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Plan 9 From Outer Space may be the most popular of Ed Wood's film, but
Glen or Glenda is... something on a whole different level of awfulness.
For entertainment purposes and Bela Lugosi it earns a 7 out of 10. (If I was rating it based on quality alone.... 1.5 or 2 stars would be about right.)
Even the boring portions (i.e. the extensive amount of stock footage, the dream scene or whatever that was supposed to be) are pretty hilarious.
The funniest part about this film is that it tries to be educational. Most of it has a similar tone to those movies they play in middle school health classes.
After seeing Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" as well as Ed Wood's own "Plan 9
From Outer Space" and "Bride of the Monster" (aka "Bride of the Atom")
I was expecting the worst... and while I can't say it was the best film
I've ever seen, it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected.
Surely the film was quite bizarre at many levels to say the least. However, when we watch a David Lynch film, a John Carpenter film or a David Cronenberg film we call it genius... but when it's an "Ed Wood" film it's considered horrible cinema.
When I try to look at things objectively, however, I see mostly avant-garde. Although "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and "Bride of the Monster" weren't nearly as good, "Glen or Glenda" seemed like a mixture between '50s propaganda and your average David Lynch movie which probably was the effect intended by Ed Wood. Therefore, in spite of many technical errors, I believe this film deserves a lot more credit than it actually got... in spite or regardless of its controversial message (even today).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw the biopic of Ed Wood many years ago. Tim Burton payed loving
homage to this extremely untalented but yet enthusiastic filmmaker.
Then I saw Plan 9 and it actually tickled me to no end. A silly story, kind of bad production values but still entertaining and even funny.
Then this. What can you make of it. Well, since Wood has been reported as being a cross-dresser it is startling to see a movie that deals with it like a cartoon. Yes, there are some stabs at teaching the audience something about the subject but mostly this is some kind of really twisted self-parody.
One of it's problems is that it has a hundred points of view. On one hand it is a plea for tolerance. Another portrays transvestism as a disease. And finally, it tells the audience: "Okay, if you are schocked now, then wait until you see this!" The problem must have been that Wood had to compromise in order for the film to be made. You can almost sense it when you see the opening title from the producer: Personally supervised by... So, where are we. This is neither a serious subject movie or an all-out schocker.
The entertainment value is practically nil. The wooden voice-over is mildly amusing but only because it sounds so misguided. This was made in the 50s though, so one can argue that was brave making a film that even mentioned the word transvestites. It all comes down to what the film itself is trying to advocate against. Schock. The rape scene, while mild is there simply to do that.
So, sorry. This is a misfire but the discredit is not Wood's alone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ed Wood is famous for being one of the worst directors and some think
that can lead to amazing fun films, though thats right for some of his
films, thats not so true for some others. "Jail Bait" shows him for
example as an quite ambitious director (a movie which isn't so much
fun, but still not really "good" in a common way) or films which are
just different then others and in that case also not so funny. "Glen or
Glenda" is one of this films of the last mentioned category.
"Glen or Glenda" is a very personal work of the director. the topic is "transvestism" / "cross- dressing" and the pressure the society puts on such persons. There are 2 frame-plots, 2 main-plots and 1 quite long dream-like sequence. All of this is packed in a playtime of around 1 hour. So you can understand you will not get a really elaborated story, cause there is no time for that.
this film is not so much a feature film, it is more an educational one. A "education film" which intention is to change the society's opinion, enlighten about this not so well known subject, all done in a pseudo-documentary style.
The off-voice is bringing forward some arguments, while the pictures are just underlining them. the actors are just visual representations/examples and like in all "educational films" they are playing quite bad, though not 'funny' bad. One important role has the doctor, who represents the professional, the specialist, which the people should believe.
The problem of the whole movie is, that Woods line of arguments is incoherent: first he is against a biologism, than he advances a view in which transvestism is something natural (biologism) and then it is just an illness (plot with the doctor). Ed Wood by himself doesn't know how to argue and how to win the tolerance of the viewer, so he tries it in different ways.
The first main-plot is presented still in this "educational" style and one man's transvestism is shown as an example. The pressure which is put on the protagonist is shown in a dream-like sequence, which reminds on silent-movie-era. In this part there is also shown some S&M (but VERY soft, without naked bodies and just symbolic), though it has nothing to do with the topic. This sequence leaves the "educational" style and invites the viewer to interpret the film in a more free way.
At the end of the film there are 15 mins left for the 2nd main-plot, in which he shows a second example of a "cross-dresser". the subjects in this part are "sex reversal" and "hermaphrodtism", a topic which is till nowadays not well known.
the movie is not good and it is also not bad, it is not funny either and it is not a "feature film". it is an educational one with pseudo-documentarian methods. It is an advocacy for more tolerance in our society. Though Woods opinion is not up-to-date anymore, though it is not well argued, this film is a quite interesting historical document about the debate. Who thinks this is a funny, entertaining or even a horror-film goes totally wrong and misunderstands this film.
Ed Wood is thought to be the worst director of all time.... maybe
that's true... "Plan 9 from outer space" is a movie from outer space!!
But that does not change the fact that "Glen or Glenda" is 100% a piece of movie history.
Not so much a movie with the "strict" meaning of the word but rather a dramatized documentary about a subject that even today, 60 years from its time, raises brows, frowns faces, causes unease and creates misconceptions...
The prologue of the movie says it all I think. Yes, all the technical elements are flaky and below mediocre...etc etc... the actors are not top notch.. yeah well, how many low budget movies now days "suffer" from that and on top of it have absolutely nothing to say!! And even high budget movies with superstars still have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SAY! Nobody can "accuse" Glen or Glenda and ultimately Ed Wood of such a "film crime"... on the contrary. It will give you and your company PLENTY to take into consideration and talk about!
Ed Wood hit home run with this one and he deserves to be acknowledged for it even now.... Sure, he hit the ball half naked, barefoot and dirty, staggering drunk, with his eyes half closed and with an awful haircut but he certainly hit a great home run!
Glen Or Glenda has to rate as one of the most personal films ever done
by any director, anywhere, even if that director happens to be Ed Wood.
He not only wrote and directed it, he acted in it himself and told his
own story of cross dressing. It's sad that Wood did not have the talent
or the budget to bring this off.
As we all know now thanks to Johnny Depp's biographical portrayal of Wood that Wood liked to wear feminine attire. So given the accepted knowledge of the time, no doubt gleaned from his many visits to a psychiatrist, Wood fashioned Glen Or Glenda and gave himself the title role.
The film is done documentary style as police detective Lyle Talbot investigates the suicide of a man found dead in women's clothes. Seeking information for future encounters, Talbot meets with psychiatrist Timothy Farrell who talks about two cases of men dressing as women one of those being Glen/Glenda the other being Alan/Ann.
Knowing several transgender individuals as I do they and I both see this thing as laughable in its ignorance. Not to mention the acting and writing was on the level of a high school play. Bela Lugosi has a part in here as an overall narrator who is given to saying cryptic things in a sinister fashion that you will search in vain in trying to figure out what they mean. No one talked sinister better than Bela Lugosi, but this was Bela's first association with Wood and Wood being so happy to have a box office name of sorts for his project just shoehorned him the best way he could. Why he just wasn't playing the psychiatrist is beyond me.
Wood was a terrible actor to add to being a terrible writer and director. But he was not alone as the rest of the cast is pretty bad as well.
Yet in his own clumsy untalented way, Ed Wood was giving us a glimpse of his world and how people in general saw individuals like him in 1953. No doubt most who see this especially transgender folks will think this as bad a film as I do, but it's an incredible insight into the world of its creator.
I am a fan of movies that are so bad they're good. I've seen plenty,
and Ed Wood is the king of cranking out such stuff. But until I saw his
"Glen Or Glenda" I never new how genuinely horrific a movie could be!
First let me say that I find some of the other reviews almost as ridiculous as this movie. Calling it some sort of 'ahead of its time GLBT' classic or any sort of 'serious look' at anything is simply finding pearls among the dog doo. The storyline is very thin; some parts of the movie are not even related to the storyline and are inexplicable, such as the silent (with background music) scenes of one woman tying up another lying on a couch, or a guy whipping a woman lying on the same couch, or Ed Wood (as Glen/da) making a face that looks like he's being electrocuted while a little girl's voice echoes in the background "Puppy dog tails! Puppy dog tails! Puppy dog tails!" Now really, is this a GLBT treasure? There are obviously some men dressed as women in some scenes of the movie, none of whom are any more of a feminine nightmare than Wood himself dressed as Glenda. He looks like Fred Flintstone in drag with makeup.
Many of the cast of actors are seen in other of Wood's films. Actually they must be incredibly, fantastically talented actors to be able to utter this insane dialog without bursting into hysterical laughter:
"I guess I've seen just about everything there is for a policeman to see. Yet I wonder if we ever stop learning... learning about which we see... trying to learn more about... an ounce of prevention."
"I'm a man that thrives on learning. We only have one life to live. If we throw that one away, what is there left?"
"Okay. Here's a story from fact!"
Now, most of the handful of men dressing as women in this movie are NOT good basic material. Frankly they all look more like your Uncle Ralph or someone equally non-feminine.
This movie is a riot, a howl, a scream. In some places it's a baffling mystery. "What does THAT mean? What is going on HERE?" It alternates between insanely funny and just insane. It is not some deep work as some here have tried to make it out. It cannot be described how truly and riotously AWFUL Glen or Glenda is... watch it, and try not to have your mouth full of Pepsi during the dialog lest it come shooting out your nose.
I normally would never give Glen or GLenda a four, in fact I once thought it was the worst movie ever made. Sadly, I have since seen "Tree of Life", now that's the new gold standard for bad! Never before had a movie made me physically ill. Back to "Glen or Glenda". Ed Wood Jr., for all his limitations, mostly financial, was a genius in my opinion. "Plan 9 from Outer Space" is great Sci.Fi. The production values are dreadful but somehow forgivable. "Glen or Glenda" doesn't suffer nearly as much from the poor production values, mostly because you're too busy trying to follow the incomprehensible plot line, the Belly Dancing sequence alone can put you in a near trance state. If you're the type that can enjoy a bad movie, give this a try, in many ways it's a charming film.
This is Ed Wood's masterpiece. One literally has to experience this film to understand how nuts it truly is. The film literally makes no sense whatsoever and that is the brilliance of it. The story of the transvestite Glen/Glenda is told by not 1, but count them 2, yes 2 narrators. One of whom was the sad, pathetic drug addled Bela Lugosi. Watching him rambling almost incoherently "Bevare, bevare..." it is hard to imagine just 20 years before he was the toast of Broadway as "Dracula", just watching him spouting his mindless chatter gives the film a surreal quality. Obviously this was the biography of Wood himself and watching him take the angora sweater from his confused yet loving fiancée is priceless. This movie takes camp to a whole level of it's own. No other film, not even "Plan 9 from Outer Space" can touch it. One watches it in utter amazement.
Ed Wood was legendary for the fact he wasn't an incredibly talented
filmmaker (to put it lightly). However, he certainly isn't the "Worst
Filmmaker of All Time" as many people ignorantly label him. His films,
while technically inept, are personal statements of the man's
obsessions. Despite the fact I prefer "Plan 9 From Outer Space", I
consider this to be the quintessential Ed Wood film. It is a reflection
of who the man was. Transvestism, Bela Lugosi, classic Hollywood, and
family all play a part in this portrait of the man's mind.
The script is quite autobiographical. Glen is an ordinary man ("not a homosexual" as the narrator inter tones roughly ten times) "engaged to a young girl named Barbara" (as the narrator reminds us about ten times also). The only potential problem in this marriage is that Glen is a transvestite, which he is afraid of revealing to Barbara. He is worried that she won't be able to cope with this.
The story is just a springboard for everything that was in Mr. Wood's surrealistic mind. The dream sequence is him attempting to portray how society will shun him just like his father (represented as Lucifer himself) did. This legendary scene is as bizarre as anything Ken Russel or Luis Bunuel ever attempted. Than there's Bela Lugosi as the narrator. He appears on screen as "the scientist" (possibly God), offering bizarre phrases against the backdrop of a laboratory. He seems to be controlling the fate of all mankind, or something like that, it's never really explained. This whole story is being told to a police inspector by a psychiatrist. At least they're placement in the film is explained.
The whole film is goofy and surreal, often somewhere between. However, it is a highly personal statement of Ed Wood's fears and problems, and therefor should not be called the worst film ever made. Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckenheimer have never attempted anything this personal as far as I can recall. In fact this film (along with "Plan 9") ranks up there with "Reefer Madness", "El Topo", and "Spider Baby" as one of the ultimate cult classics. Anyone with an appreciation of cult or surreal cinema is highly implored to check this film out. (9/10)
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