Saturday, May 7, 2011

Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971)

After the success of Mario Bava's "Blood and Black Lace", one thing was for certain: There was gold in them giallo films. Giallo, for the uninitiated, started as a series of pulpy crime novels from Italy, with the name stemming from the trademark yellow cover background. It wasn't until the 60's that movie versions came about, only to end up steering towards horror. With that, films like Argento's "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage", Antonio Margheriti's "Naked You Die", and Lucio Fulci's "Perversion Story" started popping up. Today, we look at one of the most celebrated titles in this sub-genre, Aldo Lado's* "Short Night of Glass Dolls."

The dead body of Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel) is discovered. Or is he really dead? Throughout the movie, we hear his thoughts, as he must piece together the events that have lead to him laying on a steel table, motionless and unable to do anything. As he goes through a series of flashbacks, he soon starts to remember events that involved murder, madness and a girl named Mira (Barbara Bach), who has a strange obsession with butterflies.

A unique twist on the sub-genre, "Short Night of Glass Dolls" is an expertly directed, shot, scored (by the one and only Ennio Morricone) and plotted murder mystery with occult overtones. Part of what stands out about it is that angle, which is strikingly unique, and adds an element of the fantastic to a genre that usually deals with human evil (though I could have done without the image of old people having sex.) Also notable is the lack of graphic violence on display. There's only one onscreen murder, and it's somebody being pushed off a ledge. I quite like the fact that there's so little on screen mayhem, as it adds to the Hitchcock like plot and events.

If there are any problems, it's in the ongoing narration from Gregory Moore. Usually, it works great, but there are moments (especially nearing the end) in which it get's annoying. Also, a minor complaint, but again, I really didn't need to see all those naked old people.

Those are all minor complaints though, as "Short Night of Glass Dolls" is absolutely essential for fans of giallo films, especially for beginners and those wanting a unique spin on the genre. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9/10

*This was the directorial debut of Aldo Lado, a writer and Second-Unit director turned full on director. His other credits include "Night Train Murders" (an Italian answer to "Last House on the Left"), "Who Saw Her Die", and "The Humanoid." This, "Who Saw Her Die" and "Night Train Murders" (a favorite of Eli Roth) remain his best loved films.

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