Glen or Glenda (1953)

Article #1338 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-12-2004
Posting Date: 4-11-2005
Directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Featuring Edward D. Wood, Jr, Bela Lugosi, Lyle Talbot

A policeman consults a psychiatrist in order to understand the causes behind the suicide of a transvestite.

Fantastic content: This expose on transvestism and sex changes features Bela Lugosi as a mad scientist/ commentator, and the devil features prominently during a bizarre dream sequence.

“There’s no mistaking the thoughts in a man’s mind!” Bela Lugosi intones at one point in the proceedings of this, Ed Wood’s first movie. Though I think the statement in itself is open to question, somehow it seems appropriate when dealing with the work of Ed Wood. As a writer, he rarely edited his words; they flowed out of his mind onto the paper and stayed that way. His direction and editing only enhanced the sense of a wandering mind jumping around a subject in no logical fashion. His plea for the understanding and tolerance of transvestites and transsexuals is impassioned and sincere, but his attempts at logic and reason are ridiculous; in particular, the attempts to find a connection between tight hats and baldness is more likely to elicit horselaughs than serious thought. Still, there is no doubt that this is Ed Wood’s most personal movie. It’s also his most surreal, especially during the dream sequence where Wood faces the demons that plague him.

On the other hand, a question does come up for me; just how much of the movie I’m watching was actually the work of Wood himself? I recently purchased the DVD of this movie after having had a VHS copy of it for years. I found that some scenes were omitted, new ones added, and I don’t think it was Ed Wood himself that did this. It is known that George Weiss wasn’t all that happy with Wood’s work, and that the movie was rereleased over several years with different titles. I’m willing to bet that a lot re-editing went on as well. Here are a couple of differences I noted.

1) The DVD had a scene where Bela Lugosi and Ed Wood react to a series of lurid bondage and S&M footage (fairly tame). The music is totally different from the rest of the movie during this sequence. I do not believe that this scene was part of the original movie.

2) There is a scene where two working men discuss the sex change headline (I assume they work at a steel mill and that the shots of white-hot metal bars going in and out of narrow openings isn’t intended solely as sexual suggestion). On the DVD, the scene ends with one saying goodbye to the other. On the VHS, there is an extra moment; the other man returns the goodbye, only in a woman’s voice. In short, the DVD version removes the punch line to the scene.

There are other differences, but I think this illustrates them. I wonder if there are several different edits of this movie out there under various titles. I wonder if someday some researcher might take the time to go through the various copies of this movie and map out the various differences. I suspect that my VHS version is much closer to Wood’s original vision.


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