Sacher-Masoch and Ed Wood Jr.

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Posted by Craig Kalpakjian on May 30, 1996 at 23:19:23:

Speaking of unknown gender identity (Ludwig II's-mentioned in Rainer's note from 4/22/96), I was watching "Glen or Glenda" a few weeks ago and it struck me that "Venus in Furs" is structured in a similar way to many of Ed Wood Jr.'s films.

"Plan 9 From Outer Space," for instance, opens with a narrator--the popular psychic Criswell--reading from a book. Another film, called, I think, "I blame my parents," uses the courtroom testimony of a repentant teen to look back over his delinquency. But "Glen or Glenda" has to take the prize. After Bella Lugosi, I believe it goes to another voice-over narration, then to a psychiatrist explaining transvestitism to a police officer. One begins to wonder if the story will ever start.

It's not just the fact of the narration, though, but the way in which the narrators are telling these stories--ostensibly morality tales--that strikes a similar chord. The narrator of "Venus in Furs" is reading Hegel when we find him at the start of the book (although the story is then actually told to him by Severin). Bella, well, I don't think we ever find out what he's reading at the beginning of "Glen or Glenda" (some kind of transvestite case book? I guess we can assume it's not Hegel). Still, Severin has gone from being the "anvil to the hammer," as he puts it, and Glen too has settled into a more traditional relationship, stopped his cross dressing, and said a kind of farewell to angora (can we make a parallel between angora and fur?). Both works are superficially trying to teach us a kind of lesson, but the point gets lost in the telling--Severin the anvil, and "Glenda," are both way more interesting characters, and its obvious that both Sacher-Masoch and Wood, in their obsessive focusing on these obsessions, know it. Is this just their way of gaining the acceptance and popularity which they both enjoyed in their own times, or is it somehow more crucial to their respective projects?

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