Saturday, December 24, 2011

Glen or Glenda? (1953)

I first saw Ed Wood's Glen or Glenda at a bad movie festival in my old hometown, Östersund. The salon was packed - like with all the movies - and the audience was hysterical. Everyone loved the movies and laughter and applauses filled the house. This was years ago, before Tim Burton's brilliant biopic about Mr Wood or easy to find DVD releases of his work. So it was time to watch it again and it's now I fully can appreciate it for being what it is, not a bad movie - but a very silly and confusing movie getting the facts wrong, but still with it's heart at the right place.

It's basically a docudrama about transvestites, telling the stories of three men and their road to happiness... or death. One of them, Glen, is played by Ed Wood himself and his real-life girlfriend Dolores Fuller is playing his girlfriend. This is also the part that takes up the bulk of the movie and dives in to some truly surrealistic and experimental sequences that goes from weird striptease and S&M to classic fifties kitchen-melodrama.

And... it's first now I put everything together. This movie was released in 1953! Somehow, in my imagination, I always felt it was made later - maybe in the end of the fifties or very early sixties, but imagine - 1953, a crazy, wacky movie dealing with transvestism! Not that it ends on a truly positive note. Glen learns to control his "Glenda"-character and becomes a happily married man. That never happen in real life. Dolores broke up with him, he got into heavy drinking and he never stopped wearing women's clothing. Glen or Glenda was his fantasy, his good old happy American fantasy about living his life as a respected man. Or what he thought was a good way of living.

Even of Glen or Glenda is full-blown exploitation it's made with a heart and a passion, with a few iconic images. The scene where Dolores gives Ed his angora sweater, or when Ed is sneaking around the stores spying on the mannequins in the windows. This has forever been imprinted in modern pop-culture, not only because of Tim Burton's movie but because they are strong images worthy to be remembered.

But even more iconic is the odd footage of Bela Lugosi, like a God-character watching over the life's of these transvestites, rambling immortal lines. I'm not sure what the purpose was, but it's still an essential part of an exploitation-classic. Let's finish this with the words of Bela Lugosi, the scientist...

Beware of the big, green dragon that sits on your doorstep.
He eats little boys, puppy dog tails and big, fat snails.
Beware. Take care.

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