N.B.: What follows is mostly a ramble, not much of a real review, but the inspiration thereof is not only the infamous Oogla Smith, but also Ed Wood, to whom this VHS, among other video products, renders ironic tribute!
The short bio-documentary, so cleverly and aptly titled "Look Back in Angora", cannot match other films of a biograpical nature about the notorious but utterly marginal screen producer, screenwriter, director, and actor, Edward D. Wood, Junior. "Look back in Angora" is a mini-documentary, quickly thrown together, about this strangely deluded man; it did not take its subject, Wood himself, seriously enough to have invested the effort needed to cover Wood`s art (such as it was, paltry but ever determined to plow onwards) and his spotty and besotted life in any real depth.
For that, one looks to the far more comprehensive, even cinematically scholarly view of Ed Wood that director Brett Thompson directed, "The Haunted World of Ed D. Wood, Jr." (released in 1995). For this truly documentary coverage of the infamously low-budget bohemian who was Edward Davis Wood, Jr., Thompson and everyone associated with that film (including many of the surviving actors and others involved in Wood`s films), considerable effort even was made to restore fully Wood`s first effort at cinema, in which he acted (bit did little more than that), "Crossroads of Laredo". As for the film "Ed Wood", that marvellously entertaining motion picture is a biopic, not a documentary, and it stars the exuberant Johnny Depp in the title role.
While director and screenwriter Ted Newsom reveals, in the shorter documentary, some aspects (and Thompson`s team, in his longer and more in-depth documentary, far more) of the cross-dressing man, who is the subject of all three, which Tim Burton`s biopic with Depp did not choose to cover, especially since Burton`s film ends during the time of Wood`s prime years, before his decline; the years which followed the premiere of his "Plan 9 from Outer Space" entail Wood`s decline from mere marginality to ever more hard-pressed poverty and desperation, to making and hawking pornography (which was as strange as any of his other films!), and to alcoholic ill health, destitution, and death, as Newsom chronicles at least superficially. Newson`s documentary (like Thompson`s) even mentions, in passing, Tim Burton`s biopic (as having a budget that exceeded manyfold all of the budgets of all of Ed Wood`s own films combined).
Very largely "Look back in Angora" strings one sight gag after another, by showing footage from Wood`s films as the documentary`s narrator, Gary Owens, audibly enjoys the jokes that this, combined with the prevailingly derisory comments that he pronounces, makes for. There are appearances of a few of those who participated in Wood`s films and inclusion of their reminiscences; others are introduced by the narrator, Gary Owens, via moving image footage from various sources. Of course, there are brief scenes from Wood`s various films with remarks about the many grossly obvious and amusing defects and incongruities that beset them.
And, wow! One can say of Ed Wood, the pitiably inept but deludedly ambitious entrepreneur of cinema, that, yes, there really was a tatty, even less successful small-time celebrity who specialised in wearing angora sweaters, posing as a woman but being a man, i.e. Ed Wood, before the infamous Olga ("Oogla") Smith, a local, would-be celebrity of a Pacific coastal city in Southern California (Smith being her maiden name, which she habitually used long after marriage, as Hollywood starlets, whether young or, like Oogla herself, ageing noticeably, tend to do). Oogla, in her heyday of the mid-1960s, habitually posed in tiger skin tights with cheap angora sweaters. The great American literary figure, Edmund Valentine White III, wrote (in his book, "My Lives"), of the legendarily archetypal female seductress as being "Woman ... the slut, wallowing on a tiger skin...."! Oogla, always striving for the maximum in female allure, was not content merely to lie buck-naked on a rug made of tiger skin; nay, rather she girt her loins, from her fleshy haunches downwards midway to fatty knees, in close-fitting stretch-pants or in bulging ballerina tights, either of which her favourite seamstress in a dubiously high-fashion boutique along a Pacific Ocean-front boulevard would have sewn together from the hides of those lordly predators of the jungles, glouriously colourful tigers! While thus attired, and preening herself for public view reposing upon the comfortable (and flatulence-absorbing) cushions of the iron swing situated on her home`s front porch, she resolutely would be devouring entire boxes, one after the other, of fancy-grade assorted chocolates, guzzling them down with mighty quaffs from bottles of potently alcoholic and fruity "wine coolers"!
The problem is that Oogla was, indeed, a real woman (of the tackiest kind) whereas Ed Wood only pretended to be a woman (also of the tackiest kind). Oogla merely looked like a transvestite although she really was not one! Oogla never got to be filmed, alas, but her memory survives in an old time small time hit single on a primitive tape format (not even a 45 r.p.m. disc, apart from, as legend has it to be, one of those very 7 in. records reputedly released as an exceedingly rare "bootleg" disc in the Arctic stretches of the Dominion of Canada on the Polar Platters label), "The Tiger Skin Song", to be danced to the "Baltimore Bounce". I still can hear the refrain resounding in memory,
"Tigers wear tiger skin,
Panthers wear panther skin,
But that Oogla Smith
Wears tiger skin tights,
And panther skin panties."
Oogla Smith's hulking, high school football-playing son, "Moose", also appears in the novella, "Ooglatuk of the North: the Chungón Chronicles", wherein he attempts to restore honour to Oogla's name by destroying the giant Innuit she-Yeti, Ooglatuk, named after his kitschy mother.
Those who love Ed Wood`s films, for whatever dim and dark reasons, surely would revel in the lore of the erstwhile female (Oogla Smith) who could have been an imitator of that male imitator of females (Ed Wood), seeking out all that pertains to Oogla Smith, to her valiant but dim-witted son, Moose, and maybe to Ooglatuk of the North, too!
The world is happier, even if laughing at itself (as Wood`s low camp can provoke to do), that figures like Ed Wood, Dolores Fuller, or, for that matter, Florain(e) Connors realised their grandeur on the "silver screen", in a way that Oogla and Moose, alas, never had a chance to do to live out their own dreams of (relatively) Big Time Glamour and Glory.