Movie Title: Glen or Glenda
First Watch / Repeat Viewing
Running Time: 1 hr. and 5 min.
Who did I watch with?: Stephie
Where did I watch it?: Greenwich Odeum – East Greenwich, RI
Glen or Glenda is a lot of things. First of all it is a directorial outing for Ed Wood. Ed Wood was a director during the 1950s who made movies without a lot of technical knowledge, talent, or budget. Often these would fall into the realm of monster movies. He is responsible for several movies considered among the worst ever made by a lot of people who have seen them. He also cultivated a friendship with aging and decrepit film legend Bela Lugosi who he regularly featured in his movies during this time period. Wood’s personal life is covered really well by the 1994 biopic about him starring Johnny Depp called Ed Wood. It really is a very interesting watch and I highly recommend it.
Glen or Glenda as well as nearly all of Wood’s early movies are fodder for comedians and critics. This was the case last night as I watched the movie get roasted by former MST3K cast members Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff. Glen or Glenda features the story of a human sex change and a suicide caused by it. It is boldly put on the front of a newspaper that is apparently the only one allowed to be printed in the movie. There is a frame story that features Bela Lugosi as a scientist or perhaps God. Lugosi mostly sits in a chair and says things like he is still playing Dracula. Because it wouldn’t be simple enough to have one frame story there are two. The second frame story features a suicide caused by the newspaper article. A man dressed in woman’s clothes commits suicide in a hotel because they couldn’t have the same sex change operation. This prompts the police officer in charge of the case to visit a psychologist to try to figure out what happened. This introduced to our title character Glen or Glenda as well as another character Alan or Anne. Both Glen and Alan wear women’s clothes and feel ashamed. They live very different lives. Glen is engaged and grapples with telling his fiancée. Alan gets drafted during World War II. The story is very strange jumping across time, featuring animal sequences, dream sequences, gay therapy treatment Mike Pence would approve of (it was the 1950s after all and Wood probably needed to beat the censors,) and other non-sequitur. Keep in mind this is also while jumping between two frame narratives with some incredibly poor editing. It is hard to follow.
With all that said Glen or Glenda is also way ahead of its time. It discusses cross dressers/transvestites and ultimately transgendered people before the term was even coined. It also discusses them as people that should not be victimized or treated like criminals. This was the 1950s. We aren’t exactly talking about a landmark period for civil rights or treating people that weren’t white men well. Wood had his own inner turmoil and the film was largely about him. Wood had almost no budget or talent to make the movie, but he did have a vision. The end result is an avant-garde classic. The concepts Wood had for the dream sequences and the various ways that the transgendered persons are tormented is genuine and empathetic.
Glen or Glenda is a movie you may not like, but it is so strange that everyone should see it. It was also incredibly progressive for its era. Keep your expectations low and don’t be afraid to laugh and you will probably enjoy it. See it.
Tomorrow’s Movie: Room (2015)