Sunday, December 1, 2019

Phil's Cult Classics: GLEN OR GLENDA (1953) from Image Entertainment - December 1, 2019


Starring Edward D. Wood Jr. (as Daniel Davis), Bela Lugosi, Lyle Talbot, Dolores Fuller, Conrad Brooks, Charlie Crafts, 'Tommy' Haynes
Written by Edward D. Wood Jr.
Cinematography by William C. Thompson
Edited by 'Bud' Schelling
Produced by George Weiss
Directed by Edward D. Wood Jr.
Originally released by Screen Classics
Re-released by Image Entertainment

A plethora of adjectives flood my mind when someone mentions the name Edward D. Wood Jr. They includes words like filmmaker, actor, alcoholic, pornographer, and a transvestite with a severe fetish for angora. Wood was all these things and so much more. He was a complex individual, who longed to become a filmmaker like his idol, the great Orson Wells. That did not happen, in fact, the complete opposite transpired. Two years after his death in 1978, film critics Michael and Harry Medved (known as the Medved Brothers) published their book "The Golden Turkey Awards" announced that Ed Wood was voted the "Worst Director of All time" while his 1958 sci-fi film PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE won the "Worst Film of All Time" award. This garnered world wide attention to Wood, and soon after, he garnered a legion of new fans, his movies being played all over the world, VHS and DVD copies of his films selling like wildfire, and Wood himself being championed as a bona fide auteur. This is evident in his feature film debut GLEN OR GLENDA, which has gone on to become not only a cult classic, but an important documentation of transvestism, and a beloved film within the LGBTQ community.

The film's official synopsis: This is it! The true story of a man who lusted after women so much that he wanted to dress like them. The first film based on the strange tastes of legendary filmmaker Ed Wood and a sordid plea for acceptance in the world of bondage and the sexually confused, decades before THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW and TV's Ellen. Starring famous shock star Bela Lugosi as the "Puppet Master" an Wood himself in the role of Glen/Gelnda. It also markes the screen debut of Wood's main squeeze at the time, Dorlores Fuller, who went on to become one of Elvis's star songwriters. An important film document, years before its time.

Original Theatrical Poster (1953)
Loosely inspired by the sex reassignment surgery of Christine Jorgensen in 1952, exploitation producer George Weiss was hoping to cash in on this hot story that was sweeping the headlines across the country. Wood convinced Weiss that he would be the perfect person to direct the film. However, he would make the ultimate film about self-expression, making a film about the understanding of transvestism (with about five minutes at the end talking about sex change). He would cast the great Bela Lugosi to appear in the film, portraying "The Scientist", or the "Puppet Master", or in actuality "God." By this time, Lugosi had been out of the spotlight and was a drug addict, but was hoping for a comeback. Wood cast himself in the lead role of Glen and Glenda under the handle Daniel Davis (Davis was his middle name), and cast his then girlfriend at the time Dolores Fuller as Glen's girlfriend/fiancée Barbara. He would also cast his friends Lyle Talbot (TV's Ozzy and Harriet) and Conrad Brooks (PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE).

Shot in four days, Wood would break every conventional rule there was in filmmaking. He would often shoot scenes in one take, his dialogue sounded inept, he would shoot exterior scenes with no permits, spliced in stock footage to make his films look bigger, and continuity was pretty much tossed out the window. In fact, the stories of Wood often directing in drag in later films can be attributed to this film, having to direct several scenes while dressed as Glenda. But yet, he made his films to his unique and quarky vision, and he bared his soul in this film without question.

The movie received a limited released by Screen Classics in April 1953, under the main title, as well as under different titles like I Led Two Lives, He or She? and I Changed My Sex . The film bombed, but when Wood received the Golden Turkey awards, he became a hot Hollywood property. This led major motion picture studio Paramount Pictures to re-release the film to theaters in 1981. In 1983, Kansas City native Wade Williams acquired the rights to Ed Wood's films, along with several other intellectual properties, ranging from movies to television shows. He would team up with Rhino Home Video to release these films on VHS, with Image Entertainment re-releasing them on DVD.

GLEN OR GLENDA remains a true cult classic, inspiring transvestites and queer kids to dress in drag for decades to come! It also put Ed Wood on the map as a filmmaker, leading him to create some of the most off-the-wall, mondo bizzaro, cult classics that has ever graced the silver screen! The fact that we're still talking about him 41 years after his passing is testimony on how this strange and beloved human being has touched and enriched our lived for the better! And this film is a perfect example of his love of motion pictures, and it's importance to the world of cinema is unapologetic! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

GLEN OR GLENDA is currently available on DVD from Image Entertainment. To purchase a copy, visit your local retailer or visit the Amazon website at Also, check out the Wade Williams Collection of films at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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