Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Glen or Glenda

Glen or Glenda - poster finalCinema Monolith: 1/10
IMDb: 4.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 32%

Released in April, 1953
Not rated
65 minutes / 74 minutes (1982 re-issue)

Directed by Edward D. Wood Jr

Written by Edward D. Wood Jr

Cast: Bela Lugosi, Lyle Talbot, Dolores Fuller, Edward D. Wood Jr, Timothy Farrell, Tommy Haynes, Charles Crafts, Conrad Brooks, George Weiss, Evelyn Wood, Shirley Speril, Amzie Strickland

An insane, dysfunctional, dumbfounding, and apparently autobiographical film about the wonders of wearing women’s clothing, and a desperate plea for acceptance from writer, director, and star Edward D. Wood Jr, better known as Ed Wood, the man responsible for some of the lousiest films ever made. And though he’s considered the worst director of all time, I’ve now made it a point to see three of his directorial efforts, including one revival screening at an art house theater. Which means, at the very least, he was skilled enough as a filmmaker to wrangle a few dollars out of my pocket.

A disclaimer that opens this film insists that I shouldn’t judge, but judge I will: this movie was for shit, plain and simple. I tried to imagine innocent, wide-eyed kids of the 1950s running to their local cinema, seeing horror icon Bela Lugosi’s name above the title, plunking down their hard-earned dimes, and kicking back to an hour’s worth of transvestites, gender change surgeries, pseudo-hermaphrodites, and rampaging buffalo; my guess was, they either fell asleep face-first into their popcorn, or ran from the theater screaming their freckled little heads off.

And Wood, who as ‘Daniel Davis’ starred as Glen and became Glenda when he donned a wig, makeup, and his girlfriend’s mini-skirts, proved he was one ugly-ass woman…a horse in angora whose visage is now unfortunately burned in my memory forever. The story, if you can call it that, involves a police inspector discovering the body of a transvestite suicide victim; seeking the help of a doctor to better explain cross-dressing, the inspector hears the story of Glen, his girlfriend Barbara, and his interest in transsexuality.

And believe me, it went straight downhill from there. Between stock footage of lightning strikes, odd voice-over testimonials, and Bela shouting “Bevare!”, the doctor related two case histories to the inspector, one centering on Glen and his transvestism, the other involving a man named Alan and his ‘tortures of the damned’, a sex change operation. From what I’ve read about Wood, elements of both stories seemed to mirror his own life, including Alan’s penchant for wearing women’s undergarments while serving in the military. In the end, it all added up to a whole lot of weird.

But if you’re like me, and can be hypnotized by a film that’s strange, perverted, and unintentionally hilarious all rolled into one (and in many ways is more a mess than the movie I saw at that revival screening, Plan 9 from Outer Space, the most popular of Wood’s infamous work), then have at it. Just don’t ask me to explain the odd, dream-like bondage and sadomasochism sequence, which had nothing to do with anything, and seemingly existed just to arouse ol’ Bela. Pull the string, indeed.  (1/10)

Glen or Glenda - photo final

2 comments on “Glen or Glenda

  1. Hilariously done! Bravo. I much prefer the Burton/Depp story and the making of this film as shown in the film with Landau as Lugosi.


    • Todd Benefiel

      Thanks, Mike! Yeah, Ed Wood was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed watching the re-creations of scenes from Wood’s films. And Landau was a hoot as Lugosi; it always makes me laugh when I watch the octopus scene in Ed Wood…it just looks so ridiculous, and I love how Landau plays it, as if Lugosi was so disgusted with it all, and was giving it his half-hearted best. I may have to watch that one again soon, along with some other Wood classics I’ve missed.


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