Glen or Glenda is a 1953 American drama film written, directed by and starring Ed Wood (credited in his starring role as “Daniel Davis”), and featuring Bela Lugosi and Wood’s then-girlfriend Dolores Fuller. It was produced by George Weiss who also made the exploitation film Test Tube Babies that same year.
The film is a docudrama about cross-dressing and transsexuality, and is semi-autobiographical in nature. Wood himself was a cross-dresser, and the film is a plea for tolerance. It is widely considered one of the worst films ever made. However, it has become a cult film due to its low-budget production values and idiosyncratic style.
Shot in four days, the film was loosely inspired by the sex reassignment surgery of Christine Jorgensen, which made national headlines in the U.S. in 1952. Posters for the film publicize the movie as being based on Jorgensen. George Weiss, a Hollywood producer of low-budget films, commissioned a movie to exploit it. Originally Weiss made Jorgensen several offers to appear in the film, but these were turned down. Wood convinced Weiss that his own transvestism made him the perfect director despite his modest resume. Wood was given the job, but instead made a movie about transvestism.
Wood persuaded Lugosi, at the time poor and drug-addicted, to appear in the movie. Lugosi’s scenes were shot at the Jack Miles Studios in Los Angeles. He was reportedly paid $5000 for the role, although some stories state the actual amount was only $1000. Lugosi is credited as “The Scientist”, a character whose purpose is unclear. He acts as a sort of narrator but gives no narration relevant to the plot; that job is reserved for the film’s primary narrator, Timothy Farrell.
This was the only film Wood directed but did not also produce. Wood played the eponymous character, but under the pseudonym “Daniel Davis”. His then-girlfriend, Dolores Fuller, played Glen’s girlfriend/fiancée Barbara. Wood later returned to Glen or Glenda in his pulp novel Killer in Drag (1963). The plot features a transvestite called Glen whose alter-ego is called Glenda. He is executed in the sequel Death of a Transvestite (1967) after a struggle for the right to go to the electric chair dressed as Glenda.
The erotic-themed vignettes were not created by Wood. They were reportedly added by producer George Weiss. He needed extra scenes to add to what he felt was an overly-short film. While not organic parts of the narrative, they seem to tell their own tales of gender dynamics and so fit in the general themes of the film. The whipping scene suggests a Master/slave relationship. That the man is dominant and the woman submissive, seems to reflect male chauvinism. The flirtatious and striptease-themed vignettes were typical of 1950s exploitation films and grindhouse films, as was the rape scene.
The film has deleted scenes. In the theatrical trailer, included in laserdisc and DVD editions, the scene in which Fuller hands over her angora sweater, is a different take than the one in the release version — in the trailer, she tosses it to Wood in a huff, while the release version shows her handing it over more acceptingly. There is also a shot of Wood in drag, mouthing the word “Cut!”
The second part of the film, titled Alan or Anne, is much shorter, told largely through stock footage, and was made to meet the distributor’s demand for a sex change film. Alan is a pseudo-hermaphrodite who fights in World War II wearing women’s underwear. After his return, Alan undergoes surgery to become a woman.
this dvd has both “colorized” and original black & white versions. mono, fullscreen, DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic.