Glen or Glenda? Movie Now I don't know if you know this or not, but the world renowned actor, Warren Beatty, sure loves film. In fact, he loves film so much, that in 1981 he sponsored Paramount Pictures to reissue this b-movie classic back into the cinemas again. You know; this one Directed by and Starring: Edward D. Wood Junior, with Bela Lugosi and Dolores Fuller. It was made in 1953 and lasted for a whole 65 minutes.

Glen or Glenda?

Why did man make the aeroplane? If God indented us to fly, wouldn't he have given us wings?

Also, why did man make the automobile? If God intended us to roll across the land, wouldn't he have given us wheels?

Furthermore, why do some men want to dress-up as women? Huh? That's what Inspector Warren (Lyle Talbot) wants to know! Prompting him to pay a visit to Doctor Alton (Timothy Farrell) at his clinic, after seeing a transvestite commit suicide on his beat.

Now I'm very happy to say that the good doctor tells the inspector a tale of times past in turn. About a man called Glen (Edward D. Wood Jr.), who had the need to transform himself into a woman called Glena -- whenever he's at home or on the street.

Don't fret though! Glen isn't a homosexual. Oh no. He likes women. In fact, he and his fiancée, Barbara (Dolores Fuller), are about to get married, although he hasn't explained to her about his 'secret life' yet.

So who do you think he turns to, to help him out of this quandary?

  • The Scientist (Bela Lugosi) who overseas this narration perhaps? No. He's no help. He just wants to 'pull the string'. 
  • OK, so what about Doctor Alton then? He seems like a friendly sort of a fellow. Nah. Glen / Glenda isn't ready for his counselling at the moment. 
  • Well, what about his good buddy Johnny (Charles Crafts)? You know; that nice old man whose wife left him as soon as he told her that he likes dressing up in her clothing. Yes. He seems like a good candidate, doesn't he? Mores the pity.

Still, that's most probably why what next transpires begins when Glen goes into a department store to buy a nice angora sweater. As Glenda is kept at bay - a dream-sequence points Glen the right way - Alan suddenly steps into the light - only to re-emerge at the other end as a 24 year old hermaphrodite.


Alright, I have to admit it; I watched 'Glen or Glenda' because I saw that scene in the 'Ed Wood' bio-pic made by Tim Burton, with Johnny Depp draped in drag. Well, I was genuinely curious what this film was actually all about. Not really knowing if it was a good / bad film, or a bad / good film. Still, now that I have finally sat down and watched it, I know what it is -- a strange film with both good and bad bits in it.

Ed Wood in Glen or Glenda?

The Devil in Glen or Glenda?
Here, please allow me to explain what I mean by this in bullet-point form. (1) Now although I'm pretty sure that this wasn't the original intent, in places this serious drama is very funny to watch. For example, there's a 'special-effect' used in this piece which makes the characters disappear in a blink of an eye. However, in execution, this comes across as an amateurish glitch in the recording. With things or people either appearing or disappearing as if done by mistake. Also, the acting is so stiff, that comments like 'What if my boyfriend saw my brother wearing my blouse?' sound really hysterical when said out loud. (2) This film actually does tell a story. Yet, in the same breath, there were two main problems with it in hindsight. Firstly, the narration was a might too top-heaving as a whole -- making this adventure feel more like a documentary than a serious tale. And secondly, as I've mentioned previously, the formal and straight laced acting style doesn't meld very well with the overall tone of this flick -- making it feel funny, awkward, and kind of surreal at times too. (3) Without sounding like a complete git, but what was the point of Bela Lugosi's character? He was like an overseer who had no direct relevance upon the overall yarn; seeming like a mannered old man with a bee in his bonnet because he couldn't pay for his electricity bill. (4) There was a 'surreal dream sequence' inserted at the forty minute mark that was very jarring to watch. It had no real relevance to what the story was about up to that point in time; and it came across as if the producer woke up one morning and said to himself "Hey! Why don't I add a couple of scantly clad women to this picture, just to spice it up a bit?". Also, what the f*ck was that devil all about, huh? (5) All in all I don't really have that much of a problem with how this story was structured. Granted, one third of it acted as a justification as to why some men dress-up women. Another third of it was a flimflam set-up to Glen's dilemma with his girlfriend, Barbra. Plus the final third was a mix-match of Glen's resolution and Alan's tale. Agreed, not very straight forward as a tale goes. But somewhat easy to follow more or less.

Bela Luggosi in Glen or Glenda?

Christine Jorgensen
Hey! Do you know what? While I'm in a bullet-point mood, why not have some bullet-point filmic-facts, huh? (1) This movie was released by 'Columbia' in 1953, costing $61,000 to make, and shot in only four days.  (2) Not only was this the first time director, Edward D. Wood Jr., was in-front of his very own camera, but it was also the only time he didn't produce his own movie, and acted with his then girlfriend, Dolores Fuller. (3) Avant Garde filmmaker, David Lynch, publicly stated that this was one of his all time favorite films. Heck, he even used the 'howling wind' sound effect in his movie 'Eraserhead'. (4) The official 'Razzie Movie Guide' has placed this flick in its 'Top Ten Best Bad Films' ever made category. (5) Originally this story was supposed to be a bio-pic about one of the first people in America who had a successful sex-chance operation, Christine Jorgensen. And although she was offered to star in this film, ultimately she turned it down because of the 'low budget nature' of this piece. Christine died in 1989. (6) Some of the alternate titles for this film were 'I Changed My Sex', 'I Led Two Lives', and 'He or She'. (7) As illustrated in his Tim Burton / Johnny Depp bio-pic: Ed Wood convinced the producer, George Weiss, that he would be perfect person to direct this movie, because he was in fact a secret transvestite. However, once given the job, Ed took the emphasis away from its initial intent -- the Christine Jorgensen story -- to one that suited his own leanings. (8) If you look quite closely, you can tell that some of the stock footage has been used again and again and again in this flick. Such as the fake lightning, pedestrians crossing the street, highway traffic in both day and night, as well as archived shots of stampeding Bison and auxiliary background set-pieces. (9) It's been stated that Bela Lugo was addicted to drugs whilst making this film, earning somewhere between $1000 to $5000 to star in it. Most of his scenes were shot at the 'Jack Miles Studios' in Los Angeles.

Ed Wood in Drag in Glen or Glenda?

Overall I found 'Glen or Glenda' to be a fairly competent film to watch. The tale is a timely one. The subject matter is interesting to follow. The execution has to be seen to be believed. And in my own opinion it is a must see movie for film-historians, transvestites, and people who want to know why Johnny Depp played a man that liked wearing angora sweaters.


GLEN OR GLENDA? GLEN OR GLENDA? Reviewed by David Andrews on January 14, 2013 Rating: 5
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