.
Like all Ed Wood Jr. films this film has what Ed Wood's film are known for; horrible script, bad acting, poor special effects, lots and lots of stock footage, and horrible continuity are some of what Ed's films are known for. While this film falls under the category or a B-movie, the film itself is quite groundbreaking. This film was made in 1953 and at the time transvestites and sex changes were items that were quite taboo, so it was never really talked about a lot.
This is a camp film, however to get the full appreciation of this film you need to view the film in a different light. If you go watch a b-movie or a camp classic with the mindset of that you want to see how bad it can be, you will not get the full meaning of the film. If you watch the film with the mindset of seeing what this film has to offer, you will then understand what this film is about.
If you enjoy Ed Wood films, enjoy low-budget films, or enjoy risqué films then Glen or Glenda is a good movie to watch.
Definitely Wood's best film in my opinion. Very "film noir." The images and dialog were profoundly bizarre and almost incomprehensible. Documentary? Horror? Erotica? The film seems to have a total lack of vision, and if you compare this to his other films, you may be swayed to confirm this. However, you have to take this movie on its own. It's hard to watch "Glen or Glenda" and not think about the guy who made it...his own transvestism, war history, and his ultimately dubious movie-making legacy. But if you can just watch this film without any pre-notions of Ed Wood, you may find this a truly original and remarkable film. OK, the dialog is strange, the acting was goofy, the various metaphors didn't make much sense...but think about it: Bela Lugosi playing a mad scientist who narrates a documentary on transvestism which eventually turns into random scenes of soft-core lesbian bondage and stock WWII footage. That's just Freekin' Brilliant! I'll have to agree with the people that say that this film was "before it's time"...but not because of the subject matter, but because of the sheer insanity of the end result.
Like other movies from the worst director ever, Ed Wood, this movie is
bad but because of that it is also very funny. May be not for everyone,
I laughed a lot. It is a strange thing when you enjoy a bad movie. How do
you rate it? As a movie very low, as entertainment at least a little
The movie tries to explain what a transvestite is and it does this through a scientist (Bela Lugosi) and an inspector (Lyle Talbot) who talks to a doctor (Timothy Farrell) who knows about these things. The doctor tells the detective two stories and that is what we, and apparently the scientist, see. The doctor tels these stories because a dead transvestite is found, suicide, and because of a headline in the news paper about a sex-change. The first and longest story is about Glen (Ed Wood himself) who is in love and about to marry Barbara (Dolores Fuller) but he has never told her he like to dress as a woman, when he is named Glenda. The movie tells the same thing over and over again, especially the fact that a transvestite is not necessarily a homosexual. The movie almost says that being a transvestite is not a bad thing, but being homosexual is, since it keeps telling us the fact that a transvestite is not a homosexual. The second story is about a transvestite who really wants a sex-change and not just wants to dress up as a woman, but it is much shorter and less interesting.
A couple of things make this movie very bad, and therefore laughable. How the story is presented is the first thing, the way the same things are told over and over again and the conclusion of it all are others. This is not where it ends. The acting is very bad, especially Dolores Fuller seems to be reading her lines directly from a little screen somewhere. Every thing she says is funny. The whole dialogue actually gave me quite some laughs.
There is also a sequence where someone walks into a room. The door stays half open and we see something hanging on the wall, not completely straight. Then the door, in what seems to be the same shot although we know it is not, is a little less open and suddenly the thing on the wall hangs straight. Ed Wood didn't mind to leave this kind of continuity errors in his movie. May be a good thing, because basically it is just another laugh for the modern audience. I think you understand that it is a bad movie and I think there is a good chance you will laugh at the ridiculous mistakes as well.
*****SPOILERS***** Obviously a self-portrait of director Edward D. Wood
Jr. strange life in and out of Hollywood. With Wood playing the title
character in the movie Glen/Glenda. Originally titled" I led 2 Lives".
The movie starts with Bela Lugosi sitting in a laboratory and telling the theater audience about the mysteries of nature and creation as well as life and death and that nature, as perfect as it is, also makes mistakes.
Mixing some chemicals Bela gets what looks like a full head on a mug after you pored a bottle of beer in it and his eyes light up and he says triumphantly "A life has begun!" Then we see a big city and as the camera focuses in on a room where there's the body of a woman who committed suicide we hear Bela, off camera, sadly says "A life is ended".
It turns out that the dead woman is a transvestite who was arrested four times for wearing womens clothing and couldn't take being arrested anymore. Since as he wrote in his suicide note "That he'd rather be dead in womens cloths then have to live without wearing them". Police inspector Warren, Lyle Talbot, who handled the case of the transvestite was so shook up over it that a few days later he went to a psychiatrist Dr. Alton, Timothy Farrell, just to settle down his nerves from seeing what he did.
Dr. Alton tells Inspector Warren a long story about someone that he treated recently who had the same problem that the unfortunate transvestite had but with a happy ending. Glen, Ed Wood, is a man engaged to Babara, Dolores Fuller, but has a deep secret that he's afraid that if he told her it would destroy their relationship and he would lose her. Glen seems to be more in love with Barbara's angora sweater then he is with her.
Dr Alton goes on to explain how Glen is a transvestite and what he does to satisfy his yearnings is to wear womens cloths. Dr. Alton goes on saying that to cure Glen of his obsession was for Barbara to except Glen for what he is after Glen confessed to her. Barbara, after taking a few minutes to absorb all that Glen told her tells Glen "I don't understand all of this but maybe together we can work it out".
We see Dr. Alton telling this story to Inspector Warren in a long weird surrealistic like strip show. We see women appearing on screen in all sorts of dress and undress scenes as well as Bela Lugosi popping up every now and then, mostly off camera. Bela Logosi keeps the audience entertained with saying things like " A story must be told" and "Pull the string" and for some reason that I can't figure out we see a herd of stampeding wild buffalo's in the background.
Lugosi starts to get even more ridiculous as the movie rolls on with sayings that make no sense at all in light of the story that were seeing like "Dragon tell me, do you eat little boys and puppy dogs tails and big fat snails?". So after Dr. Alton's treatment Glen was completely cured of being Glenda by transferring Glenda, Glen's alter-ego, to Barbara but most of all having Barbara except Glen for what he is, a transvestite. With Barbara allowing Glen to wear her cloths both her and Glen can now live happily ever after. As the movie draws to a close Dr. Alton and almost in cadence Bela Lugosi end the it saying sadly that there are other transvestites like Glen who's stories don't have that same happy ending; and just how many more are there? just how many more are there?
What can one say after seeing a movie like this! your left speechless. You have to give Ed Wood credit for not only making "Glen or Glenda" as well as staring in it with an added attraction at the conclusion of the film of the then,in 1952-53, sensational story about the Christine Jorgesen sex-change operation, that was making headline news all over the world. The biggest surprise of all in regard to the movie is how on earth did Wood ever get it passed the ultra-prudish Hayes Commission back in 1953? That in itself ranks as one of the great accomplishments in motion picture history.
Bela Lugosi as God? Transvestites discussed in a movie in the
straight-laced 1950s? By golly, this must be an Ed Wood
Watching this movie, I felt a combination of guilt, pleasure, and nausea all at the same time. The story is about Glen (Ed Wood himself) and his cross-dressing alter-ego Glenda. Somehow, if this movie were made now, I could see Kevin Kline playing Glen/Glenda. Notice how all the cross-dressers' alter egos are versions of their male name (Glen/Glenda, Robert/Roberta, etc.). It attempts to sympathetically portray it as the mental disorder that it is, rather than as a graphic perversion.
Somehow, Wood manages to sneak in bondage and S&M sequences into his initial story of Glen/Glenda. Along with these racy scenes, Satan himself shows up, obviously having a bad hair day. The dialog and pace are nonexistent, but the film is enjoyable in its context -- the weird world of Ed Wood.
Sterno says put on your favorite lace panties for this one.
First of all, Ed Wood Jr. is not the worst director ever, Plan 9 From Outer
Space not withstanding. Coleman Francis deserves that title. I present
Exhibit B, Glen or Glenda.
The first half of the movie consists of a surprisingly thoughtful exploration of crossdressing, especially since it was made in 1953. The last 15 minutes of movie are also not bad as well.
This is not to say the movie doesn't have problems. Bela Lugosi was totally extraneous, intoning odd lines. Poor Bela looked like even he wasn't sure what was happening at times. The acting was decidely wooden, though no worse than a period Universal B movie. The long dream sequence that makes up the middle of the film was totally bizarre; more like a vaguely menacing stag film than a dream sequence. The Alan/Ann story, the supposed original focus of the film has a tacked on quality about it.
No, Ed Wood Jr. is not the worst director ever. He was able, at least for part of this movie, to make an earnest social statement. When Coleman Francis tried to do that in Night Train To Mundo Fine (aka Red Zone Cuba), it just ended in chaos. Glen or Glenda is at least watchable without Robot help.
I approached this movie with the understanding that it was one of the worst
flicks ever made. I sat down to watch it with this mindset, and was
It's not great. It's not even that good; in fact, it's pretty poor. However, it's not as bad as I had been led to believe, by a long shot. It's pretty inept, and, evidently as a cost cutting measure, a lot of stock footage is pressed into service, a lot of which has no apparent relation to the narrative.
What it is, however, is an intensely personal movie made by a man who evidently did not have the skills or the funding to do his idea justice. Before you discount _Glen or Glenda?_ out of hand, examine your own artistic skills. Me, I'd love to be able to draw, but anything I try to sketch comes out like stick men. I'd love to be able to sing, but all I do is frighten young children.
Wood had an idea, and unfortunately he didn't have what it takes to make it work. However, this was an incredibly daring movie for the puritan 50s, however exploitative or incoherent it may appear at first glance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For the 1950's Edward Wood was incredibly brave to make this movie about transvestites and sex change - dealing with two taboo subjects. It was made with real passion by someone who understood the issue, but it can be quite off the wall and dull, but its a hell of a lot more intelligent than a lot of the rubbish made today and costing millions of dollars to make. The opening message of Glen or Glenda reminds me of the opening message of Tod Browning's classic 1932 horror film Freaks. The first part of the film begins with a narrator (Bela Lugosi) making cryptic comments about humanity. In a way, Bela Lugosi plays the creator, watching the people moving by their own, making their own decisions. "Pull the Strings' meant everyone (puppeteer) is the master of their own destiny (puppets), by pulling the strings so as to control your destiny and bring it wherever you want it to be. These theological ruminations Ed Wood gives us are right up there with Ingmar Bergman's greatest films on the purpose of life and faith in our world. Edward Wood wanted to keep it open to religions who don't believe in the commonly accepted "God", or do not call their god(s) "God". "The Creator" is an umbrella term that doesn't offend any particular religion or belief set, nor does it truly suggest religion in the first place ("The Creator" could be anybody or anything). This way, he doesn't directly accuse religion for people not accepting transsexualism and transvestism, rather he accuses people's stubbornness. The Bela Lugosi portions of the movie seem like such an afterthought to the central story, which is too bad considering that they are also the most compelling. He put Bela in the film, because, at the time, the old man was sick, addicted to drugs, and badly in need of money, and he loved Lugosi so he tried to help him whenever he could. Sadly Bela wasn't in any shape to memorize the ingredients for an ice cube, let alone a movie script, even a bad one. The lines were feed to him, but some lines still didn't match what was being produce half of the scenes (Bisons running around in stock-footage is a example). Maybe a example of not being trampled by life or others. Another one is 'The Dragon at the doorstep' is maybe the mockery, people must fight against to be what he wants to be. Puppy dog tails and big fat snails are the transvestites of the world getting eaten (destroyed) by the Dragon, (mockery from people). The examples of people excuse for sex change, intro-cut with having cars and planes are just out there. This film has artistic merit to it with those lines. With Bela on film, the audience has a hard time figuring out who is the true narrator, due to another narrator later in the film. So it's felt like a story within a story. This part seem like a horror film, while the rest of the film seems like one of those "better ways towards clean living" type of short films made in the fifties that they showed to kids in school, only instead of promoting personal hygiene, this one is showing you how to justify your life as a transvestite.The film proper opens with Inspector Warren finding the corpse of a male transvestite named Patrick/Patricia, who has committed suicide. Wanting to know more about cross-dressing, Warren seeks out Dr. Alton, who narrates for him the story of Glen/Glenda and the viewers. Ed Wood himself was a transvestite playing Glen under the pseudonym 'Daniel Davis'. Glen is shown studying women's clothes in a shop window. Dr. Alton points out that men's clothes are dull and restrictive, whereas women can adorn themselves with attractive clothing with outrageous/ bizarre claims. Women's clothes comfy? In the days of the Iron Bra and the panty girdle? Glen is getting married to Barbara (Ed's real life girlfriend Dolores Fuller) who questioning if Glen is with another woman. Glen is being force to admit to Barbara about his wanting to wear women clothing. A bizarre dream sequence, containing some BDSM pornography, follows with Satan. Not really need. It ruins the film. Glen then decides to tell Barbara the truth. She proffers her angora sweater as a sign of acceptance. The second part of the story about Alan/ Annie is a letdown, not worth noting. The acting is quite poor, with different actors you can spot Ed Wood's trademark dialogue style.It's this type of pseudo-intellectual verbal non-stop talk that erupts from their mouths for no reason at all. Much like a person reading a book out-loud; there is an unnaturalness to it because we know, deep down in the depths of the human mind, that humans, such as us, do not talk like characters in a audio book. The random shots of things, like dramatic radiator are just odd to be in the film. Looking through the opening "credits," it included a "Music Consultant," rather than "composer," or "director." I have no idea what a "consultant" would be needed for, unless the music he used in this movie was canned or public domain. Found out it's the old theme song as the old Lassie TV show. The dub lines in post-production is funny. That phony "granny voice" is one thing that's laughable. Unfortunately the film doesn't broach the subject that gender Diaspora & transvestism aren't the same thing. Ed Wood who was probably a very nice man, but a not that good film maker. Working with what he had on a low budget, with a script he had to write in less than 2 days with production starting not long after- to say this was horrible is a understatement. It wasn't that bad. It actually seems pretty progressive for 1953. Rather watch a flaw film made with lots of enthusiasm than a mundane manufactured movie anyday. Just my opinion.
As probably many other viewers I decided to see "Glen or Glenda" to
verify if it's really what was hinted in the brilliant biographical "Ed
Wood". And indeed, I stared with my mouth open at Bela Lugosi's
recitations and the random buffalo scene. It was all there. Some
honestly unintended avant-garde.
Yet the movie is not half as bad as the legend holds it. The important fact is that it isn't an actual story, it's more of a semi-documentary, party educational picture. Behind the really weird editing the movie tells a lot about transvestitism, transsexualism, relationships, sexual identity and social roles. It's hard to believe that it was made in early 1950s! Not only it was produced significantly before the so called "sexual revolution" of the '60s, but also certain gender issues that were carefully covered in the movie seem to be still beyond the understanding of certain narrow-minded and prejudiced people today.
I recommend this movie to anyone who wants to get to know Edward Wood and his work and also to people interested in the history of approach to gender studies and the society.
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