Friday, September 12, 2008

Glen or Glenda (Rhoades)

Movie Madness Doubles Your Fun with “Glen or Glenda”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
I’m currently co-producing a documentary about drag queens here in Key West. My friend Robbie Hopcraft is helming the project as lead producer and director.
Yes, I’ve learned more about guys who dress like girls than I ever expected to know. And in the process I’ve become friends with Sushi, Googie, R.V., Samantha, and the rest of the girls at the 801.
That’s why I’m eager to see that campy old favorite “Glen or Glenda” again, one of those so-bad-it’s-good movies by Ed Wood, Jr. – a director who liked to wear women’s angora sweaters while working.
“Glen or Glenda” is the 1953 film being featured in Rick’s Midnight Movie Madness, the live taping of Rick Dreys’ WGAY-TV show tonight at the Tropic Cinema. You get to view a silly movie, replete with Rick’s acerbic comments, movie trivia, and funny observations. Kinda like that old “Mystery Science Theater 3000” TV program of yore.
The festivities at the Tropic begin around 10 p.m. and continue toward the midnight hour.
I’ll be particularly interested in Rick’s on-stage critique of “Glen or Glenda,” knowing that Rick himself is also a well-known drag queen, often found performing at Aqua or tending bar next door. Who better to explain a movie about cross-dressing?
Director Edward D. Wood, Jr. (you may have seen the Johnny Depp movie about him) was so engrossed in the subject of wearing women’s clothing that he not only wrote the script but also stars in the title role.
Even so, Wood is very careful to make his position known. As the narrator emphasizes, “Glen is not a homosexual. Glen is a transvestite, but he is not a homosexual.”
Alternate titles for this sensationalized exploitation film included “I Changed My Sex,” “He or She” and “I Led Two Lives.”
A pseudo-documentary, “Glen or Glenda” has the narrator/psychiatrist telling us two stories: One of Glen who secretly dresses as a woman and the other of Alan who undergoes a painful operation to actually become the woman he wants to be.
Of course, we have Wood’s usual repertoire of actors in their familiar roles. Lyle Talbot as a police inspector investigating a transvestite’s death. B-movie actress Dolores Fuller slumming as Glen’s blasé fiancée. Timothy Farrell portraying the shrink. And former Dracula star Bella Lugosi as a scientist who babbles on about the subject of cross-dressing, warning “Beware! Take care! Beware!”
Lugosi was “visibly morphine-addled” during the filming. But Wood’s unintelligible and confusing script didn’t help matters. One assumes the director was sympathetic to the subject, given his own predilections, but the garbled storyline comes off more like a cautionary tale.
But then again Ed Wood is known for his bad filmmaking. You’ve probably seen his classic “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” often cited as the worst movie ever made.”
“Glen or Glenda” runs a close second. Crew and equipment can be spotted in scenes. The shadow of the cameraman’s clearly visible in Bella Lugosi’s first scene.
Surrealist filmmaker David Lynch (“Twin Peaks,” “Lost Highway”) has stated that this is one of his favorite films. Figures. [from Solares Hill]

No comments: