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Glen or Glenda

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 07/17/02 08:07:31

"Forget Plan 9, if there's a worse film than this one anywhere, buy it."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Holy cow, what an unbelievably terrible piece of filmmaking this one is. Originally put together to capitalize on a high profile sex-change case in the 1950's, producer George Weiss gave unknwon writer/director Ed Wood a big break and let him make the film. Weiss wanted exploitation - tits and ass, drugs and sex, hard living, heavy dying, anything that'll get the midwesterners sneaking off into the dollar theaters. What he got was a film so awful, so off-base, so biased, so incompetent, that it's a wonder Ed Wood wasn't run out of Hollywood on a rail. And it's that incompetence that has made his name legend in cinema circles.

We start off with a monologue by Bela Legosi. Addicted to morphine and heroin, Legosi would have done porn if there'd been a paycheck in it for him, so here he recites Wood's awful words like they're the best thing written by Shakespeare. Surrounded by a cardboard set, and continually crowded by stock footage of buffalo's stampeding and city streets crowded with people, Legosi's footage seems lost in whatever other footage Wood could get for free.

When Legosi's introduction runs out (it takes a while), we move on to a crime scene - a dead transvestite with a note pinned to his/her chest, explaining his/her tragic tale. The policeman investigating this case turns to a psychiatrist, who sits him down and tells him of Glen, a similar case that he once had to deal with.

Starring Ed Wood himself as Glen, this story goes nowhere fast, turning instead into an advertisement by Wood (who liked to don the silk undies when nobody else was around) into the validity of cross-dressing. To give credit where it's due, if this were an educational film and the stock footage was lost (and everything involving Legosi) this might have had some value in high schools, though not a whole lot. It continually reminds the viewer of those old black and white hygiene films ("Little Johnny brushes his teeth after lunch, the other kids make fun of him, but look at what will happen to their teeth in five years time..."), and the acting is so uniformly awful (strangely, with the exception of Wood, who seem to be just being himself alongside a cavalcade of stiff, wooden non-actors), that you can totally see a nasty English teacher putting their class through this torture.

The laughs come throughout, and almost completely unexpectedly. Glen's girlfriends stirring disrobing routine, where she makes a bold presentation of her mohair sweater to Glen is the stuff of unexpected comedic legend, even to the point where Tim Burton ecreated the scene in his biopic, Ed Wood. Lugosi's later scenes, where tranny's walk in to his god-like cardboard dungeon and kneel at his feet, only to be zapped away by his right hand, is nothing short of insane, not to mention entirely mind-boggling. Added to that, his monologues get more and more ridiculous, and more and more repetitive. If I hear one more mention of "little boys, snails and puppy dog tails," I'm going to beat my had on something hard.

As a movie, Glen or Glenda could not have been worse. As an insight into what Ed Wood really was, beyond Burton's account of his life, it's invaluable. But take some advice from me... don't rent it from the video store you usually go to - they'll look at you funny.

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