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Guest princessofdarkness

Glen or Glenda

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Guest princessofdarkness

So I am a B-movie and cult film fanatic. Thusly, I am a fan of filmmaker auteur Edward D. Wood Jr., mostly known for 'Plan 9 From Outer Space', sometimes erroneously called the worst movie ever made. I simply don't see it that way. I don't think I can ever call a film with such effort and love poured into it, that entertains me so, anything other than a great film. And I'm not being anything less than honest here.

Okay, brief history of me and movies and Ed Wood; I've always been a film nut, but around the age of 12 and 13 I became a standard cinephile; drank down all the Oscar movies, big blockbusters, established "classics", all the Hollywood establishment stuff. After a year or two of that, I admitted that most of it was pretty shallow and pedestrian in my eyes, or at least not tailored for me.

So I kind of was adrift with films, until I found what movies were truly meant for me, Ed Wood's (shall we say individualistic?) type of movies being among them, and I truly learned that people like Wood were simply too good for the Hollywood establishment. Wood was indeed not a good filmmaker, but each and every one of his films had his heart and soul in it, especially 'Glen or Glenda'. He might not be able to tell a coherent story, or write a coherent story for that matter, but by God, he tries. Usually he wanted to just entertain people, just like how he was entertained by science fictions and horror classics (real classics) of his youth, he just wanted to spread that love.

Very few in Hollywood today have that love for film, I can tell. Or if they did, they lost it a long time ago, when winning little gold trophies (they even named him Oscar), making money, and appearing on talk shows and magazines became the main appeal of staying in the film business. Not telling stories. Not entertaining with the kind of movies they were raised on. Not like Wood did. That's what makes Ed Wood a hero of mine. I highly recommend 'Ed Wood' by Tim Burton from 1994. One of my absolute favorite movies of all time...of course, so is 'Glen or Glenda', so take what I say at your own risk.

Now while Wood usually made science fiction/horror films (until his sad decline into the porn industry), his first film was what he called his most personal work of art (as opposed to 'Plan 9', which he called 'his masterpiece'). That is 'Glen or Glenda', a movie about a cross dresser named Glen, and has a brief subplot about a transwoman named Anne.

In real life, Ed Wood was a crossdresser, and when Christine Jorgensen became the first recipient of a sex change operation, it made some headlines, so naturally the exploitation film circuit saw a quick buck to make off of it. Wood happened to be in the right place at the right time, and managed to get his first directing job, allegedly using his experience with crossdressing as an asset to make the film. It was shot in 4 days, as these kind of films generally were, for only $20,000 dollars (though I'm not sure it even made that back), and by the time it was released (these films usually only were released in the scuzziest theaters in the deep South) it became clear Wood obviously hijacked the original concept of a sex change operation to make it about it himself and crossdressing.

Wood stars as Glen, and Dolores Fuller (Wood's real life girlfriend at the time) plays his girlfriend Barbara. Wood's going to get married soon, but he just can't tell her his secret about his crossdressing. And...I guess that's the basic plot. But if you watch the movie, it becomes clear there's nothing "basic" about it...hardly a plot to speak of.

The transgendered subplot is about Alan, raised by his mother in a more feminine manner, who identified as a woman by the time she was a teenager. When Alan, now Ann, was drafted to go fight in World War II (they mention she fought with woman's clothing under the uniform, which is another connection to Wood, who said during WWII he was afraid of being injured, and having his women's undergarments discovered at the hospital) who got a sex change operation after the war, and lived happily afterwards. A short, almost unrelated, segment, but very enlightened for a 1950's film (especially a 1950's exploitation film).

Unfortunately, the resolution to Glen's story is more frustrating. He decides to admit it to his girlfriend (good), she decides to stick by him (good), and then they see a councilor who 'cures' Glen of his CDing (bad). My mind wonders if this ending came about because Wood, who did indeed use the film to plead for acceptance of crossdressers and the transgendered, also wanted to overcome his crossdressing, so the ending is wishful thinking. As far as I know Wood was never "cured", there's nothing to cure. Maybe his then-girlfriend Fuller asked for that ending. I couldn't imagine the producers did, they didn't care about any social responsibility, they were probably more upset the film wasn't a sleazier, trashier, soft core porno. Either way, it's regrettable.

All the same, the film is more kind to the trans community than most I can think of. It's not perfectly enlightened, not at all, but it's extremely progressive for 1953, and Wood probably saved it from becoming a sensationalist porno about a transwoman (which are all over the place now, sadly).

More noticeably, for most, isn't just how poorly it's made, but how utterly incomprehensible it is in that poorness. Bela Lugosi is in the film as an all seeing God-like scientist who shouts things such as "PULL THE STRING" over footage of running buffalo (and he does so out of nowhere). And my favorite line from him (there's no context to understand it any better, he says it for seemingly no reason)

"Beware...beware! Beware of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep; he eats little boys...puppy dog tails, and big, fat snails. Beware, take care...beware!" (Ponder this for the rest of your life)

Some lines do make sense, but are simply oddly written. The narrator is a therapist talking to a cop. When the cop asks him to tell him the story of the crossdresser he knows, the doctor replies with

"Only the infinity of the depths of a man's mind can really tell the story" I really wish they showed the cops reaction to that Serling-esque sentence...

Most importantly, a dream sequence, that lasts nearly 15 minutes (and the movie is only 65 minutes) features the Devil, a BDSM style sex scene (non-graphic...I'm going to assume the producers put this in to please the sexploitation crowd) and a ton of other seemingly unrelated, bizarre things. I can't even describe it properly. No matter how many times I watch it, the scene floors me it's bizarreness. It's among the strangest things in any film ever.

The film is very short, and because it's public domain, can be seen anywhere online, including YouTube. I highly recommend it, but if you see it because of me, you may grow to hate me for it :P

Yes it's "bad", in the traditional meaning of "bad movie" (Leonard Maltin said of it, "possibly the worst movie ever made"). But it's among the most interesting movies you'll ever see, that much is certain, it's got a lot of heart, and I can say it is one of my favorites of the 50's, so as Joe Bob Briggs would say "4 stars, check it out".

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Guest Gregg Jameson

Wow, Princessofdarkness, you can write quite a review! :D

You have peaked my interest about this movie, despite bad reviews. I often don't agree with many reviews of movies. I often enjoy films the majority tend to dislike. I don't watch many movies unless it's winter and/or I am wanting to just chill for awhile and have already done my meditations. I will try to watch it in the next week or so.

It's clear you love movies and enjoy sharing your insights about movies.

Such fun to feel your enthusiasm as I read your review.

Nicely done, indeed! :D

Thanks for sharing!

Warmly,

Brad

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Guest Kaylee

Hi Princess,

I want to thank you for your post. I was aware of "Glen or Glenda", but have totally forgotten about it. I'm not actually sure if I've seen it all the way through at some point or not. I find it hard to believe it was more than just a comment in film school about Ed Wood.... I've seen too much of it.

I think the Bella Lagosi scenes were mostly footage that had been filmed for something else. Wood had worked with him, and some projects never got finished leaving footage laying around. After he passed away.... Wood used it where ever he could.

I do have "plan 9" in my collection. I can think of more than a few movies that I find far worse. Sometimes those movies just "get" you. Mine would be "Santa Clause Conqures the Martians".... Also on the top 5 worst movies of all time list. It's rediculous... poorly acted.... and just soo funny!

Thanks again for the post. I.think I'm gonna see if I can order it up someplace :)

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Cyndee

The big green dragon got to me long ago, ahhhhh.....

Thanks for the review, I watched this mornin', good for a few laughs and some serious subjects brought up,

Cyndi -

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Carolyn Marie

I first watched "Glen or Glenda" perhaps 25 or 30 years ago. I don't recall how I came to view it, but it fascinated me. At the time I was deep in the closet, too. Yes, its schlocky in its way, as most of Wood's films are, but for those of us living this life, it still resonates. The final scene (no giveaways from me) is still vivid in my mind, and always will be. Thanks for your thoughtful review, Princess.

HUGS

Carolyn Marie

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gennee

I read a book about Ed Wood and read his bio. I believe there's a book about Glen/Glenda somewhere. I agree with you that few in Hollywood have a love for films. Look at all the lousy films out there. I'm drawn to quirky individuals but Ed Wood was trying to come to terms with who he really was. He had courage for what he put out in such a time as the 1950s.

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Guest princessofdarkness

Thank you for reading everyone!

Brad: Thank you so much for the kind words. :wub: I hope (or pray) you enjoy it.

@Kaylee: I actually watch 'Santa Claus Conquers the Martians' every Christmas. Along with 'Santa Claus' (1959) which might be even stranger (a mind blowing thought)! :blowup:

@Cyndi: Glad you took on the Ed Wood experience.

@Carolyn: Thank you for your thoughtful comment Carolyn. Hugs!

@gennee: He certainly did. He was interesting above all else. Thanks for reading.

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Sally

The Bela Lugosi filmed the scenes for Glen or Glend , it was Woods' first movie, Lugosi was near the end of his career but Woods madesseveral films with him, he died before the completion of Plan 9.

Always a fan of B movies and some that should have been much further along in the alphabet.

Besides where else could you watch Tor Johnson 'act'?

Love ya,

Sally

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Guest princessofdarkness

A fellow fan of 'underground' classics, eh Sally? Yay!

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Guest

I'm so glad you mentioned this on the Forum!

Cyndi watched it, then we got together and she pulled it up again for four of us to watch. It's an amazing piece of work! I will watch it again on my own soon...

Thank you again!

Love, Megan

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Cyndee

I'm so glad you mentioned this on the Forum!

Cyndi watched it, then we got together and she pulled it up again for four of us to watch. It's an amazing piece of work! I will watch it again on my own soon...

Thank you again!

Love, Megan

I laughed even harder the 2nd time. I saw things I'd missed the first time.

C -

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Guest princessofdarkness

Thank you Megan and Cyndi. It's a film that certainly demands more than a single viewing.

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Guest Razilee

I finally got to watch "Glen or Glenda", having read the commentaries on it and Ed Wood, Jr. I think that he is just about the most courageous filmmaker/actor of all time. You can see his sensitivity and understanding of the subject showing through even if the budget and the talent available was almost non-existant. Most portrayals of crossdressing are done as "comedy". As we all know from experience it is rather quite serious, sometimes a matter of life and death, as the film also pointed out. I will never see a sweater the same again.

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