GLEN OR GLENDA?
HE OR SHE; I CHANGED MY SEX; I LED TWO LIVES; THE TRANSVESTITE
Any Edward D. Wood Jr film has a bizarreness that verges on surrealism. The hilarity here begins from the opening statement that announces with bombastic portentousness: You are Society. Judge Ye Not. There is the genres saddest failure, Bela Lugosi, by this time well on the way to the dregs of his career and in the first of his collaborations with Wood, delivering his role entirely from an armchair surrounded by an array of tatty skeletons and tribal masks, while playing to the camera with an amazingly wily-faced series of muggings. The asides he makes are truly bizarre looking down on a split screen of a street scene, he contemptuously spits: People! All going somewhere. All with their own thoughts, their own personalities. One is wrong because he does it right, one is right because he does wrong [Huh!]. Pull the strings! Dance to that which one was created for! Later he sits, superimposed over footage of rampaging buffalo, excitedly thumping his fist: Pull the strings, pull the strink. A mistake is made. His comment on Daniel Davis/Woods decaying mental condition and fevre dream is the entirely incomprehensible: Bevare! Bevare of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep. He eats little boys puppy dog tails big fat snails. Bevare! Bevare! Take care!
The great joys of Edward D. Wood Jrs films are always his pretensions the overwrought prose and the laughable, wholly unrelated philosophical observations. To the footage of cars driving along a highway, psychologist Timothy Farrell notes: The world is a strange place to live in all those cars, all going someplace. All carrying humans which are carrying out their lives. And there is Woods overwrought use of adjectives, with phrases like: Only the infinity of the depths of a mans mind can appreciate this story, or on their nightly visit to Morpheus, god of sleep, (meaning when they go to sleep) or Now the time is getting very close to the man with the book (ie. it is getting near to their marriage nuptials).
By far the greatest enjoyment comes when Wood suddenly drops any attempt to pose Glen or Glenda? as a documentary and starts making hilariously spurious appeals direct to the audience. Give this man satin undies, a dress and hes the happiest individual in the world. He can think better, he can play better. And he can be more of a credit to his community and his government because he is happy. Later Wood makes the claim that mens clothing is designed for work and is too coarse to provide comfort, therefore men are better off wearing womens clothing. Or how advertising tells us that seven out of every ten American men wear hats, seven out of ten American men are also bald, which shows that hats cut off circulation creating baldness therefore men are better off wearing more comfortable womens hats. We get scenes of a traffic light repairman and are told he wears womans undies and then pictures of a postman doing the dusting in a dress. The lunacy goes on Wood stages a fevre dream with a smiling Devil looking over his and Dolores Fullers wedding, scenes that were perverse for their time in their images of women in scantily clad clothing and underwear whipping and tying each other up.
This is Edward D. Wood Jr in his gushingly inept way making a sincere effort to discuss transvestitism. For all its incompetence and the hilarity of its arguments in favour of cross-dressing, Glen or Glenda? is something that should be appreciated for its attempts to deal with a serious subject decades before it was ever a free topic of discussion. Most of all, Glen or Glenda? is Edward D. Wood Jrs own autobiography he was well-known for his own cross-dressing and, like the character of Alan, made the claim that he went into WWII combat wearing womens underwear under his uniform. Here Wood plays the role of the transvestite Glen and casts his own wife Dolores Fuller, of blankly inept almost rote-like delivery, as the fiancé Glen is trying to get to understand his problem. Furthermore, Woods father, Edward Wood Sr, is uncreditedly cast as the persecuting Devil and is pointedly cut in as Glens father when it is mentioned that Glen suffered from a father who wanted to him be a football or baseball star and was tough on him. There is something to Dolores Fullers response to Wood/Daviss explaining his crossdressing problem, I dont know, Glen, but perhaps we can work it out together, that, for all its bad acting and inadequacies, holds a sincere yearning for acceptance that is far more genuine than all the crossdressing comedies like Some Like It Hot (1959), Tootsie (1982) and Victor/Victoria (1982) put together.
Edward D. Wood Jrs other genre films are: the mad scientist film Bride of the Monster (1955); the script for the ape-human love saga The Bride and the Beast (1958); Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959); the haunted house effort Night of the Ghouls (1960, released 1983); the script for the nudie horror Orgy of the Dead (1965); and the pornographic film Necromania: A Tale of Weird Love (1971).
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