This film was part of the American Film Theatre series, an experiment in marketing films (all based on plays) that would not otherwise have been able to get financing. Instead of being released to the general public, only people who purchased a subscription to the American Film Theatre series could buy tickets to any of its films. (Exceptions were made for movie critics and members of award-granting organizations, such as the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which awards the Oscars.) As a result, only a small number of people ever saw any of the films in their theatre runs. To enhance the value of the subscriptions, subscribers were guaranteed that the films would never be shown on television and never released to the general public. Legal issues connected with these guarantees kept this film from being available in any form for nearly 3 decades. It was finally released on DVD in 2003. The American Film Theatre experiment was abandoned after 2 years.
Robert Shaw originally wrote the source play as a novel. Harold Pinter encouraged him to adapt the novel as a play. Apparently, Shaw once said in an interview that Pinter virtually had done the adaption to a play himself.
"The Man in the Glass Booth" was the first play that playwright Harold Pinter directed on the stage that wasn't one of his own written works. Pinter directed the original stage version of "The Man in the Glass Booth" on Broadway.
On the stage, in its original Broadway run at the Royale Theatre, "The Man in the Glass Booth" was directed by Harold Pinter whilst its lead character, Arthur Goldman, was played by Donald Pleasence. Unlike this film, Robert Shaw had a writer's credit for this stage production. All three received Tony Award nominations for Best Director, Best Actor and Best Play respectively.
In a 2005 interview, Arthur Hiller confirmed that Robert Shaw asked that his name be put back on the film after he saw the finished movie. However, by that time, all prints had been made and it was too late to include his name in the titles. Alternatively, according to the DVD, another reason cited was because Robert Shaw had died.
The source play and subsequently also this filmed adaptation were inspired by the kidnapping and war-crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann, the events themselves later becoming the subject of their own movie, The Trial of Adolf Eichmann (1997).
The play 'The Man in the Glass Booth' aroused a lot of controversy when it was originally staged in New York in 1968. When revived on the stage there during the mid-1990s, it still aroused some further controversy.
The meaning and relevance of the "glass booth" of the film's title is that it is a bulletproof glass booth placed in a courtroom to prevent the possibility of an assassination of the film's main character, subject and hero, Jewish Arthur Goldman, Nazi concentration camp survivor, who is on trial for war crimes, and may or may not be former Nazi SS Colonel Adolf Dorff, perpetrator of World War II atrocities. In film history, more often booths and cages have been shown in court-rooms in movies where usually serial killers have been on trial.