Wednesday, October 7, 2020

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

Some images from the 2K restoration of Glen or Glenda (1953).

Edward D. Wood, Jr. passed away in late 1978, just as Glen or Glenda -- his debut feature as a writer, director, and star -- was making the rounds in a 25th anniversary re-release. Had Eddie lived only a little longer, he would have seen his most personal and arguably best work embraced by cult film fanatics. Nevertheless, Glenda would live on through various home video editions, fueling an already ardent fan base. And now, 42 years after Ed Wood's untimely death, yet another release of the film has emerged.

A new edition of an old favorite.
As the COVID-19 shutdowns began this spring, many businesses were forced to reimagine themselves. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain, for instance, launched an on-demand streaming service featuring an incredible collection of cultish weirdness and oddball exploitation movies. Most enticingly, Alamo offers two seminal Ed Wood films, both of them restored by the dedicated folks at the American Genre Film Archive. One is the Wood-scripted juvenile delinquent melodrama The Violent Years (1956). The other is a 2K scan of a 35mm print of Glen or Glenda. This version of the film is the shortest one I've seen, clocking in at just a few seconds over an hour. The AGFA's website erroneously lists the runtime at 65 minutes, not including the opening logos for the Archive itself and Something Weird Video, which was presumably the source of the print.

This version of the film opens abruptly with the first lightning bolt and thunderclap. Missing are the usual credits and a chunk of Bela Lugosi's opening screed. A couple of minutes into the film, credits do finally emerge. The title card appears to be an ad for a film called Twisted Lives. This is not one of the many titles by which Glen or Glenda has been commonly known. Three further credit screens follow. One lists stars Bela Lugosi and Lyle Talbot. A second names producer George Weiss. The final screen gives directorial credit to Edward D. Wood, Jr. This particular version of the credits is unique to this print. It does not correspond to other Glenda releases I have seen in the past. The music that plays during the main title sequence is also unique to this release.

(left) An ad for Twisted Lives; (right) Detail from the closing credits.

The print AGFA used for the restoration is incomplete. Diehard Glen or Glenda fans will be very familiar with the film's lengthy nightmare sequence, padded out with supposed insert footage of strippers and bondage performers. While much of this sequence remains intact in the AGFA version, the whipping scenes are missing. This edition of Glenda finally wraps up with the same end credits we are accustomed to, indicating that this was a print distributed for the film's 25th anniversary.

Most importantly, we've never seen the film look this good. The level of clarity brings to light many startling things. At times, the depth, texture, and contrast of the images is jaw-dropping, especially for those of us who've seen Glen or Glenda countless times on VHS and DVD. Aficionados will appreciate the fluff and finery of angora more than ever, and they'll even see sweat drip profusely down Glen's face during the aforementioned nightmare. 

That's just a brief overview of what you can expect from this version of Glen or Glenda. Every serious fan of Ed Wood needs to see the film with this level of detail, despite the missing footage. It may not be the most complete version of Glen or Glenda on the market, but can we ever say for sure that a "definitive" version of this movie even exists?

You can buy or rent the stream at Alamo's on-demand streaming site here. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a Blu-ray release, although my friend and fellow Wood obsessive Mike Hickey told me that there's no current plan to release this version on disc. 

In the future, we'll dissect all of the extant versions of the film and meticulously compare them side by side. Come back for that, after you've checked out this gorgeous and unique new version of Glen or Glenda. And yeah, I am one of those Wood obsessives who not only think it Ed Wood's best film, but one of the most distinctive and compelling viewing experiences I've ever seen, dozens and dozens of times over.

P.S. Enjoy this gallery of screen captures from the new 2K restoration at the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr.