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The reporter Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel) is found dead somewhere in Cold
War Prague and brought to the morgue, but he is not really dead his
mind works, but he cannot move. Now he tries to figure out how he ended
up in the morgue. Most of the movie is told through Moore's flashbacks
from the morgue where an old friend of his is trying to revive him
because he suspects something is wrong with the body since rigor mortis
have not set in.
The next hour of the movie is very slow moving through the flashbacks we learn that Moore had a girlfriend, Mira (played by the gorgeous Barbara Bach), who he loved very dearly. At a party she disappears without a trace and Moore starts his own investigation when the Prague police (almost dressed like the Gestapo) is of little help. His investigation leads him from place to place and he discovers that Mira is not the only missing girl in Prague. As he gets closer to the truth about the missing girls someone tries to stop him and the people who are willing to help him. It looks like a giant conspiracy And the twist ending is magnificent and gruesome at the same time!
The truth is that a satanic cult is behind it all. They sacrifice young people at giant orgies we are so "lucky" to catch a glimpse at an orgy so we are treated to loads of old people having sex! Moore discovers the truth and is drugged. The effect of the drug is pretty gruesome since it is like being buried alive he appears to be dead and cannot move, but his mind will be fully working! In the end the doctors at the morgue realizes that Moore must be dead and any attempt to revive him is abandoned. Instead they are going to perform an autopsy on him. Just before the autopsy is going to begin Moore gains a little control over his hand sadly the doctor performing the autopsy is a member of the cult and he kills him! Pure evil!
Short Night of the Glass Dolls is a very unusual giallo mainly because of the pace. It is remarkably slow moving and lacks the stylish and vicious killings, which almost defines the giallo genre. The overall feeling of the movie reminds me a lot more of Roman Polanski's The Tenant (1976) and Rosemary's Baby (1968). The Anchor Bay DVD from The Giallo Collection is brilliant and the 11-minute interview with director Aldo Lado is very informative. Especially his views on how the movie reflects on how the political elite buries people alive (reassigning them for example) when they come too close to the truth about the elite (hey, he is from Italy!), and how the old generation (the elite) lives of the blood of the young generation (the young has to fight the wars the elite engages in). Aldo Lado also directed the giallo Who Saw Her Die? (1972), which is also part of the box set. Both movies have a brilliant score by Ennio Morricone, but they are used very differently in Who Saw Her Die? it was almost vulgar and in Short Night of the Glass Dolls the score is used very subtle. This has to be my favorite giallo so far! Go see it!
My rating: 8/10
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.
Aldo Lado's directorial debut is a mixed bag of confusion and greatly innovating ideas but, eventually, it's the director's ingeniousness that triumphs, and he makes this "Short Night of the Glass Dolls" a must-see experience for Italian horror fans, more particularly the admirers of typical gialli. Lado's intelligent script combines different styles like typically Hitchcockian thrillers, detective stories and near the end even pure occult horror! American reporter in Prague Gregory Moore is pronounced dead in a local hospital but his brain functions are very much alive and slowly reconstructing the fiendish conspiracy that put him into this disturbing medical condition. Gregory's stunningly beautiful girlfriend Mira vanished shortly after a social gathering and, during his private investigation, he discovers that many prominent citizens hide macabre secrets. I realize this is a very basic description of the story, but it really is all I can say without revealing essential clues. The actual denouement, albeit far-fetched, is truly unexpected and the grand finale at the hospital left me completely speechless which is a rare event! Even though it was only his first horror effort, Aldo Lado proves himself to be a master when it comes to building up tension and he has a talented eye for imaginative camera-work. The classy location of Prague provides this film with one of the most beautiful settings in European horror cinema ever and Lado could also count on mesmerizing musical guidance by Ennio Morricone. The song entitled "Short Night of the Butterflies" is a real beauty. Highly recommended to fans of atmospheric, story-driven horror movies.
A street sweeper finds a man, apparently dead, lying in a park. An
ambulance is called. The camera shows the route followed by the
ambulance: A grey city is revealed with old buildings and statues. A
feeling of gloom and sadness permeates the screen, underlined still
more by the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack of Ennio Morricone. Welcome
to Prague, the city of Kafka.
At the hospital, the doctors, after examining the body, declare him to be dead. But he's not really dead! Even if he doesn't show signs of life, he's conscious and screams silently (he can't move or talk) for them to save his life. In fact, as his body doesn't show the rigor mortis or putrefaction signs usual in the dead, they think that maybe he's not really dead and decide to try to reanimate him.
On searching his effects, the hospital attendants discover that he is Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel), an American reporter. The film is divided in two parts - the remembrances of Gregory Moore and the attempts of the hospital staff to revive him.
After Gregory's girlfriend Mira (gorgeous Barbara Bach) mysteriously disappears, he decides to investigate on his own to discover what lies behind it. As his investigation progresses, the local police become gradually more hostile. Something horrible is happening. But the people that could shed some light on this story either refuse to speak or are "removed". Gregory is now on what could be his final journey. What happened to him? The atmosphere of mystery, fear and perplexity surrounding Gregory is excellently portrayed in "La Corta Notte delle Bambole di Vetro". If you want to know more, see the film. It's a very good giallo.
"La Corta Notte delle Bambole di Vetro"'s cast (Jean Sorel, Ingrid Thulin, Barbara Bach, Mario Adorf) adds still more charm to the film. It's interesting to say that Ingrid Thulin appeared in Bergman's "The Silence" (1963) that takes its place in a strange and mysterious city of eastern European appearance!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Possible spoilers ahead.
Short Night Of The Glass Dolls is quite simply one of the finest, and, most overlooked, thrillers ever made. Very few people have ever heard of this movie and that is a shame. I myself knew nothing of the film until I read a synopsis in Blood And Black Lace, a book intended as an overview of the giallo genre. The plot revolves around an American journalist (Jean Sorel) who gets drawn into a huge conspiracy in Italy when his girlfriends goes missing.
The story is told in a fragmented manner. We are introduced to the lead character who is in a catatonic trance. Mistaken for a corpse he is taken to hospital which is where the audience, but not the rest of the cast, discover that he is still alive. The story is then told in flashback as we hear Sorel's thoughts as he tries to remember the mystery he uncovered and how exactly he ended up in this state. To reveal any more of the twists of the plot than this would be a sin, it's much better to go into this film knowing very little of the storyline.
The acting is extremely good and so too is the direction. While Aldo Lado may not have the style or flair of an Argento or Bava he knows how to tell a good story. This may not be a movie for all tastes but it's one I hope will receive a larger audience. Maybe it's recent R1 dvd release will help to achieve that.
It often happen to see movies in which it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to understand why some people decide to make evil actions. In Kubrick Eyes Wide Shut, for example, it is not clear why so many people decide to act in such a way (I refer to the orgy and rituals of the old mansion) and this is probably because such reason is eventually not functional to the real message of the story. On the contrary, in this obscure but very enjoyable Italian giallo, the ritual has its logical explanation, which is also nicely hidden in the title of the movie (short night...glass dolls...): it is a desperate and illusory attempt to keep young, to fight death. But also, as it has been suggested by the director himself, an attempt of the old generation to live at the expenses of the young ones (a political statement nowadays even more real and rue than it was back in the '70s). Beyond this simple concept, the movie itself develops quite nicely, supported by a good cast and a nice score by Morricone. Prague looks the perfect location and the final is quite unusual and strong... Definitely worth seeing and rediscovering it... another Italian hidden gem from the Seventies!
Hardly ever a movie got me clinging to my chair so much till literally
the last seconds! "Malastrana" tells the story of a journalist (Jean
Sorel) in Prague. He lies helplessly in a hospital and remembers in
flashbacks how his girlfriend (young Barbara Bach) disappeared. Since
the police was not helpful, he tried to find clues what has happened to
her. Abduction, murder, or did she just run away?
In true giallo tradition, this is a movie about bizarre killings employing an eccentric visual style, dark and mysterious, but "Malastrana" is more than that. In a dialogue which was cut from the original German version (restored for the DVD release 2006), an old man bitterly sums up how the rich and powerful will always find somebody else to die for them, from the soldier on the battlefield to the... well, butterflies. You don't understand my last remark, I guess. You will when you watch this movie. Hush! No more.
Aldo Lado's stylish 1971 giallo "Short Night of the Glass Dolls" is the story of Gregory(Jean Sorel),a reporter who is found dead in a Prague park.However his brain is alive as we can hear his frantic thoughts.It appears that his beautiful girlfriend Mira(Barbara Bach)has vanished without a trace and Gregory,along with his reporter pal Jack(Mario Adorf),work to uncover the secret of a mysterious group of Prague's wealthy elite who operate inside the mysterious Klub 99."Short Night of the Glass Dolls" is a fine Italian giallo.The plot is bizarre and rather unpredictable and there is a decent amount of sleaze.Ennio Morricone again provides the music.It should be noted that this film is pretty hard for me to classify as a giallo in the traditional sense as it contains no black-gloved assassin.Still it's worth checking out for fans of Italian horror.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Short Night of Glass Dolls is an unusual gialloesque thriller set in
Prague in Czechoslovakia. The film has a Central European ambiance that
is unfamiliar to giallo cinema. The oppressive Communist backdrop is
unsettling. The Prague of this film is one of decay, reflected by the
fact that a number of the populace have disabilities a blind man and
woman, a man with no legs and a man suffering a seizure. The story
involves an American journalist, Gregory Moore, who is discovered dead
in a square in the city. Except he isn't actually dead. He merely
appears that way but is instead in a state of paralysis where he is
powerless to alert anyone to his dilemma. From this point the film
alternates between Moore's situation in the mortuary where he has been
scheduled to go under the knife in a public autopsy and a series of
flashbacks that tell the story of how he got into his current
predicament. It transpires that Moore's girlfriend had suddenly
vanished from his house one night when he was called away on a false
lead. The authorities prove unhelpful in the subsequent search and
Moore then goes on his own search, discovering that there had been a
series of other girls who had went missing under similarly mysterious
circumstances. Events lead to Klub 99, a mysterious society where
chamber music is celebrated. The search leads to a trail of murder and
dark secrets that push Moore to the edge of madness, leading to an
This is a slow paced thriller with little sex or violence. But it is not a weak movie at all. It's a little oddity that has a giallo feel despite not really being a full-on giallo. In this respect it is similar to The House With Laughing Windows, in that it is a dark little gem of a movie that goes against the conventions of the genre and is an original piece of work; like that movie, too, this is little seen, which is a shame. One of the things this film has got in common with other early 70's giallos is its crazy title Short Night of Glass Dolls is possibly the most meaningless of the lot! The movie benefits from an Ennio Morricone score. The maestro was knocking out scores to these kind of movies ten to the dozen and this is another strong effort. It alternates between dramatic orchestral work, menacing jazz compositions and breathy, wordless female vocals courtesy of the legendary Edda dell'Orso. The soundtrack goes a long way in creating an atmosphere of suspense. Acting is pretty solid. Jean Sorel is a good lead and Barbara Bach, although not given much to do, is quite stunning. José Quaglio is also memorably vampiric. Aldo Lado handles the whole film well. His use of flashback scenes and recurring motives of chandeliers and butterflies is clever and well done. Despite not a great deal happening in the first half of the movie, Lado gradually pulls us into the mystery. And the ending really is very good.
A body is discovered on the streets of Prague. Only hours before an
autopsy is performed on him, we learn he's not really dead, but trapped
inside his body and trying desperately to recall the events leading up
to this predicament. And hopefully avoid the autopsy.
This Aldo Lado directed giallo has a lot going for it. Not a traditional giallo, but rather an inventive spin on the formula. It's cleverly written, decently acted and quite suspenseful at times but somehow misses the bull's eye. It drags a bit, could have used some trimming perhaps. Also, the end solution is bit of a letdown, but maybe that's just me. I found it a bit much, the buildup was better than the conclusion. But a big thumbs up for the chilling ending.
Lado is very stylish at times but Argento he's not. Quite good all the same.
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