The Glass House (TV Movie 1972) Poster

(1972 TV Movie)

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TV movie or not, one of the best prison movies ever
dolemite7214 August 2004
THE GLASS HOUSE, is a stomach-churning morality play. However, it's morals are more grounded in reality (so don't go expecting happy endings or dangerous escapes) and the underlying theme of 'forced corruption' is evident throughout. ALAN ALDA, gives a performance light years away from MASH (check out WHISPERS IN THE DARK, as well) and (the late, great) VIC MORROW matches him, in a gutsy role, as an all too human 'bully'.Apperently, a lot of real-life inmates were cast as extra's in this movie. But the professional cast fit in so well, it's quite hard to tell. At certain points, the viewer can (or wants to) identify with ALDA, as he wants to help others, but also wants to maintain his pride. It asks us questions about ourselves, is there a fine line between foolishness and cowardice? Given that this movie was also made the same year i was (ha-ha!) it may now seem 'formulaic' in regards to set up, but i'm sure this broke a lot of new ground, when first released. The scenes of ALDA running for his life, will set any viewers pulse racing, and 32 years on, the movie has to power to shock and mortify.

Usually released at a TV-friendly running time of 73 minutes, my recently purchased 'CATCOM' DVD runs in at 91. And certain scenes include profanity and mild nudity, so i wonder if this movie was intended to go to theaters?

Great movie 10 out of 10
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How would you cope?
keithw-515 December 2005
I saw this film at the cinema in the UK in 1972. I remember being pretty shocked and disturbed by it. Actually, I think it helped to keep me on the straight and narrow (more or less) when I spent a year in the States some years later! There was no way that I wanted to end up in an American nick! 1972 is a long time ago and my memory is not what it was, nevertheless the film has stayed with me and I often mention it when discussing contemporary films. I would love to see it again and recommend it to anyone with a strong stomach. Scum - a British film set in a borstal, which was made round about the same time, is also with looking out for.
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A must-see masterpiece
cryofry17 June 2005
I just saw this movie for the first time last night and think that it is absolutely BRILLIANT! It should have been given a theatrical release, as it is so far above par than most movies that I have seen.

Alan Alda gives a fantastic performance as Jonathan Page, a college professor convicted of manslaughter. Alda has amazing on-screen presence in this film, and his acting is top-notch. The ensemble cast is equally as good.

You can buy this movie on a budget DVD for around $3.00 and it is worth it! The picture quality is adequate, too.

Rent it, buy it, watch it!
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For rent at the local video store? It's amazing!
stamper30 May 2005
How many TV movies do you know of, that are for rent at the local video store? Not that many I bet ey? Well then how many do you know that are more than 30 years old? None I bet! I know of only one, and this is it! Although I must say that it cost me a pretty penny to rent this one (almost 6 euro's), I cannot say that money went to waste.

The idea of renting this film actually came from my parents who had seen this one on TV in the 70's. It had made a very deep impact on them and each time I'd watch a prison film with my dad he'd start about this one (just as he keeps saying that Le Collectionneur des cerveaux is a great film). When I finally looked it up on IMDb I was amazed that the film was written by the great Truman Capote, which then became one of the main reasons I wanted to see this film and I cannot say that I was disappointed.

The Glass House is a strong film about life in prison and still accurate and up to date more than 30 years later, since it depicts what is rotten at the core of the prison system. I do not imply that anything can done to change it, but I guess the film tells us the sad truth about human beings. What they will do for money, what they will do with power and eventually what they will do to each other.

The performances in this film are very good and since it is quite graphic for a 30 year old TV movie I can understand that it must have been quite shocking back in the day. Nowadays (after Shawshank and Animal Factory) you just are not as easily impressed anymore. I've seen worse on news channels to be honest and that in all honesty is the only part where the movie suffers from it's age. It's just not as raw, brutal and in your face as 30 years ago.

While I have to admit that the story has a pretty basic 'prison' movie plot, the direction, characters and the quality of the acting keep it interesting and exciting. Something not all movies from the 70's, hell even movies now accomplish. While this film hast lost some of it's edge to aging, I guess I have to agree with my parents and say that this is definitely a film that will stick around in your head. Maybe not the whole film but I bet that you'll remember the surprise ending. I know I will remember it, along with Vic Morrow's great performance.

7 out of 10
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Exceptional early tv
roulette-22 April 1999
I wish I had the video in my library but it's very hard to find...Rented copies are suspected 'pirated' copies from tv. Very poor quality. This is Morrow's best role. Alda's best role and Gulager's best role. The most believable prison movie ever made. No heroes here just heavy reality crammed into 90 minutes on network tv! Makes "The Shawshank Redemption" look like "Mary Poppins". Kudos to Morrow (the most vile characterization ever captured on film). Think "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" without the comic relief. Too depressing to make my top 10 list but it's in the top 20.
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"The Glass House" : Shatters How You See Alan Alda
happipuppi1323 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
There's no mistaking that a lot of us have a perception of Alan Alda as "a nice guy with great intentions" and that a lot of people still think of him only as Hawkeye Pierce. If they saw "The Glass House" and certain other movies with Alda,they would not believe their eyes! From the first scene of Alda and the other prisoners,plus the new guard and veteran,riding in a bus to the Utah State prison,you know this is not going to be pleasant. Johnathan Page (Alda)has his life torn apart when a drunk driver hits his wife,while she crosses the street with their baby's (thankfully empty)stroller.

Page thinks his wife's been killed (she hasn't) and he attacks the driver,he strikes him and the driver falls and cracks his head open killing him. A gruesome scene,given how we're used to seeing Alan. After arriving he and the others are processed and photographed. While getting their showers,other male prisoners watch them,including soon to be enemy Slocum (Vic Morrow)the ring leader.

The truth hasn't really sunk in for Page and it's most obvious when Slocum and crew try to strong arm him to accept their "protection". Page refuses and Slocum isn't pleased and basically tells Jonathan without words that he's made an enemy. Page is tapped to work in the prison pharmacy with a man named Lennox (Billy Dee Williams)who's serving for life. (Despite being a TV movie,Williams utters a swear you "never" hear on TV,now that's gutsy)

The new guard who rode up with Page is shocked but not completely surprised at what he finds going on there. A veteran guard is crooked as can be and doesn't care what the prisoners do,including killing each-other. He and Slocum have an arrangement. This arrangement is kept record of in small book by another prisoner,who fearing for his life,hands it off to Page.

There's many a disturbing scene,for 70s TV,including a scalding of a prisoner with a vat of soup,a stabbing,a gang rape of the youngest prisoner & his later suicide. Then there's the climactic chase when Slocum and his fellow prisoners chase after Page through the prison halls (after the crooked guard opens their cells for them). It's incredible to see Alda in a role where he actually,physically fights back! I won't spoil it any further but anyway you can find to see this movie,do it! If you don't like scenes like the ones I've described,it may be best to stay clear. Some of them even unnerved me. A great example of what a great writer Truman Capote was.

10 stars all the way.(END)
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Take yourself to 1972 and this is a damn good genre piece.
Spikeopath4 March 2008
Anybody visiting this for the first time now who can't take themselves back to 1972 (the time of the film's release) are going to be screaming formulaic. Luckily as a fan of the genre and holding a steadfast belief that a viewer should always get a mindset of a film's original release period, I wouldn't dream of calling this formulaic.

This is something of genre perfection because the makers realise that incarceration should be stifling, the viewer should feel a level of oppression to get on side with the nature of the film, and here they achieve that with a feeling of simmering menace bubbling under the surface, you know that things are going to go pear shaped and it's the waiting that drives you on in an uneasy state.

All the pieces are in place for classic prison drama, tough nasty bad guy exuding menace (a wonderful creeper turn from Vic Morrow), the screw who is the lone voice of authority who cares (take a bow Clu Gulager), the good guy main protagonist who we are rooting for (a fine heartfelt turn from Alan Alda), and a story that doesn't veer to nonsense (from the pen of one Truman Capote).

The violence is shocking, and of course rape and suicide is prominent, all the things to make the viewer stunned and saddened in equal measure are here, but most of all the film triumphs with its ending, there is no cop out here and the makers were brave enough to not slip into maudlin pay off that so many prison genre films tend to do.

For this new modern era of film making there is nothing new here, but for 1972 and a TV movie, this is well worth support and sampling by any potential first time viewers. 8/10
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Compelling but slightly undelivering prison drama
davideo-220 October 2005
STAR RATING: ***** The Works **** Just Misses the Mark *** That Little Bit In Between ** Lagging Behind * The Pits

Jonathan Paige (Alan Alda) is a bright young college professor who blows it all after accidentally killing the man who nearly killed his wife. When he enters the notorious prison known as 'the Glass House', he quickly comes to the attention of Hugo Slocum (Vic Morrow) a man who seems to have quite some influence over a gang of other inmates. Slocum is desperate to impose his will and make Jonathan aware of how powerful he is and for a while he is happy to playalong with this. However, when Slocum begins exploiting a vulnerable young prisoner, he takes a stand against this. What follows is a desperate power struggle that will build up to an electrifying climax where only one will come out on top.

Breakfast at Tiffany's author Truman Capote here delivers a prison drama entry. I didn't like it very much at first because I was mislead by the back cover a bit, but while I was watching it I knew I was watching a film that was too well made and well written to be written-off as a complete failure so I've watched it again.

Slocum's build-up from an easy-going, slightly friendly guy into the psychotic thug he really is is quite engaging but when his villainous turn comes round he's just not quite nasty and thuggish enough. And as well-written as Alda's part is, his character adapts to prison life a bit too easily for a man of his nature and it's hard to believe someone with his temperament could confront a gang like Slocum's so full-on. The most believable part is that of the young boy, who very honestly delivers a true portrayal of naivety and vulnerability. The black pharmacy worker (very well played bya young Billy Dee Williams) is also a significant part, portraying the standard repressed black character in a prison film made in the very early 70s.

For all this, though, as I said, it's just too well-made and well-conceived to be completely rubbish and it's very admirable how it's all pulled off at such a short length. ***
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smswenson31 January 2003
College professor is sentenced to a maximum security prison for manslaughter. Early made-for-television prison film is well worth seeing despite familiar story line and characters. Impressive direction, cinematic quality acting, good script and not a miscast anywhere. Viewers may also enjoy "Shawshank Redemption" (1995), "Escape From Alcatraz" (1979) and "Runaway Train" (1985). (Rating: A-minus)
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Alan Alda is just great
CooperCom5 December 1999
Good movie with good actors, especially Alan Alda who really is a great actor. This prison-movie is one of the best of it's kind. The whole thing seems very serious and realistic. Not mush more to say really, but to recommend it.
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It's Own Rules of Order
bkoganbing14 October 2011
The Glass House is a prison film so well crafted and so realistically depicting life in the joint that it should have been given big screen theatrical release. As it is it's one of the best made for television films ever done.

Both corrections officer Clu Gulagher and convict Alan Alda start their servitude in The Glass House where there are no secrets. And like any other society it establishes it's own rules of order. There's a hierarchy among the convicts and among the guards. Presiding over all of it is Dean Jagger who probably correctly surmises that corruptions are needed to keep these most anti-social of men in some kind of line.

Into this world comes Alan Alda, former college professor who killed a man he thought had run down his wife and killed her. The wife turns out to have survived. Alda can no more adapt to this society than Montgomery Clift could adapt to the rules of survival in that company in From Here To Eternity. He's not become institutionalized. For that you've to reference the characters James Whitmore played in The Shawshank Redemption or Telly Savalas in Birdman Of Alcatraz. Neither can Kristoffer Tabori who is just a kid doing hard time for selling marijuana, a product of those insanely draconian drug laws.

Heading the white cons is Vic Morrow and the black cons is Billy Dee Williams. Williams is now thoroughly politicized inside the joint and thinks he's leading a revolution. Interesting to analyze his character's motivations with the changes made over the past 40 years since The Glass House was aired.

As for Morrow, he's a thoroughly institutionalized man who can just about anything he wants in the joint, but a woman. Nevertheless these macho cons have their own set of rules about sex in the joint. Morrow also is a study in evil and gives what maybe his career performance.

The film is based on a story by Truman Capote who made a study of convicts and really got into their anti-social heads first in In Cold Blood and now in this film. Director Tom Gries got some great performances out of his cast and the film is tight without a second of boring film in the movie. Charlton Heston in his autobiography said that Gries was one of the best directors he ever worked with, Gries did Will Penny with Heston and Heston noted it was a real tragedy that Gries died as young as he did, it was quite the loss to Hollywood.

After almost 40 years, The Glass House has lost none of its impact when viewed now or back then as I did. If this is broadcast absolutely do not miss this film.
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Superb film
niall_mcquaid17 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A superb but grim film depicting life in a US prison in the early seventies. This was shown a few nights ago on the Movie4Men channel and surprisingly at 2.30 in the morning. Its the first time I have seen this film, and can only compare it to two British films made seven years later, namely Scum which has a very similar scene to The Glass House, that of buggery and suicide and McVicar with Roger Daltery from The Who playing the main character, two grim prison films that will make you think twice about committing a crime. The same can be said for The Glass House, Alan Alda is brilliant as the sensitive but intelligent type who is in the wrong place, the prison scene at the starting where he is sitting in his tiny cell is overpowering and claustrophobic, the sounds and distractions just dawning on him, of what a hell hole he's incarcerated in. Alda's performance is really refreshing as his normal genre is usually comedy, its nice to see him in a realistic drama. This film is not for the faint hearted.
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The Prison Racket
Lechuguilla13 April 2009
This film provides a scathing indictment of the American prison system. The story and characters are fictional. But the film was shot entirely in a real-life prison. And many of the extras are actual prisoners.

The lead character is a straight-arrow college professor named Jonathon Paige (Alan Alda). He's a new arrival, and he has no intention of playing the usual prison games. The antagonist is Slocum (Vic Morrow), a veteran prisoner who, along with his buddies, runs Cell Block C, where Paige is assigned. Slocum is a bully who uses a carrot and stick approach to get what he wants. And Cell Block C is his little fiefdom.

The plot is straightforward and easy to follow. There's a lot of dialogue, which is to be expected in a setting that is so closed and claustrophobic. Most of the conflict is verbal, but some is physical. A major plot point that figures in the story's climax is introduced a little late in the story. It needed to be introduced much earlier.

Cast and acting are acceptable. Cinematography is fairly standard. In the copy I watched, images were a tad grainy and blurry. The film has rather little background music. Most of the ambient sounds are natural to the setting.

Prison movies tend to be alike, with the same general setup and depressing tone. "The Glass House" fits within that description. On the other hand, the film's theme is a bit more pronounced. The message is that prisons function off-limits to standard institutional accountability. As a result, corruption flourishes. One is left with the impression that the American prison system is an institutional racket, and the prisoners are victims of the corrupt guards and administrators. In this view, prisons are as criminal as the inmates.
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Real Life Prison Scenes
Richie-67-48585219 January 2012
For its time and up until now, this remained one of the most shocking movies to be released and what makes it even more compelling is that what you are seeing is not only true, but even watered down a little. If you know nothing about prison, this is one of the few movies out there that really tells it like it is. What people do not realize when they go into prison that the existing powers at work do not operate independently but collaterally. It is one big game designed to get you or your money. Killing you doesn't profit anyone, but using you does and this movie portrays those stark realities. Most men who frequent prison believe they can take care of themselves and for the most part it is true. However, they also find out that they may be up against groups of people and when attacked makes it very hard to defend ones self. Thus the drama and suspense that builds up in this movie and then explodes in your face. How can you fight everyone? Fear will visit you if you even entertain for a moment...what would I do in those circumstances...Very chilling and sobering thought and a great movie to show certain kids as a deterrent. Recommend finger foods to fight off the urge to bite your nails. Easy on the caffeine and sugar as you will already be fidgeting pretty much...Oh and enjoy your self
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"This is dynamite...looking for a fuse!"
moonspinner5516 August 2015
A college professor convicted of manslaughter and a corrections officer just beginning his new job both try to survive the rigors of time behind bars in a rough state prison. Filmed in an actual prison with real convicts as extras, this acclaimed TV-movie, from a story by Truman Capote and Wyatt Cooper, is frank and brutal but doesn't show much headway from the James Cagney movies on the late show. Director Tom Gries won an Emmy for his work, but there's too much of swaggering Vic Morrow as the proverbial head honcho of the prison ward, and the rest of the supporting characters are just as clichéd. Purports to be a realistic portrait of a convict's experience, but the old Hollywood machinery is in full force regardless.
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about the DVD version
beezus18 March 2000
Boo hiss!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaargh! The DVD version does not have subtitles in English. Nor are there closed-captions. Wish the producers had considered people who cannot hear all the dialogue.
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Frightening and Fascinating
BDeWittP7 March 2018
The Glass House is as interesting and fascinating as it is gruesome and horrifying. After seeing all the accounts of corruption and violence, we have every reason to believe it when the opening credits say "The story and characters are ficticious (sic), but the situations are real." It's also kind of ironic and comical that whoever wrote that sentence needs a course in spelling. This movie, as I understand, was filmed entirely on location in Utah State Prison. Many, if not all, of the extras are real inmates, which adds to the authenticity of the film.

The movie begins a with handful of convicts, including a college professor named Jonathon Paige (Alan Alda); a naïve, young drug pusher, Alan Campbell (Kristoffer Tabori), and an idealistic corrections officer named Brian Courtland (Clu Gulager) all starting their first day in prison. The new fish are introduced to the brutal, vicious crime boss Hugo Slocum, played brilliantly by the classic villain character actor Vic Morrow. We know he means business right from the get-go ("...when I offer you somethin' for free, you take it!").

Paige is assigned to work in the prison pharmacy, where he refuses to supply one of Slocum's men, Ajax (Scott Hylands), with drugs. Big mistake. Now he's really put a bullseye on his back. "Too bad," says the other inmate in the pharmacy, whom we only know as Lennox (Billy Dee Williams), "you could've done easy time." Amen. We learn there is sometimes a fine line between morals and sensibility.

The story reveals more violence, corruption, and tragedy: there's a scalding, knifing, gang rape, and an accidental shooting. At first, Officer Courtland, being a man of principle, is excited and anxious to work in the prison system, because he wants to make a difference. The guards, however, seem to be content to look the other way, and the Warden seems oblivious, too. As Courtland sees the unraveling of violence among the inmates, along with corruption and indifference among the staff, he begins to question the integrity of the system. Just as Lennox bluntly states, "Cons, guards, can't tell the difference after a while." We see that this is shockingly true.

Courtland tries to warn the cold Warden (Dean Jagger) that a killing is inevitable, but the Warden shrugs it off by saying "Sometimes it's just better to let certain given situations adjust themselves" (translation: I don't care if the inmates kill each other). Meanwhile, another one of Slocum's gang, who knows he's going to be slain shortly, gives a handwritten notebook, with records of the guards Slocum bribed, to Paige. They both know that if the book can somehow get to the right people on the outside, the violence and corruption can be exposed. However, the situation is about to boil over, and Paige knows time is closing in on him.

The characters are all very well-written and well-played by the actors. Alan Alda is convincing as the sincere and confused professor who is trying to keep everyone off his back, do his time and get out. Vic Morrow is magnificent as the tough, brutal, ruthless gang boss who wants it his way or no way at all, and will kill anyone who challenges him. Clu Gulager is equally resounding as the heroic, wholesome prison guard who is a little wet behind the ears. Kristoffer Tabori gives a good performance as the little lost puppy with his tail between his legs. We know he's going be attacked sooner or later, and he plays fear and realization best with the horror in his eyes and his facial expressions. Billy Dee Williams's character, Lennox, the inmate who is morally correct, yet tough and smart enough to know the art of prison survival, was one of the most interesting in the film, but could've benefitted from more screen time. We really believe his sincerity when he says, "I want these men to realize their value as individuals and as human beings." I would've like to have known a little more about him, and what made him tick.

The Glass House raises a lot of interesting and provocative questions about society in general and the prison system specifically. "I'm not in love with this system, but it's all we've got, and it's better than having no system at all" says the Warden, stone-faced. Is it true? Or is the system whatever we make it to be? Is prison always the answer for convicted criminals? Are there some inmates who are just bad apples that can't be rehabilitated? Are the prison personnel with morals and principles always going to be vastly outnumbered by the indifferent and corrupt? Are inmates nothing more to the penal system than garbage to be dumped in the prisons? Should prison be the living hell for convicts that the movie makes it out to be? Does prison really reform criminals? Can any positive changes be made to the penal system? Does anybody really care?
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Understated Which Isn't A Criticism
Theo Robertson6 June 2015
I saw this just over 30 years ago . I didn't realise it at the time but this was a TVM produced for television . Don't let that put you off because while not being in the same league as the HBO prison drama OZ when it comes to shock tactics THE GLASS HOUSE is in is own way a very effective understated prison drama helped by a script by Truman Capote and supposedly filmed at a real prison with real inmates used as extras

The story uses the usual structure of a newbie arriving in jail and finding himself in an alien and hostile location and whose previous skills are useless in an environment where only the cruel and heartless survive . In some ways the restrictions of what can be broadcast on American network television is an advantage here because the slow burning dramatic elements are to the fore . One subplot is prison bigwig Hugo Slocum taking a sexual shine to a young new arrival and the manipulation seen mirrors that in reality . Check out No Escape - Male Rape In American Prisons by Human Right Watch . Rape in prison often isn't carried out violently with a shank but done via emotional and mental manipulation where favours and friendliness comes at a very heavy price . Understated and with a good cast THE GLASS HOUSE is from an era when America did make memorable TVM productions
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throwing stones
BERSERKERpoetry20 January 2012
"The Glass House" is very much a ground level, heavy-hearted film. I've seen far more than my fair share of prison movies, and after a while, you start to grow bored of all the easy clichés. But instead of reminding me of other stories I've seen, "The Glass House" brings to mind documentaries of prison life. The dark side of just how unlivable things can be. This isn't about escape or change or anything at all positive. Just finding yourself in a situation where there's no way out and no right answer. The fact that they filmed in a real, active prison adds a level of reality you can't just dream up.

People like Alan Alda, Vic Morrow, and Billy Dee Williams were quite familiar to me, but they find a different approach here. There's a kind of subtlety that they wouldn't always get to employ in other films that is very convincing here. Everything seems real, and that makes for a powerful, frustrating, and ultimately heartbreaking story.
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