It's tempting to reach for extremes when talking about Ed Wood. To say his films are the worst ever made, or conversely to argue that they're lost classics, cult gems ahead of their time. They're neither - or both - but the one thing they're not is boring. Well, to be honest, sometimes they are quite boring, but in the sort of way where you don't mind being bored, because it's all so strange that even the tedious stuff is quite interesting (though maybe you wouldn't watch them over and over).

Glen Or Glenda was his most personal work, probably the definitive transvestite/transsexual movie even today. Yes, there have been better written, less kinky, more realistic treatments of the themes, but none as achingly sincere. Glen just wants to wear his girlfriend's fluffy jumper, because it's nice - a superbly simplistic view of cross-dressing. But the moment when Barbara (Wood's girlfriend Dolores Fuller, a stunningly wooden actress) takes it off and hands it to him with Great Significance is actually genuinely moving, for all its nonsense.

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And so, on some level, is Bela Lugosi's performance, the once-great charismatic screen star, now drug-addled and babbling about "puppy dog tails" and "pull the strings" over stock footage of charging buffalo and the like. Maybe he's the devil, maybe God, maybe just a way to stretch the film to feature length and utilise one of Wood's few assets, a star name, but while his narration makes no actual sense, it is certainly memorable and watchable.

Jail Bait, made a year later and with a similar budget of tuppence ha'penny, is slightly more professional and slick, which makes it slightly duller. It's Wood's attempt to make a film noir, which ends up more like a play, written and performed by 10-year-olds. Still, the robber on the run having to get a new face, thanks to his plastic surgeon dad, is a plot that much better funded movies have taken on, while one of his actors, Steve Reeves, went on to actual fame in the Hercules films. There's fun to be had in spotting the continuity errors, wincing at the dreadful soundtrack and mocking the stiff dialogue.

It may feel a little hollow, ropey even, but Wood made movies. What have you ever done?

Star rating is difficult here. These flicks should either be rated 1 or 5; anything in-between seems ridiculous. Let's say 2 and a half stars and split the difference.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2006
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Ed Wood: Vol 2 packshot
The definitive transvestite/transsexual movie and a face-changing film noir from the master of low expectation.
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Director: Edward D Wood Jr

Writer: Edward D Wood Jr, Alex Gordon

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Lyle Talbot, Daniel Davis, Dolores Fuller, Tommy Haynes, Herbert Rawlinsin, Steve Reeves, Clancy Malone, Timothy Farrell

Year: 1952

Runtime: 142 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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