Short Night of the Glass Dolls follows Greg (Jean Sorel of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin), an American journalist working in Prague. Greg’s primary problem is that he is dead (or appears to be) and he cannot remember who killed him or why. In a state of limbo between life and death, Greg retraces his steps in an attempt to remember who could have wanted him dead and for what reason.
This film marks Aldo Lado’s (Who Saw Her Die) feature film directorial debut. And an impressive first outing it is. Lado comes across as a confident and assured director who isn’t afraid to go against the grain and make some unexpected decisions. For one, the film doesn’t really have a conventional love story. Greg spends most of the feature’s runtime searching for his romantic interest, Mira, who inexplicably disappears shortly after arriving on the scene. The film also breaks from convention by telling the story through the eyes of a character who is presumed to be dead. As strange as it sounds, the approach works well. Telling the story through a series of flashbacks and bursts of recollection helps to build tension and instills a sense of urgency in the viewer to find out what happens next.
Short Night of the Glass Dolls is not a typical giallo. The performances are a step above the hammy scenery chewing to which fans of the genre are accustomed. Jean Sorel turns in a fine performance in the lead role and Ingrid Thulin (The Damned) is effective as his journalistic peer and not-so-secret admirer.
Also differing from the output of the time, the bloodshed is very understated and the bodycount is surprisingly low. The film is much more focused on the captivating audiences with the mystery element than wowing viewers with countless acts of senseless carnage and numerous onscreen deaths. The end result is mostly positive. While, I do wish that there had been a little more violence for the sake of violence, it’s hard not to commend Lado’s restraint in a time where excess was the name of the game.
The film is very slow burn. It takes a long while to get where its going and that can be a little frustrating when viewing the film for the first time. But the but patient viewer will be rewarded, as the third act delivers in almost every way imaginable. The first two acts are used to establish the storyline and build a mounting sense of tension. And the third brings everything together beautifully. The final scene is shocking, (somewhat) unexpected, and totally horrifying. It makes the build worthwhile and is likely to haunt the viewer long after they finish watching the film.
The famous Ennio Morricone (The Cat o’Nine Tails) composed the film’s score. And while this may not be his most noteworthy outing and certainly isn’t as memorable as some of his other works, the music is very appropriate to the era and fits well with the film’s thematic elements.
If you haven’t had the occasion to check out Short Night of the Glass Dolls, it is definitely worth a look for the giallo enthusiast. The third act is quite memorable and the film is just different enough from the Italian horror output of its era to make it noteworthy and secure its place as an important contribution to the giallo genre.
Short Night of the Glass Dolls is now available (in a limited pressing of 3,000) on Blu-ray via Twilight Time. The transfer and sound quality are excellent, as per usual. The release also features an isolated music track and a commentary with two film historians.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Aldo Lado
Writer(s): Aldo Lado
Stars: Jean Sorel, Ingrid Thulin, and Barbara Bach
Release: Now available on Blu-Ray from Twilight Time
Studio/ Production Co: Cinerama Filmgesellschaft MBH