Glen or Glenda (1953) Poster

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The greatest movie by one of the great filmmakers of all time
Ed Wood was one of the greatest moviemakers in film history. Could he direct? Not really. Were his movies technical masterpieces? Could his actors act? Did he have huge budgets? No. We're here fifty years later, talking about him, because he created worlds on film nobody had ever seen before or since. His characters talked like nobody we've ever heard before (though there are strong echoes in the works of Hartley and Lynch). And unlike every Hollywood movie ever made, Ed ripped open his heart and poured it out on the screen. Never more so than in "Glen Or Glenda," his original avant-garde masterpiece.

Avant-garde? You heard me. What is the definition of avant-garde film? Some attributes are unconventional narrative, unique visual style, radical rejection of artistic or social norms, an often willful disregard for reality. Gloria Floren said "Avant-garde films are often iconoclastic, mocking conventional morality and traditional values; the filmmaker's intense interest in eccentricities and extremes may shock viewers.  Indeed, the avant-garde film maker's purpose may be to wake or shake up the audience from the stupor of ordinary consciousness or the doldrums of conventional perspective."

Imagine if people viewed "Un Chien Andalou" or "Meshes Of The Afternoon" or "Eraserhead" with fratboy derision instead of holy reverence. They'd be viewed as unwatchable nonsense too. Everybody'd have a good snark watching for continuity errors and bad camera moves. Does "Glen or Glenda" rise to the level of those classics? Time will tell, but try this experiment: watch it as if it were, and see. The results may surprise you.

Here are some hints. Lugosi is not a mad scientist--he's God, looking down upon twisted human morality and "pulling the strings". The "green eyed monster" that "eats little boys"? Envy. Envy of women and in this case, their clothes. That envy has "eaten" vast amounts of Glen's life, it's been a torture to him. There are numerous references to that torture and misery. There's also an entire section devoted to judgment--human judgment versus that reserved to God.

The "nonsensical" stock footage of buffaloes and the army? It signifies the rush of adrenaline, fear and anxiety as "Glen" tries to confront his identity and "come out" to his girlfriend. Far from random, it's actually used with ingenuity and skill.

The symbology of scenes in which "Glen" battles his female self and resists the devil should be obvious. But then again, a generous viewing of "Glen or Glenda," rather than a beer-fueled "let's watch a crap movie" viewing, would reveal a great deal. Even the campy scene at the end, when Dolores Fuller relents and gives Glen her sweater, comes with the always-missed segment where God absolves Glen of his misery. There are a dozen moments like this. Sure, there are a dozen technical flubs and random nonsense too, but all good art is organic. There's a guy wearing a Timex in "Ben-Hur," for god's sake.

The "narrator" seems comical and dated to us, but in 1953 he was standard-issue, and the lines we now take as campy were then revolutionary, almost treasonous. A plea for tolerance for sexual and gender differences? Condemning the police for arresting gays and transvestites just for existing? During the McCarthy era, when all homosexuals were presumed to be communists? A film like that is bound to make some enemies. Especially a film that featured, not actors playing "deviants," but the deviants themselves, in their own words.

It's telling that the extreme-religious-conservative Medved brothers were the ones who named Ed Wood "worst director of all time." They must have thought they were really sticking it to Ed Wood for making all those subversively weird films involving crossdressing and homosexuals and society's outcasts. Thankfully, irony remains the most powerful force in the universe, and their mean-spirited declaration made Ed Wood a household name. Whether they admit it or not, a lot of this movie's detractors are laughing at the subject, not the movie. Many others are baffled by the unconventional narrative. Just because you don't get something, doesn't mean there is nothing to get.

It's easy to give any movie the MST3K treatment, especially ones that veer into uncomfortable or seemingly absurd territory. If you're looking for the worst movie ever made, go watch "Armageddon" or "Crossroads." If you're looking for THE pioneering moment in GLBT film history, the greatest and most underrated American DIY avante-garde feature of its time, or an experience that just might change the way you view movies and the world at large, start right here.
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Brilliantly Bad!
Maciste_Brother22 October 2003
GLEN OR GLENDA is uniquely bad. Suffice it to say, one has to witness it in order to really believe it. There's almost no point of writing a sensible review of this "movie" because it's beyond wonky. It's so bad that it's almost pure genius. Bunuel couldn't have created a more surreal film than Ed Wood's treatise on the merits of cross-dressing. The "movie" is 70% stock footage or stuff that has nothing to do with the main "story." A huge chunk of the amazing dream sequence is just a nudie cutie. The "acting" is abysmal. Dolores Fuller wins the award for worst actress of all time. The dialogue is so hilarious that it's endlessly quotable. But the whole thing is oddly frank and earnest and because of this, this kooky disaster of a movie actually has a heart, which is more than you can say about most movies out there. I love it. There's almost nothing like it.
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Way ahead of it's time, and was also used as a teaching tool!
jwstrand637 July 2004
I am a huge fan of Ed, after seeing "Ed Wood", and I have since bought the book "Nightmare of Ecstacy". Also, I bought all of the films that he had made that I could get my hands on.

Like it or not, "Glen Or Glenda" was a landmark film!

This particular film was made WAY AHEAD of it's time!! While I was first watching Tim Burton's fantastic film, recreating the making of "Glen Or Glenda", I noticed that there were things in it that seemed rather familiar to me, even after 30+ years have passed, and that is what partly interested me in looking into both the book, and Ed Wood's films. What I discovered was, I had seen this film when I was in GRADE SCHOOL!!

After viewing the REAL "Glen OR Glenda" film, I realized that I had had seen this exact same film before, although heavily edited!

It was shown as a part of our sex-ed class!! I can hardly believe it that they showed us this back then, but they did. No

thanks to the school I went to, and the horribly incompetent teachers, but they did show it!

Now, fast forward to today, the reason for all of the extra scenes near the end of the film, such as the 'Devil' sequences, and the rest of the rather abstract looking scenes, were not originally part of the screenplay. Those scenes (baffling and dumbfounding), were NOT part of the film as Ed had written. His script left the running time short of what George Weiss had told him he wanted, a 7 reel, 16MM film, which was what he needed to sell it. A 16MM reel runs about 10 minutes, and George needed a 70 minute film (at least), because he pre-sold it in several states as a "Feature", before he actually found out what it really was. He wasn't too pleased with what Ed had made, but he was able to distribute it to his clients, after all of the extraneous material was added at the end. George did eventually make his money back, and he and Ed worked on a couple of other projects, unlike what is shown in the "Ed Wood" film.

Even today, though, I think that this film was made way before it's time, and Ed Wood should deserve some credit for trying to bring a sense of understanding to what was then a totally misunderstood way of life for a select few.
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Believe the hype! Everything you've heard about this one is true! Fifty years on it's STILL one of the weirdest movies ever made.
Infofreak1 June 2003
Ever since Tim Burton's wonderful 'Ed Wood' raised Ed Wood Jr's profile and made his seriously bent movies movies better known than they have ever been, some cult movie fans have gotten their noses out of joint. Wood's reputation as the worst director ever pushes some buffs buttons as it marginalizes already marginalized film makers like Ray Dennis Steckler, Ted V. Mikels, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Al Adamson and other "so bad it's good" directors. I leave more knowledgeable fans than me to argue over who REALLY is the worst, but there's no denying that Wood's movies are quite unlike anything made before or since. 'Glen Or Glenda' is his best movie, or if the term "best" misleads, his Ed Woodest. I've lost track of how many times I've seen it over the years but it never loses its power to amuse and astound. Every single time I watch it I am flabbergasted! It literally has to be seen to be believed. Wood plays the title character, a man wrestling with his transvestitism. His girlfriend is played by Dolores Fuller, the cop by Lyle Talbot, the psychiatrist by Timothy Farrell, all three familiar faces from other Wood classics like 'Plan Nine From Outer Space' and 'Jail Bait'. But the real reason to watch this is the utterly bizarre performance from horror legend Bela Lugosi, credited on the version I watched as "scientist", and on the IMDb as "The Spirit", who may or may not be God. His rantings of "Pull the strings! Pull the strings!" and nonsensical stuff about "Green dragons" and "puppy dog tails" will stay in your head for YEARS, if not for the rest of your life! Wood intercuts this with nutty stock footage like buffalo stampedes, and one of the most wacked out nightmare sequences ever seen, which includes lots of chubby gals in states of undress, some S and M, and and an appearance by Satan. Believe the hype - everything you've heard about this one is true! Fifty years on it's STILL one of the weirdest movies ever made. If you haven't seen 'Glen Or Glenda' you just don't know what you're missing!
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A Classic? Without a Doubt. Don't Believe Me? Look Deeper.
Alienator1 April 2006
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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Ed Wood's shining cinematic moment
Casey-5217 April 2000
Ed Wood. The so-called "worst director of all time". Sorry, there are plenty of other directors who could take that title because Ed Wood is not that bad of a director nor a bad person. Ed made movies to make movies, not to make a buck. And that's why his films are sort of poignant in their flaws.

"Glen or Glenda?" is a statement, not a film. It is a statement about transvestism, the truth behind it, and gives several (for the most part, factual) cases of transvestites and transsexuals. Wood is world-reknowned for being a transvestite with a fetish for angora sweaters. And here, he is brave enough to cast himself in an autobiographical role (Glen) and let the world know (yet, he hides under the pseudonym of Daniel Davis).

"Glen or Glenda?" is a bad movie lover's dream. Hilarious dialogue, no coherent plotline, and many memorable sequences of transvestites and their hardships. The narrator does a splendid job of camping things up while explaining how a transvestite is not a homosexual, how it is more healthy to wear womens' clothing, and the tragic results of misunderstood transvestites. Plus, you get Bela Lugosi as God (he's nice and campy), several out-of-place striptease and cheesecake scenes (pretty graphic for 1953), and Dolores Fuller (Wood's real-life girlfriend) as Glen's fiancee.

Too many people rated this movie with a 1. But "Glen or Glenda?" is not as bad as "Orgy of the Dead" or other later Ed Wood classics. In fact, "Glen or Glenda?" is arguably Wood's greatest achievement. Check it out, I strongly recommend it.
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A Voice for the Voiceless
cwogaman9 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know where this movie falls in the development of camp, but it sure is a milestone along the way to Pink Flamingos and other masterpieces of bad taste.

"All those people, all going somewhere!" Ok, so the dialogue is laughable, the editing could have been done better than a 6 year old, and there is really no development. But this is entertainment and a pretty brave statement in favor of those who've been bending gender for centuries. I value Ed Wood for giving a voice, albeit a fractured one, to those thousands of men who have feared their feminine side, and those who, like the young fellow in the film who killed himself, have been silenced by prejudice, fear, and hatred.

Watch it with a friend, preferably one who wears angora.
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Don't knock on Wood!
dbdumonteil27 June 2007
Like in "plan nine outer space" ,Ed Wood tries to put a message across in his film.In his sci-fi flick,he made his E.T. blame the human race for their self-destruction :it was not unlike Robert Wise's "the day the earth stood still" and not more naive than the latter.The main difference lies in the fact that Wood had a shoestring budget with his cardboard flying saucers and his shower curtain in the "plane"

"Glen or Glenda" is anything but stupid.Just tell me the name of a director (in the USA or elsewhere) who dared to treat such a taboo subject: the transvestites -not necessarily homosexual- and even the transsexuals.His film ,with voice over galore,although dated today of course was a plea for tolerance.The fact that Ed Wood himself used to dress himself as a woman (see Tim Burton's eponymous movie) is proof positive that he knows what he is taking about.

Bela Lugosi's part,on the other hand,gets in the way.Is he a scientist? a puppeteer who plays with humans? or "simply" God Himself?(do not laugh at him!when Agnes Varda ,an intellectual director of the notorious French Nouvelle Vague , films such drivel ("les Creatures",1966) ,the highbrows praise her to the skies )

Despite ludicrous special effects ,terrible acting and poor lines,Ed Wood's film is anything but derivative.
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So bad it's... what?
sandrewsmith22 February 2003
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. Wood saw newsreels about Christine Jorgenson (the subject of the first sex-change operation), realized that he had a few things in common with Jorgenson, and made this... um... documentary about it. Lugosi plays, as always, a mad scientist, whose storyline barely ties in with the rest of the movie. Wood himself pseudonymously plays Glen, who enjoys dressing up in angora sweaters. Two policemen investigate Glen's apparent suicide, and... well, the plot sort of lost me between Lugosi's bizarre rants, the stock footage of buffalo herds and the elementary-school-filmstrip-quality acting. It really doesn't make any sense, but it is entertaining by virtue of its profound awfulness.
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A Truly Unique Film
Tobias_R30 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I agree with one commentator who says that it's really impossible to review Glen or Glenda? objectively. If one does so, the film on its merits would have to be rated as fairly terrible given the hilarious, convoluted dialog, the generally mediocre to poor acting by the cast as well as the zero production values. Yet, such an assessment does not capture the absolutely riveting experience of watching this film as it unfolds. It isn't the fact that the subject of the film is transvestitism and that it was a controversial lifestyle choice in the 1950s. It's not even the plea for tolerance of people who embrace alternate life choices that fascinates except as an historic relic.

No, what makes Glen or Glenda? still a fascinating film after 50 years is that Ed Wood laid his psyche bare in a way that so-called auteur directors like Hitchcock or Godard, despite their vastly superior talents, never did. In Glen or Glenda, Wood isn't afraid to reveal his own deeply conflicted feelings about being a transvestite despite the plea for tolerance for it through out the film. Indeed, the conclusion of the film suggest that Ed Wood's Glen character will be able to "kill" his Glenda female counterpart by transferring the feelings of love and affection Glen has for his feminine counterpart to his future wife, Barbara. The psychiatrist even reassures Glen and Barbara that as Glen makes that psychic transference, Glenda will disappear. So, while Wood could plead for tolerance of transvestites in general, he wasn't so sure of desiring it for himself.

Moreover, Wood wasn't afraid of throwing everything else that crossed his mind on the screen. He did it with whatever stock footage he could get his hands on. If it didn't cohere, so what? What the viewer saw in Glen or Glenda especially was Ed Wood's imaginative world in all of its fundamental strangeness.

The only comment I wish to add to my comment above is that my two-star rating is based solely on the objective evaluation criteria cited in the first paragraph. The oddly memeric effect the film has despite its technically atrocious qualities I don't think can be rated.
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So modern and delicate
m29 September 2003
I bought this movie after watching Tim Burton's biography "Ed Wood (1994)". I expected something quite clumsy and was delighted with the result : The questions that are being asked and answered are really interesting and Ed Wood dealt with these a very artistic way. Of course, one could argue this is gross and that the topic lacks subtility but you have to envision yourself back in 1953 and I guess you'll suddenly realise how prophetic this movie was. I gave it 10/10 : I'll watch it again and again.
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Bevare.........Take Care!
bsmith555210 July 2007
"Glen or Glenda" was Edward D. Wood Jr's first attempt at directing a feature film. For this he chose a topic near and dear to his heart...transvestism, the "art" of a man wanting to dress in women's clothes. To his credit, Wood tried to deal with subject matter that was largely taboo in 1953. Unfortunately, Wood had neither the budget nor the know how to make the film.

The story opens with a prologue by Bela Lugosi that makes little sense and then moves to the discovery of a dead transvestite Glen/Glenda (Daniel Davis aka Ed Wood). Inspector Warren (Lyle Talbot) with the help of psychiatrist Dr. Alton (Timothy Farrell) tries to understand why a man would want to live (and die) this way.

Glen is engaged to Barbara (Dolores Fuller) and is reluctant to tell her of his obsession. And that's it. We see endless stock footage shots of anything from freeway traffic to soldiers landing on the beach, interspersed with shots of Wood walking down the same street dressed as either Glen or Glenda and looking longingly at women's clothes in a store window. Poor old Bela, who was down on his luck and befriended by Wood, keeps popping in throughout the story. I'm not 100% sure but I think Bela's scenes were added for his name value after the body of the movie was completed.

To add to the confusion of Lugosi's narration, Farrell as Dr. Alton also provides off screen narration. Lugosi keeps saying, bevare, bevare...take care, take care, as well as, some gibberish about snakes and snails and puppy dog's tails.

The story also deals with a transvestite who has a successful sex change operation and tries to explain the difference between that person and Wood's character(s). The dream sequences are laughable. A wedding sequence in which someone dressed as the devil appears is a good example. Wood also gives us an apparent rape scene with the actors(?) fully clothed but leaving little to the imagination, risqué for 1953.

This film along with Wood's other "classics" were so bad that they became embraced by the public as cult classics over the years. For that reason, they have survived to this day.
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Define "so bad its good"...
mentalcritic23 July 2006
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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Make Mine Angora
dougdoepke20 November 2012
Surprisingly, the movie's neither good nor bad-- it just doesn't register on the conventional spectrum. Instead it's just plain weird, terminally weird. It's like a highschool hygiene lecture wrapped in soft porno, all tossed into a surrealist dream. Really, Wood had all the guts in the world to lecture a 1950's audience on the subtleties of gender bending. That part is genuinely informative and worth a salute. I also liked the soft porn with the squirming girls in semi-undress. But I'm still wondering how that got released in 1953. Then there's Lugosi sitting in some corner of the surrealist universe, telling us to "Bevare of puppy dog tails…" and other hammy nonsense. I figure he was added for marquee value since the rest of the cast are a bunch of unknowns. But what's this thing Wood has for lightning bolts. It's like he says, "Stop the action, it's time for a lightning bolt", and makes just about that much sense. One thing for sure—you never know what's coming next. It might be a stampede of buffalo or a stroll down Ventura Blvd. in drag. And, my gosh, Wood (Glen and Glenda) looks so normal, you'd never guess he makes Salvador Dali seem absolutely conventional. I don't know what part of planet Wacko Wood hails from, but I do know it's no part of the known universe. Nonetheless, here's a fuzzy angora Oscar to Wood for just plain weirdness.
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Somewhat misunderstood, though otherwise still bad
Polaris_DiB19 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Call me deranged, but I feel there's a little more worth to this movie than it is mostly given. Ed Wood's infamy in the film world leads to a particular form of expectation in cult circuits that sometimes gives prejudice in places where it's not due (though I'm not going to argue that Plan 9 from Outer Space isn't terrible... I'll write a review of that one next), but I think Glen or Glenda? shows that there may be a lot from Wood we're taking for granted.

Not to say this is a good, or even great, film by any means. It's real problem lies in the fact that despite Ed Wood's own well-noted transvestitism, this movie was made in a time when such issues were taboo enough to be misunderstood even by those who "suffered" from it. Glen or Glenda? is Ed Wood's personal journey into his own double-life, which involves, among other things, questioning woman's role in society, gender politics, and psychoanalysis. The absurd and random cutting through different viewpoints, narratives, and devices actually work FOR Wood's own confusion... the movie itself is as schizophrenic as people's opinions about the subject the movie is portraying.

The second real reason why Glen or Glenda? fails simply has to do with the horror genre itself. Wood uses horror tropes to express himself, when this movie would be a lot more successful as a drama with most of the same dialog... though nothing changes the fact that the dialog could have been delivered much better. Bela Lugosi's role especially stands out in stark contrast to the rest of the film, which at times goes through documentary or cinema verite-like, melodramatic, war, and psychoanalytical concepts at a dizzying pace. Actually, as I see it, Lugosi's character is comparable to The Man in the Planet from Eraserhead or the Emcee from Cabaret, a separate, somewhat metaphysical entity that comments in its own way upon the more diegetic elements of the rest of the film.

Otherwise, despite a very vague sense of misogyny, Glen or Glenda? is remarkably successful at detailing the anxiety and confusion felt by transvestites of various personalities. It's not-so-subtle arguments for transvestism are laughable, but they're more reasonable than I think many people are willing to admit. Had this movie been done by more capable hands, it could have become an immensely important document, but on another level Wood's own campy quality reflects the sort of underground sentiment and misassociation inherent in its own subject matter.

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David Lynch eat your heart out, a strange masterpiece
HEFILM29 September 2005
Ed Wood's one genuine masterpiece, not to take anything away from the so bad it's good category most of the rest of his films fall into, but this film genuinely expresses Wood's life with him playing himself. His movie idol Bela Lugosi being the narrator makes perfect sense as do the strange and dreadful supporting actors and inspired use of strange stock footage.

The is expressionistic film-making on par with the best in the genre. Also of course it features Wood's one of a kind, "up all night speed typing and drinking and never looking back" type of dialog that has never been equaled for its, "what language are they speaking" phrasing.

Lynch, Waters--they've seen this film certainly and tried, with various degrees of success and failure, to copy its strangeness and over the topness. But here it is genuine not a reproduction of strangeness but the real deal! This is the kind of film that created cult film fans. One final thing, this is the most genuine expression of a cross-dresser's feelings ever mixed with the alcohol and the love of movies. There will never be another Ed Wood. You may thank god there won't be, but this one is his real deal. There are things in this movie you would never imagine you'd see and won't see before and will only see pale imitations of since. Things you'll never forget. What more can you ask of a film? Ed Wood is the one true auteur of bad film directors and this is his one true good movie.

Like a line in this film states: "Only the infinity of the depths of a man's mind can really tell the story."
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an endearing piece of high weirdness
TomC-518 November 1999
Those who have seen Tim Burton's fine tribute film, ED WOOD, know the story behind this; an inexperienced filmmaker named Edward D. Wood, Jr. talked an exploitation movie producer into hiring him to direct what was initially meant to be the story of Christine Jorgenson, the first (and heavily publicized) case of surgically induced transexualism; this project was alternately to be called "The Christine Jorgenson Story," and later (after Jorgenson changed her mind), "I Changed My Sex." Of course, after Ed Wood got his hands on the basic storyline, he altered it so as to tell the story of his own transvestitism and to plead for greater tolerance and understanding; set against the staid morals of the early 1950s, Ed's pleading was actually ahead of its time.

Now, in wanting to tell this story, but in being constrained by both a shoestring budget and some rather bizarrely unusual filmaking instincts, Ed's efforts went sharply astray. This is, without question, one of the loopiest productions ever put on celluloid, chock full of nonsensical dialogue, amateurishly wooden acting (in fact, Ed's hammy attempt at acting was something out of a 1930s B movie), illogically inserted stock footage (gotta love the stampeding buffalo), and various leaps of logic and good taste. In spite, or perhaps because, of these elements, GLEN OR GLENDA is a thoroughly entertaining and endearing piece of high weirdness. The first time you see it, you won't believe what you are seeing.

Long live the Ed Wood cult! Pull the strings!
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Breathtakingly Bad
Lechuguilla25 December 2006
Sitting in a big wing chair with a huge book in his lap, the one and only Bela Lugosi looks into the camera and, in a dreadful vocal delivery that sounds as if he were mocking a reading of Shakespeare, intones sloooow-ly: "Man's constant groping of things unknown, drawing from the endless reaches of time, brings to light many startling things; (snicker); startling?, because they seem new (Lugosi's eyes now bulging, with raised eyebrows, and mouth sneering, he continues) but most are not new, the signs of the ages" (cue a visual of lightening, accompanied by the sound of thunder which then continues to rumble for an astonishing 86 seconds).

And so begins what is arguably the worst film ever made. This "movie" almost defies description. Told in semi-docudrama style with an unseen narrator explaining the plot ... such as it is ... the story revolves around the vicissitudes of a man named Glen (Ed Wood, Jr.) who cross-dresses; hence the reference to Glenda. The film has no real structure. Instead, it consists mostly of a random assortment of vignettes that may ... or may not ... relate to Glen or to the cross-dressing motif. One long sequence consists of some unknown woman wriggling on a sofa, followed by a man whipping a woman in what we would today refer to as S&M.

Then, at odd moments Bela reappears, for no apparent reason, and babbles more inane dialogue, like: "When he's wrong because he does right, and when he's right because he does wrong; pull the string, dance to that." Huh?

About twenty percent of the film's visuals consist of stock footage, accompanied by a VO that relates to the story motif but not the visuals. Hence, we see stock footage of: bustling city streets, freeway traffic, a thunderous herd of buffalo, and a playground full of kids. But it gets worse. In a film about cross-dressing, we have 58 consecutive seconds of stock footage of a foundry furnace making hot steel, and 84 consecutive seconds of battle scenes from WWII.

Even the simplest items are botched. In one scene we see a newspaper headline that reads "Man Nabbed Dressed as Girl". Underneath the headline, which has clearly been glued or pasted on, the article is about ... taxes. In one of my favorite scenes, an off-screen woman spouts out: "airplanes, why it's against the creator's will", in a voice that sounds like she's just inhaled helium.

Except for the performance of Lyle Talbot, the acting is uniformly horrendous. Production design is cheap looking and drab; (but you gotta love that tacky wallpaper). The editing is sloppy. Most of the background music is suitable only for 1950 style elevators. The B&W cinematography has way too much contrast. And the costumes look like something that came from a thrift store.

This film is so bad it makes "Plan 9 From Outer Space" look like "Citizen Kane", by comparison. I just don't know how one could make a film any worse than Ed Wood's "Glen Or Glenda". But thankfully, it's got Bela Lugosi in it. Every time he opened his mouth, and gazed into the camera with those big, bulging eyes, I about fell on the floor laughing.
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Pulling the strings here
ironhorse_iv19 January 2013
Warning: 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.
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definitely not a good movie at all.... but it's not terrible either
MisterWhiplash14 December 2008
Glen or Glenda is more than likely the best of the bad Edward D Wood Jr movies. By saying they're bad automatically I'm not being facetious: Wood's movies are to independent cinema what John Cassavetes was in his own right to the same movement. They made their marks and have been noted in history as the grandfathers of their particular mold. Whereas Cassavetes was a master at relationships and probing the mind and heart and soul of people, Wood was... not exactly. And yet there's no denying that he was original - just not entirely talented.

Certainly as a screenwriter he had all of the trademarks of someone who shouldn't try and write - forced exposition, crummy bits of polemic stuff, no real ear for dialog short of one-dimensional molds - and yet at the same time there's moments in Glen or Glenda, perhaps unintentionally, that appear brilliant. The "Beware" speech, repeated a few times, first by "Scientist" Bela Lugosi, who was put in the film just for the purpose of having a mad scientist who is, maybe, like a God or something in this world, is howlingly funny, certainly more inspired than any of the "banter" between the policeman and the psychologist.

And yet... I couldn't tear myself away from the screen, and unlike another Wood stinker such as The Sinister Urge I didn't really need the Mystery Science Theater guys as back-up. There's a perverse energy to the picture, something weird and eerie and dark and brooding and all of those things that should make art. Maybe it is; there's a mid-section in the picture, when Wood splices in random footage of tying up a woman to a couch and other things involving females undressing (with Lugosi and Wood himself spliced in to ogle), that displays a filmmaker who has something going on, something direct and primal to his audience. I almost wished that the movie were better because of it, as though there's the surface of a surreal masterwork that can never be scratched deeply enough before the movie returns to its crap-informational diatribes about transvestites and hermaphrodites.

It's neither a disappointment or something I'd really recommend - unless to those friends of mine wondering why an Ed Wood movie is listed as one of David Lynch's favorites. Not surprising, it has 50s sex and desire and nightmare all over it. It's like a student who writes a C+ paper that can never be improved, at all, and it's the best we'll get, yet there are those kernels that keep it from failure.
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Surprisingly good
Christopher Mercurio7 December 2001
Before I saw this movie I thought it would be pretty bad. But it was surprisingly good. It is different from Ed Wood's other work such as Bride of the Atom, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Night of the Ghouls. There are no mistakes or bad dialogue. The story line is somewhat interesting. A man torn between love and transvestitism. Ed stars in this, but does not give a bad performance. He acts very believable. That's the way I think an actor should act. Dolores Fuller isn't as believable, but still manages to act out some good scenes with Ed. This movie most definitely did not deserve the beating it got during its release. Warren Beatty was able to see what an overlooked movie it was and convinced Paramount to re-release it. That is until the George Weiss estate bought the rights back. Bela Lugosi is good in his minor, but pleasing role. I think this whole movie is very interesting and fun. But there is this particular scene of girls stripping every few seconds and Bela Lugosi looking at them. I think that is one scene that went on for just too long. I wasn't too fond of the last half. The character Glen's situation was watchable and good enough to keep watching, but when you get to a character named Alan in the end it just got dragged on.

But I still do highly recommend this. If you are a fan of Edward D. Wood Jr. check this movie out. Or if you respect Ed's work check it out. It is definitely good to add to your Ed Wood collection. If you're just looking to watch an interesting, fun and watchable movie check this out. If you've seen this movie on T.V. years back late at night forget it. The T.V. quality was horrible. Not to mention the sound. Rent this film
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Stunningly abstract half-amateur film-making gives unbelievably modern and humane insight into gender issues.
Shalotka11 April 2010
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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winner5514 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A film probably impossible to define - but let's give it a try.

Wood got the funds for this film by promising an adult's-only "shocking" expose of the new sex-transformation surgery developed in Sweden. He shovels a load of (mostly unrelated) stock-footage up front to pay off on this "promise", then goes ahead and makes the film he really intended all along, a confessional defense of his own transvestism.

There's only one problem: Not only does Wood not believe he needs to defend his transvestism - he actually advocates it! Women's clothing (we're told) tend to be more comfortable than those of men, and that's what it's all about? Well, but that doesn't explain the wigs and lipstick, which are not articles of clothing, are not very comfortable, but which Wood applies with evident relish.

What's the real problem here? The implications are obvious - God is just darn cruel, making some men who would rather be women, even if they are proud of having fought with the Marines in the Pacific and have no interest in sex with men.

And here's the big secret of the universe that explains it all - God is really - BELA LUGOSI! He's not really "Christ Scientist", He is MAD SCIENTIST after a very bad morphine binge.

The reader may wonder if there's any point in going on further about the theme of this "film", and of course there isn't - suffice it to say that the film has a happy ending - Wood's girlfriend lets him wear her sweater! All of this would be horrible if it had been better made, but of course this has the worst camera-work, lighting, editing, acting, dialog - oh well, let's just admit, it's the worst made film ever anywhere at any cost.

Laugh riot from start to finish.
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Bad or Pathetically Bad?
plefevre17 February 2004
A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. --GK Chesterton

SCIENTIST: Bevare...bevare! Bevare of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep. He eats little boys...puppy dog tails, and big, fat snails. Bevare, take care....bevare! --Ed Wood, Glen or Glenda (1953)

How to make sense of Ed Wood? There are six alternate titles for this film: Glen or Glenda: Confessions of Ed Wood, Glen or Glenda?, He or She, I Changed My Sex, I Led 2 Lives, and The Transvestite.

Spoiled milk, by any other name...

What is important to me is not THAT this film is bad, but WHY it is bad, and if there is anything salvageable from the experience of watching it. The most significant problem of the film is that it is so deeply personal, so internalized for Wood, that it is frequently incomprehensible. If there was ever a film that shows the risks of getting too close to the subject matter, this is it. Gestures, images and dialog from the film have prominence that far outweighs their impact on the viewer. One gets the feeling, after a few minutes, that the film was made by Wood to explain his own nature to himself, and the fact that it was to be seen by others became an unimportant afterthought. For Wood, Bela Lugosi reciting a nursery rhyme in a pathetically melodramatic fashion makes perfect sense. I also assume that it made no sense to poor drug-addled Lugosi, to any of the other characters, or to many of its viewers. A few examples of the film's too subjective, too Wood-centric nature: all of Lugosi's lines; the lightning motif that crashes in at random;the fake African tribal dance; the Betty Page antics in the last half of the film (including a pseudo-rape, which is accompanied by polka music). Many scenes indicate a general sense of fear, or transgression, but they aren't specific enough or clear enough to serve as part of the narrative. They are simply hapless gestures from someone desperate to feel personally validated in public. This makes the filmmaker the subject of pathos and not the characters. As a viewer, I empathize more with Ed than Glen. The inept filmmaking distances me from the character of Glen while at the same time eliciting pity for the man who is confronting a source of personal shame by broadcasting it to the world. At times, the film is a documentary, at times a police drama, at times a horror film, at times a love story. Wood uses expressionistic sets, dream sequences, and special effects, and crushes them up against images of traffic and steel mills, and World War II footage, interspersed with monologues by dry professors discussing the current scientific understanding of transvestites. Given all this ineptitude, one has to ask: is it worth viewing even as kitsch? I would say so. One learns as much by bad examples as by good. One could easily assemble a `how-to' book on narrative filmmaking using just this film as a negative example. Pick a topic with gravity. Consider your audience. Don't humiliate your actors by giving them nonsensical scripts. Pick music that supports the action. And never underestimate the power of a good laugh.
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Don't let the low rating fool you - this is a must see!
dbcooper-35 April 1999
This movie is so ineptly made, that it winds up being great. If you have seen the movie "Ed Wood" then with "Glen or Glenda" you can see how idiotic Ed Wood really was and how well "Ed Wood" captured the essence of his films. Crossdressing was undoubtedly dear to Ed's heart and with "Glen or Glenda" he was trying to make an important statement about it. However, even if he had been competent enough to manage that, I doubt that 1953 was ready for any statement about crossdressing. The film is so badly made that it's a hoot! Definitely a lot of entertainment value in this one even if it is a colossal failure. For a better made commentary on crossdressing, which is also quite entertaining, watch "Ma Vie en Rose".
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