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Greg Moore, an American journalist visiting Prague with his girlfriend Mira is found dead. However, he's actually only temporarily paralyzed, but the coroner fails to realize this and proceeds to prepare him for the autopsy. While Moore awaits his doom, he tries to recollect what has happened to him. It all starts when his girl disappears. He asks his friend, a local journalist, for help. They discover that this was just the latest in a series of disappearances of young pretty girls in the area. Their investigation leads them to a strange high profile private club, whose affluent members practice odd ritualistic orgies and bizarre dark rites.
Transcends the the typical giallo, a stunning classic
Aldo Lado's directorial debut known by its English title Short Night Of Glass Dolls is a unique, cerebral experience. For those in the United States that have been searching, in 2002 it has been released on DVD by Anchor Bay -- I got mine as part of a four-disc "Giallo Collection" that also contains Lado's second feature Who Saw Her Die?
Short Night Of Glass Dolls was originally titled Short Night Of The Butterfly (also a song in the film), but right before its release another film came out with with the word butterfly in its title, thus the retitling of this one. Malastrana is a title Lado was originally going to call this film but at the insistence of others involved, it was then on to Short Night Of The Butterfly. Too bad Short Night Of Glass Dolls was the main choice, as the Butterfly title would have made much more sense to the story.
Jean Sorel stars as an American reporter found allegedly dead, and yet we hear his thoughts as he is examined in a morgue. His memories take us back to the beginning where he tries to find out the reason for his girlfriend's disappearance (played by a very young Barbara Bach). What follows is not your typical giallo, but a very thought provoking mystical mystery. It evokes the tone of films like Suspiria and The Tenant, and was made years before those. It really does transcend the typical Italian giallo -- most are just murder mysteries with a cast of characters that all have skeletons in the closet and you have to sort through their hangups to see if they have relevance as to "who done it." Here, there is much more going on amidst political unrest and metaphors for "power being fed by the blood of the young." I usually yawn at heavy political stuff the likes of Lina Wertmuller, but Aldo Lado's take is a nicely blended comment as well as visually stunning storytelling.
I really enjoy films from that period of time, as the actors are not so "GQ" looking, nor are they too young for the parts they're playing. The moustached Jean Sorel is nicely cast and easy to sympathize with, you'll find yourself really hoping he solves the mystery and gets out alive. The locations are used well and extremely scenic (another reason I love giallos from the early 1970s). Add to that a really well-written story along with a wonderful Ennio Morricone score and it just couldn't get any better than that! Even the famous "group" scene is handled so well that it does not come across as gratuitous or cheap.
Short Night Of Glass Dolls is very accomplished filmmaking, and now that it has been restored and looking better than ever on DVD, those with a hunger for something very unique will be quite satisfied.
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