Film: Glen or Glenda?

"Pull the string! PULL THE STRING!"
The Scientist (Bela Lugosi)

Glen or Glenda? (title changed from I Changed My Sex!) is a 1953 exploitation film written by, directed by and starring Ed Wood, and featuring Bela Lugosi, and Wood's then-girlfriend, Dolores Fuller.

The movie consists of two parts, the first following a narrator called The Scientist, played by Bela Lugosi, making cryptic comments about humanity. At the beginning of the film proper, Inspector Warren finds the corpse of a male transvestite named Patrick/Patricia, who has committed suicide. Wanting to know more about cross-dressing, Warren seeks out Dr. Alton, who narrates for him the story of Glen/Glenda.

The second part is shorter, following Alan, a pseudohermaphrodite who fights in the Second World War wearing women's underwear. After "his" return, Alan becomes the woman she always was, through surgery. The third part bridges the two stories by returning to Glen/Glenda as he learns the story of Alan/Anne from Dr. Alton (whom Alan/Anne also visited) before managing to cure his transvestism.

Tropes associated with this work:

  • All Hallows' Eve: A flashback scene reveals that a younger Glenn wore his sister's dress for a Halloween party. He won first prize.
  • Author Appeal: Ed Wood was famous for being a transvestite and he plays one in his film—which is very up on women's clothing. In fact, the film was going to be entirely about the sex change story, but Wood insisted on giving the lion's share of screen time to his own personal habit.
  • Author Tract: The film is essentially Ed Wood's apology for crossdressers like himself; he even played the crossdressing title character under a pseudonym.
  • B-Movie
  • Book Ends: The movie begins and ends with a scene of Bela Lugosi sitting in a chair, talking directly to the audience. The first scene begins with the camera moving away from Lugosi, and the last scene begins with it moving towards him again. A litteral example, since he is actually reading a book in both scenes.
  • Casting Gag/As Himself: The opening text claims that this is the case.
    Many of the smaller parts are portrayed by persons who acually are, in real life, the character they portray on the screen.
  • Crossdresser: Glen, Alan, and a couple of secondary characters.
  • Cure Your Crossdressers: According to this movie, transvestism is something that can be cured.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • "Glen is not a homosexual. Glen is a transvestite, but he is not a homosexual."
    • While the screen is showing the headline "World Shocked By Sex Change", Dr. Alton's voice-over asks, "Why is the modern world shocked by this headline?" So apparently, the world was shocked to hear that it was shocked.
    • The line "Glen is engaged to be married to Barbera, a lovely intelligent girl." is spoken twice by Dr. Alton, while talking to the same character. You'd think it would be enough to say it once.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: While disembodied, gossply voices talk about the "scandal" of a man dressing like a woman (or getting sex-reassignment surgery), we see a film of a steel mill in which molten metal is extruded into bars and then chopped off.
  • Double Standard: For a movie with such a sensitive treatment of transvestism, it still manages to be completely sexist. After Alan gets surgery and becomes Anne, she must now learn how to act like a "proper woman," and certainly can't do any of the soldier/professional things she used to do as a man.
  • Dramatic Pause: Bela Lugosi... often talks like this... in this movie.
  • Dream Sequence: A good quarter of the movie is taken up by a long dream sequence by Glen featuring women in lingerie, light bondage, etc.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration
  • Hollywood Natives Played straight. A tribe of these NobleSavages in masks and grass skirts is presented as an example of the "state of nature" in which the male is expected to adorn himself, in opposition to present-day Western society where male clothing is rough in texture, and drab.
  • Interactive Narrator: Dr. Alton.
  • Mind Screw: Just what the hell is going on in that hallucination/dream scene? Or any of Lugosi's rambling monologues for that matter?
  • Older Than They Think: Discussed In-Universe by the Scientist in the opening:
    The Scientist: Man's constant groping of things unknown... drawing from the endless reaches of time... brings to light... many startling things. Startling? Because they seem new... sudden! But most are not new... in the signs of the ages.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The opening theme, which was also used in Lassie.
  • The Remake: A porn remake in 1994 (the same year Ed Wood came out)
  • Sweater Girl: Including loaning the sweater.
  • Transsexual
  • The Unfavourite: Glenn's mother used to favour his sister Sheila over him. The psychiatrist believes that Glenn started wearing Sheila's dresses to attract the attention and affection of his mother.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser