Often dismissed as "the worst director of all-time", Ed Wood Jr achieved a peculiar cult status long before Tim Burton’s 1994 bio-pic starring Johnny Depp and Martin Landau brought Wood’s curious filmic legacy to wider fame.
Made in 1953, Wood’s Glen or Glenda? was meant to rip-off and cash-in on Christine Jorgensen’s then-shocking Swedish sex-swap op. But Wood ignored the producers’ brief and turned in a daring cri de cour – a passionate plea for greater understanding and acceptance of transvestites (such as himself) and transsexuals.
Acting under the pseudonym Daniel Davis, Wood himself plays a heterosexual transvestite struggling to decide whether to tell his fiancée the frocking truth of his gender-bending ways. Lyle Talbot plays a hard-boiled detective driven to try and understand transgender conditions following the suicide of a 'repeat offender'. And in a somewhat bizarre cameo performance, Wood’s childhood hero Bela Lugosi (Dracula) plays a God-like being who reminds us:
"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 to the signs of the ages."