Glen or Glenda? (1953)




Critic Consensus: Glen or Glenda? remains an interesting artifact from one of Hollywood's more colorful careers -- albeit not one that holds up particularly well as a movie.

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In his heart-felt cinematic debut, Edward D. Wood, Jr. himself stars under the pseudonym Daniel Davis as a young man with a dilemma: should he tell his lovely young fiancee (played by real-life girlfriend Dolores Fuller) about his burning desire to cross-dress? She has begun to notice articles of clothing missing from her closet; the suspense builds...what should he do? Bela Lugosi plays the omniscient narrator; note his conviction as he "pulls the strings." Amidst this unintentionally hilarious mish-mash of melodrama, social commentary and inexplicable stock footage, there is something for every taste: countless cross dressers, hallucinatory dream sequences, sex-change surgeries, spirited cat fights, borderline-pornographic simulated sex scenes, poetic monologues, a haunted house, and a stampede of wild buffalo. Released under various titles across the country -- I Lived Two Lives, I Changed My Sex -- this fiasco bombed across the board but managed to gain Wood enough notoriety in the "B"-movie world to launch a career that is today the stuff of legend. Hailed by most critics as the worst film of all time, Wood nearly matched his first effort with such atrocities as Bride of the Monster, Night of the Ghouls, the infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space, and, perhaps the world's first topless horror film, Orgy of the Dead. Although few may count Wood among the best American cinema has to offer, Glen or Glenda certainly places him among its most memorable.
Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
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Screen Classics Inc.

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Bela Lugosi
as Scientist
Edward D. Wood Jr.
as Glen/Glenda
Lyle Talbot
as Inspector Warren
Dolores Fuller
as Barbara
Tommy Haynes
as Alan/Ann
Timothy Farrell
as Dr. Alton
Conrad Brooks
as Banker / Reporter / Pickup Artist
Henry Bederski
as Man with Hat and Receding Hairline
George Weiss
as Man at Transvestite's Suicide (uncredited)
Connie Brooks
as Banker
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News & Interviews for Glen or Glenda?

Critic Reviews for Glen or Glenda?

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (3)

What distinguishes it from other low-budget efforts are the occasional mad flights of fancy.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

This well-meaning disaster, rescued from the obscurity it surely craves, is without doubt a candidate for one of the worst films ever made.

February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

It isn't quite a camp classic, although it's dreadful enough to have a certain comic appeal. ''Glen or Glenda'' is also a film of great conviction in its way, and that tends to interfere with the fun.

Full Review… | December 6, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

not really a real movie

April 24, 2008

as insanely bad as this movie is, it retains perverse pleasures that serve it well as a cult icon

Full Review… | March 8, 2007
Old School Reviews

The passage of time has not transformed Glen or Glenda? into a good movie; it has, however, revealed it to be a braver film than anyone had ever imagined.

Full Review… | August 29, 2006
TV Guide

Audience Reviews for Glen or Glenda?

With awful performances and ludicrous dialogue, this atrocious movie has a lot of heart but sadly no brains, and so it is only repetitious with all that nonsensical stock footage and unintentionally surrealistic without making much sense as a narrative whatsoever.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Originally titled 'I Changed My Sex!' this was Ed Wood's first movie, his first step on a long journey into cinematic history...but not good cinematic history. Its a strange little number that's for sure, a docudrama and semi-autobiographical, with an odd fantasy element bookending the whole thing. That fantasy element comes into play with Bela Lugosi narrating to us, the viewer. His narration seems to revolve around humanity at first, pointing at mans traits, mans pursuit of knowledge, slowly turning to life in general, human personalities, birth, death etc...(almost like an informative film you might see in a natural history museum). The narration then leads into the story that commences with the death of a transvestite, a suicide, the reasons? because this person simply was unable to live their life as they wanted. The man in question was a transvestite who had been locked up in jail on numerous occasions for cross-dressing in public, but this was no act or mental condition, this was who he was, who he wanted to be. With society seemingly unable to understand his position he commits suicide. What follows is a curious and rather abstract look into the world of the cross-dressing male and transvestites, all under the guise of the movies plot which solely revolves around the police Inspector trying to understand what a transvestite is and why this person committed suicide. So in affect, this is virtually an educational film about the LGBT community. What its like to live in such a way, how the public perceives you, how your own family and friends perceive you and how to generally try and get by in 1950's America being a cross-dresser. The funny thing is, this movie is now supposedly known as Ed Wood's worse creation ever, even beating the great 'Plan 9'. Yet despite this dubious honour the film is actually unique, fantastically unique, daring, brave and bold, simply because Ed Wood made a movie about a taboo subject in a time when such a thing could get you killed, worst case scenario. Now naturally judging by the era here, the dialog and general angle could be considered rather offensive and highly condescending, but in all fairness that really should be expected. In all honesty I'm not entirely sure if this is done on purpose by Wood to expose the truths about this American issue in society, or merely a sign of the times, the film simply being a product of the time and people just simply didn't know any better (or didn't want to know any better), the latter is more probable. The way in which Inspector Warren and investigates the world of cross-dressing is quite hilarious and again...pretty offensive really. I loved how he visits these scientist/doctor types in very posh fully wood panel offices to try and lock down what exactly is meant by cross-dressing. We then get these very darling old shaky black and white movies explaining just what exactly is a transvestite and they live amongst the normal people. This is when we get the tale of Glen or Glenda, a transvestite who seems to have been studied by the doc?? anyway this is Ed Wood in his starring role basically playing himself. The docs case study of Glen or Glenda is in fact the semi-autobiographical part of the movie (about Wood himself, his secret). It is explained how the scientific world calls these men transvestites (a new word at the time), and how they are not actually homosexual as many would expect, but actually heterosexual, they just like to dress up in women's clothes. We then get lots of various flashbacks and segments showcasing how Glen's partner Barbara is suspicious of Glen, why he's acting so oddly, the fact they are due to be married and the pain Glen is suffering about whether he should reveal himself before or after or at all. We see Glen walking down the street in women's clothes, stopping by women's clothes stores and looking in. Glen looking for help from another transvestite, and of course dream sequences which are analogies for Glen's mental anguish on how he thinks he's not up to the task of being a strong male for the eyes of society. The dreams also carry on with some very weird little vignettes including vanilla BDSM, a rape scene, a striptease etc...its all rather peculiar and somehow serve to be an insight into Glen's distressed mind. Oddly, in the middle of all these very personal problems and revelations, we end up following another person and the reaction to sex change operations within society. Its almost like a sub plot within the film that goes absolutely nowhere but merely serves to offer up more insight into a slightly separate issue close to Wood and his friends (probably Bunny Breckinridge). Towards the end we are then given yet another little story from the doc of yet another character who was conscripted into the army for WWII but kept his second life a secret until after the war. Said person then managed to achieve having a sex change and basically lived happily ever after, again, not too sure why we are told this. All during this time we are shown the odd bit of obscure footage showing Lugosi playing his puppermaster-esque role. A role that was clearly shot purely because Wood adored the macabre and Lugosi performing it, plus it was all for virtually nothing and gave Wood a big A-list name in his movie, win win! The amusing thing is, what is shot is obviously nothing to do with the rest of the movie Wood shoots. The movie is clearly a very personal project about his life, inner demons and inner turmoil, but he's crowbarred in these small sequences with Lugosi which are clearly aimed for a more darker, horror, thriller type flick (his usual stuff). I suppose Lugosi's character is kinda like a God or mystical person that may or may not be controlling mankind or individual lives, maybe a Grim Reaper type character, which is a nice idea but it simply doesn't connect with the story Wood is wanting to tell. The dialog also has nothing much in similar with what unfolds on the screen...[i]'Beware! Beware! Beware of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep. He eats little boys, puppy dog tails, and big fat snails. Take care! beware!'[/i]. Seriously...what the hell is that suppose to relate to exactly?? and what does it really mean?? The entire movie feels like its been cobbled together with bits and pieces meant for other films, almost like a series of sketches. In between that you have these odd choices of stock footage which are a staple infamous diet of Wood flicks because they simply don't relate to what's going on on the screen (a herd of wild buffalo?). Yet despite the outrageously (obviously) out of date and slightly derogatory rhetoric going on, the film's heart is basically a good one. Yes transvestites are kinda portrayed like creations of doctor Frankenstein, to be experimented on and observed from within a safe confined space, but that's the era coming through. As weird, quirky, badly acted, bizarre and as cheap as it is, deep down this semi-biopic is pretty much an educational insight into tolerance and sexuality, how people can come to terms with its variations. An intensely personal account of a part of Ed Wood's life, and in that respect it does deserve some admiration and appreciation.

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

A documentary, of sorts, about a closeted transvestite named Glen who struggles over whether to tell his secret to his fiancée. The story is interrupted by a bizarre 14-minute dream sequence with bondage and the Devil, and numerous incomprehensible bits with omniscient "scientist" Bela Lugosi yelling "pull the string"! It's terrible, and it's great, so the rating averages out. A must-see for adventurous viewers, but those with more conventional tastes will find its lack of plot and structure to be torture.

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

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