Glen or Glenda
Reviewed by Scott Murdock
Rating: 10 Beans
orget everything you have heard about "Plan 9 From Outer Space" being the worst movie ever made. "Plan 9" is "Citizen Kane" compared to "Glen or Glenda". This is it! This is the ultimate! THERE IS NOTHING WORSE! If I can EVER honestly say that I have just seen a movie worse than "Glen or Glenda", I will add a photo of myself in drag to this review. If you don't see me in drag to the right of this text, then I have found no movie worse than this.
Only the infinity of the depths of a man's mind can really describe how truly and desparately bad this movie is. The first film of Edward D. Wood, Jr., "Glen or Glenda" is Wood's pathetic attempt to express his secret life as a transvestite (the term used by medical science to describe a person who prefers to wear the clothing of the opposite sex) marred by a contractual stipulation that the movie is suppossed to be about transsexuals, not transvestites (the term used by medical science to describe a person who prefers to wear the clothing of the opposite sex). The result is laughably tragic because Wood really does try to make some important and groundbreaking social statements and break through society's stereotypes, but these messages are completely overshadowed by Wood's complete ineptness at filmmaking.
After the apparent suicide of a transvestite (the term used by medical science to describe a person who prefers to wear the clothing of the opposite sex), Police Inspector Warren (Ed Wood groupie and TV's "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" alumnus Lyle Talbot) pays a visit to the notable psychiatrist Dr. Alton (fellow Ed Wood groupie Timothy Farrell) to try to make sense of why some men like to wear women's clothes. In addition to explaining that the term used by medical science to describe a person who prefers to wear the clothing of the opposite sex is "transvestite", Dr. Alton uses two case studies to to explain the psychology of crossdressing.
The first case (and the bulk of the movie) is that of Glen. (Ed Wood himself, under the pseudonym "Daniel Davis". A "pseudonym" is the term used in literary science to describe a false name one assumes to conceal his or her identity.) Glen is not a homosexual. He is a transvestite, a person who prefers to wear the clothing of the opposite sex. He is very much a man. Glen is engaged to be married to Barbara, a lovely and intelligent woman. Barbara (Dolores Fuller, Ed Wood's lovely and intelligent girlfriend) is unaware of Glen's secret life as Glenda. After frolicking about in skirts, heels, and a blonde wig, Glen slips into some sort of coma and experiences a twenty-minute psychotic dream sequence involving whips, bondage, Satan, and what appears to be rape. Somehow this dream convinces Glen (who is not a homosexual) that he must tell Barabara (a lovely and intelligent woman) his dark secret. Will she understand and accept him? Will she try to work through it with him? Will she let him wear her angora sweater?
Case number two, apparently thrown in at the end to fulfill the terms of Ed Wood's contract, is that of Alan. Alan ('Tommy' Haynes in his or her only film role) is also not a homosexual. Alan has always felt very womanly, prefering to dust the furniture rather than play football. When sent off to The War (presumably World War II based on the several minutes of stock footage), he made sure he took his lacy favorites with him. Eventually Alan seeks the advice of a doctor and learns that "he" is actually a pseudo-hermaphrodite, a person who has one perfectly formed set of sex organs and one hidden set of sex organs. Alan takes advantage of this and undergoes a sex change operation to become Ann, who is not mentioned as being a particularly lovely and intelligent woman, but is still every bit a woman.
Of course I have not yet mentioned the most important part of the movie... it stars none other than a completely stoned Bela Lugosi! Lugosi is not a homosexual, nor is he a transvestite (the term used by medical science to describe a person who prefers to wear the clothing of the opposite sex), a pseudo-hermaphrodite, nor a lovely and intelligent woman. No, he is a drug-addicted former vampire who sits in a chair offering completely meaningless babble into the insights of the infinite depths of a man's mind. Lugosi was almost certainly completely high during these scenes, and Wood surely must have misinterpreted the insane ramblings as poetic genius.
Things to watch for:
- The brief flash of nipple from the woman on the sofa in the bondage scene, quickly covered up when she notices it.
- The curled up paper edges around the phony newspaper headlines.
- Lugosi's visit to the test tube rack. (I can just hear what Wood's stage direction must have been: "Just stand there and play with those for a while".)
- Ed Wood's theory on male-pattern baldness.
- The herd of buffalo.
- Count how many times we are reminded that Barbara is a lovely and intelligent woman, that Glen is not a homosexual, that the world was shocked by this newspaper headline, that "transvestite" is the term used by medical science to describe a person who prefers to wear the clothing of the opposite sex, that we need to bevare the big green dragon, and that someone desperately needs to "PULL THE STRINGS! PULL THE STRINGS!"
- Check it out as Dr. Alton gets turned on while describing Alan's transformation into Ann.
- Notice the rod of hot steel being sliced as the steel workers discuss male-to-female sex changes.
- Watch Lugosi's facial expression at the end of the dream sequence.
- Be sure to study Dolores Fuller's terrific acting job as Barbara (a lovely and intelligent woman) learns the truth about Glen's secret side.
"Glen or Glenda" was also released under the titles "He or She", "I Changed My Sex", "I Led 2 Lives", and "The Transvestite". I imagine this was to confuse and get ticket sales from people who had already heard how terrible "Glen or Glenda" was.
If you have not seen "Glen or Glenda", stop your web surfing and go rent it right now! If you die without seeing "Glen or Glenda", only the infinity of the depths of a man's mind can really tell you that you have not truly lived. But, do not watch it alone. Get one or two of your best friends together and make them watch it with you. Hide a tape recorder in the room and record your conversations as you watch the movie. I promise you, you will cherish that tape and play it over and over for years to come!
Other reviews for this movie:
Ken M. Wilson