Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Glen or Glenda Odyssey, Part Five by Greg Dziawer

Totally radical! Ed Wood Mania was already in full swing by the 1980s!

Off the Wall as it looked in the 1980s.
Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy and Tim Burton's biopic Ed Wood introduced many viewers to the work of Edward D. Wood, Jr. in the 1990s. But the late writer-director's strange posthumous career was already well underway by then. After the publication of Harry and Michael Medved's The Golden Turkey Awards in 1980, Eddie's older films started to get prominent bookings in theaters across the country. And they were starting to attract serious critical attention as well.

On July 16, 1982, for instance, Glen or Glenda began a two-week engagement at Off the Wall Cinema in Cambridge, MA. Off the Wall was, as its name suggests, an eccentric art theater and coffee house specializing in obscure and bizarre movies. (Unfortunately, this well-loved venue closed in 1986.) Glenda was playing on a double bill with The Little Shop of Horrors, the 1960 Roger Corman cheapie about a killer talking plant. Interestingly, Little Shop was also gaining a new fanbase in the 1980s, due to a stage musical adaptation that had just opened Off-Off-Broadway on May 6, 1982.

Theater and film critic John Engstrom reviewed Glen or Glenda in the July 17, 1982 edition of The Boston Globe. His article is quite a find. Long before Grey or Burton, Engstrom shrewdly identified Glenda as a key Wood work. While pointing out the film's many shortcomings, he also notes that the movie was incredibly forward-thinking for its vintage, hailing it as "compassionate and enlightened."

Here's the article in its entirety. Enjoy. As a little bonus, this newspaper clipping also includes a print ad for another quintessential cult movie of the era: Jean-Jacques Beineix's Diva (1981).

John Engstrom's 1982 review of Glen or Glenda.

"As a movie," Engstrom writes, "[Glen or Glenda] transcends its own incompetence and attains something like dignity." That's a pretty far cry from what the Medveds were saying about Eddie's movies at the time.

Happy Independence Day, everybody!