“Only the infinity of the depths of a man’s mind can really tell the story.”
A psychiatrist (Timothy Farrell) tells a concerned policeman (Lyle Talbot) the story of two individuals struggling with gender identity: a transvestite (Ed Wood) debating how to tell his fiancee (Dolores Fuller) about his cross-dressing predilection, and a transsexual (Tommy Haynes) about to undergo surgery.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Any film fanatic who’s seen Tim Burton’s must-see biopic Ed Wood (1994) will be keenly interested to (re)visit this “utterly perverse, personal film by Edward D. Wood, Jr.”, “making his directorial debut” and starring (under a pseudonym) in the title role. Originally intended to capitalize on the notoriety of Christine Jorgensen (whose story as the first widely known recipient of a sex change operation was later filmed as a “straight” biopic), Ed Wood saw the film as an opportunity to simultaneously address his own gender-bending predilection: transvestism. As Peary notes, “the picture’s treatment of [this issue] is serious and sensitive”, with Wood daring to “defend transvestites, saying that if allowed to wear women’s clothing they’ll be credits to their communities and government”. Peary argues that “one must be impressed by this film for the very reason that it takes a stand on a subject that surely was in 1953 not even acceptable enough to be considered controversial”.
He also points out that “Wood dares to incorporate footage that was obviously influenced by surrealists and experimental filmmakers”, noting that it’s “no matter that this footage is absolutely ridiculous”, given that “it shows Wood had an imagination”. Indeed, the surreal dream sequence occurring midway through the film is actually filled with such genuinely provocative imagery that, at the very least, you’ll sit up and pay attention — thus giving credence to the theory (espoused by some of Wood’s cult fans) that he may have been more of a maverick (amateur) auteur than merely the “bad director” he’s so frequently dismissed as. Meanwhile, those who’ve seen Ed Wood (or read about Glen or Glenda‘s production history) will know that Bela Lugosi was cast simply because of his name and his friendship with Wood, who wanted to provide him with some work. However, his role here is truly limited to that of an “absurd narrator” (“Pull the string! Pull the string!”); as Peary puts it, “Who knows what he is talking about?”
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A truly groundbreaking look at a taboo subject
- The impressively surreal dream sequence
Yes, as one of Ed Wood’s most infamous cult films.