Sunday, August 24, 2014

Glen or Glenda (1953)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Yahoo! Articles account.

In looking for bad movies, I came across Glen or Glenda. Glen or Glenda was the first feature-length movie directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr. The movie starts with The Scientist, played by Bela Lugosi, setting up the story. The story starts with the suicide of a transvestite who had been arrested several times for dressing in women's clothing. According to his suicide note, he couldn't bare the thought of going to jail again. One of the officers investigating the suicide seeks the advice of Dr. Alton to better understand what a transvestite is.
Dr. Alton starts by explaining that transvestites, transsexuals, hermaphrodites and homosexuals are all different things. It's possible for a man to want to wear women's clothes without actually being attracted to men. While it's possible that a transvestite may be a hermaphrodite, there are also other causes. Dr. Alton gives the case of Glen as an example. 

Glen is to be married to Barbara. He likes wearing women's clothing and even goes out as Glenda, but is very much in love with Barbara. This causes him a great deal of conflict. He wants to tell her and knows that she deserves full disclosure, but fears that she'll reject him. If he keeps the information from her until after the marriage, he risks making it worse. Worse yet, she's starting to notice signs like his long fingernails. It's only a matter of time before she figures it out.

Dr. Alton also briefly uses the example of Alan, who is actually a pseudohermaphrodite. (A true hermaphrodite has both sets of organs fully developed; a pseudohermaphrodite has one fully developed while the other is partially developed.) Alan grew up as a man, but would dress up as a woman and do housework. He was even sent off to war. When he came back, his true nature was discovered. Alan had surgery to become Anne.

Glen or Glenda is said to be one of the worst movies of all time. While I wouldn't say that it's the worst, it's definitely far from the best. While watching the movie, I wondered if any psychologists or transvestites watched the movie and said, "What a load of crap. Transvestites aren't like that at all." Yes, I know that our understanding of sex and sexual identity change, but it's hard to take the movie seriously. (If anyone would like to comment, I'd live to know the opinion of an actual transvestite about this movie. Also, is that the preferred term?)

Wood, who was himself actually a thing for angora sweaters, seemed to want to paint transvestites in a positive light. Those that don't fit into society's gender roles often face prejudice and persecution. Here, Dr. Alton simply tries to tell it like it is in harsh clinical terms. I can't help but think that the movie could have had more of an impact if it was actually done well. 

The movie was short at 65 minutes and even then had a lot of stock footage. Scenes of traffic were used a lot and lightening bolts were used randomly. There was also a very bizarre dream sequence involving what I assume is the devil. The Scientist also makes a lot of random statements. ("Beware. Beware. Beware of the big, green dragon that sits on your doorstep.") Had a lot of this been taken out, the movie would have been very short, but I think it would have been a lot less confusing.

I do have to give Wood credit for making films that he wanted to make despite not getting much respect in his own time. He made several feature-length films, at least two of which (This one and Plan 9 From Outer Space) were considered to be among the worst of all time. Laugh as you may, here we are more than 50 years later still watching them. I'd say that there's some merit to the films, even as an example of what not to do. At the very least, he had given work to several actors including Bela Lugosi, who apparently wasn't getting much work at the time that this movie was made. 

I'd recommend the movie to someone only to know what they think. I'd love to know what the movie would have been like if it had been properly made. 

No comments :