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March 15, 2004 | by  | in Film |
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(Classic Film Review) Glen or Glenda

You’d think film would be an incredibly complicated process. First of all you need a good enough story. Then you need to collaborate with other people from technicians to actors to come up with something that makes the story watchable – a piece of art if you will. Ed Wood’s genius lay in the fact that he couldn’t do any of this, and as a result, gave hope for countless numbers of talentless people to make it in the movies.

Glen or Glenda is a semi-autobiographical tale about Glen’s major life crisis. He wants to tell his fiancée, Barbara, that he likes wearing women’s clothing, especially her pink angora sweater. This film almost defies comprehension, and it is almost impossible to describe how the story unfolds. It is a mixture of filmic styles, from surrealism to cinema-verité style social realism (very loosely) to expressionism. That doesn’t mean it’s any good. It’s not.

What it is though, is bloody hilarious. Dolores Fuller’s performance of Barbara is probably the worst acting performance you could ever see. You’ll see more facial movement in a puppet. The masterstroke in the casting however, was Bela Lugosi, who had slipped into obscurity since his heydays in the 1930s as Dracula. I wouldn’t call this a lifeline, but Lugosi makes the most of his opportunity – his character is completely unrelated to the story, sits there taking the piss and offers supposedly profound statements.

This supposedly groundbreaking study into transvestitism (it claims to be) offers no real insights into anything. Apparently Ed Wood’s desire to wear women’s clothing is nothing to do with homosexuality (the film goes to great lengths to say that he is not homosexual), but instead due to the treatment he got from his mother (who wanted a girl) and his father (who tried to pressure him into playing manly sports like football).

Ed Wood made a career out of making bad films. His most famous one, Plan 9 From Outer Space is just as inept, as is the anti-classic, Bride of the Monster. However, for sheer wackiness, ineptitude, and a film that leaves you going “what the fuck?,”, Glen or Glenda is an absolute classic.

Director: Ed Wood Jr.
USA, 1953

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Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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