Monday, January 15, 2007

Glen or Glenda

I guess it's just time to clear away a lot of movie-watching experiments that I've been meaning to get to for a while. Blame Netflix. They just make it so easy.

Now that I've got the Star Wars marathon out of the way, I'm onto something that I've wanted to do ever since seeing Ed Wood for the first time in the theater. Being a big fan of both Johnny Depp and Bela Lugosi, I loved Ed Wood, but I always felt like I was missing out on something because I'm not familiar with the actual films of Edward D. Wood, Jr. So, I've been wanting to watch the Ed Wood DVD and whenever it gets to the point where he releases a film, stop the DVD and then watch the actual Wood film.

Yes, it's an incredibly geeky thing to do, but admit it -- you think it's kind of a cool idea.

There are three films that Ed Wood talks about: Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Atom (aka Bride of the Monster), and Plan 9 from Outer Space. Last night we (my wife and I) watched the first part of Ed Wood and Glen or Glenda. In Ed Wood the producer of Glen or Glenda calls it a "stink bomb." He's absolutely right.

Forget about the fact that it's overly-serious and preachy as all get out about the plight of transvestites. Forget the stupid symbolism like when Glen/Glenda's girlfriend is pinned beneath a tree that represents the burden of knowing Glen's secret and Glen, not Glenda, is the only one able to lift the burden off of her. Forget the completely unnecessary use of Bela Lugosi as a mad-scientist-like puppet master who serves as one of the film's three narrators (actually, that bit is the best part of the film thanks to Lugosi's classic line, "Pull the string!"). Forget the overly long use of stock footage, like when a transvestite enlists in the military and we're treated to several, dialogue-less minutes of shots depicting military personnel shooting cannons and stuff. Forget about all that.

What I can't forget about, because I'm still trying to get my mind around it, is the buffalo imagery and Lugosi's creepy viewing of S&M/rape flicks and striptease images (which he follows up by looking straight into the camera with a "See? I told you so" expression as if I'm supposed to have understood any of what I've just seen, much less agree with the film's point in showing it to me).

What's truly sad about Glen or Glenda, if Ed Wood is right about the back-story, is that it was supposed to be a deeply personal movie for Wood, who was a transvestite himself. He was fiercely proud of the movie and really thought that he was showing society something that would change its opinion of cross-dressers and transsexuals. Knowing that, and actually seeing the stink bomb that he made, makes the character that much more sympathetic to me.
I think I'm going to enjoy this experiment.

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