Friday, August 2, 2013

Movie #203: Glen or Glenda

Glen or Glenda is, of course, the 1953 movie directed (and written by, and starring) Edward D. Wood, Jr. (though he acted under a stage name), Dolores Fuller, Bela Lugosi, Timothy Farrell, and "Tommy" Haynes (I have no idea why the quotes are there).

This movie is a mess, of course. The Scientist (Lugosi) acts as kind of a narrator, but doesn't actually narrate anything relevant to the story. Farrell's character, a psychiatrist named Alton, spends much of the movie talking with a police inspector (Lyle Talbot) about the suicide of a transvestite name Patrick/Patricia, seeking to understand transvestism and transsexualism (not that the word "transsexual" is ever used). Alton tells the story of Glen/Glenda (Wood), who wants to marry his girlfriend Barbara (Fuller) but likes to dress as a woman. And then there's the secondary story of Alan/Anne (Haynes), who lives as a man but wants to be a woman, and eventually gets a sex change.

The dialog is same rambling, nonsensical crap we get in Bride of the Monster, but it's even less focused and more ridiculous, somehow. Alton and the inspector wax philosophical about the nature of man and what makes a man, what induces a man to dress as a woman, pseudo-hermaphrodites and sex changes, and really, if you watched the movie without the context of knowing that Wood was a transvestite, the "wtf" would be seriously amplified. As it is, you feel kind of bad for him - the movie is obviously a plea for acceptance and normalcy for him personally (the opening title card ends with You are society - JUDGE YE NOT), and many reassurances throughout the movie are made that transvestites are totally normal and should be allowed to dress in a way that allows them to feel normal and comfortable, which, of course, they should. (There's also an assurance that, no, they're not homosexual, they're "normal", but hell, this was 1953, and Ed Wood was not a man gifted with good use of language on the best of days - the grammar in his dialog makes me cringe generally).

One of the sad things about the movie is Lugosi. He's playing "the Scientist", and he's got no substantial role, just rambles on about snips and snails and puppy-dog tails and green dragons. But watching him, you can see the actor in there - he's obviously professional and trained, much more so than anyone else in the movie. I really need to watch some of his earlier work.

Anyway, the movie is terrible, but it's more watchable on a second viewing, strangely enough. Wine helps, too.

My Grade: F
Rewatch Value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: Glengarry Glen Ross