Short Night of Glass Dolls

04/01/2021 06:34

Film: Short Night of Glass Dolls (La corta notte delle bambole di vetro)

Year: 1971

Director: Aldo Lado

Writer: Aldo Lado and Rüdiger von Spies

Starring: Ingrid Thulin, Jean Sorel and Mario Adorf



This was a movie that I never heard of until I got into listening to podcasts. I believe that it was Duncan from over on The Podcast Under the Stairs that first brought it to my attention. If memory serves, he covered this on the Summer Challenge series for the 1970’s and then did an episode just on this one. It was one that I really wanted to check out as I feel he went into spoilers and this was a movie to experience. I finally did as part of his show Where to Begin with Giallo over on the TPUTS Collective. The synopsis for this movie is an American journalist temporarily stationed in Central Europe searches for his new girlfriend, who has suddenly disappeared.

We start this movie with a man who is sweeping up the courtyard outside of some buildings. He is shooing away a bird that leads us to a man. The attendant checks on him to discover he is dead. Another man who does not have legs then rolls up and the caretaker asks him to stay there while he calls the authorities. It then gives us a tour of the city as this man’s body is in the ambulance.

The man in the park is Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel). We learn this through his passport as a doctor and nurse go through his effects. It appears he is dead, but we can hear his thoughts. He tries to show he is alive, but all signs aside from him not being cold that he is no longer living. Gregory is then taken to the morgue.

It is there that he’s put into a cooler and starts to think about the events that led him to where he is now. Gregory was a reporter and he works with Jessica (Ingrid Thulin) and Jacques Versain (Mario Adorf). He leaves early that day to pick up his girlfriend from her train, Mira Svoboda (Barbara Bach). She brings him a gift of butterflies in a case. The two of them go to party with his co-workers are in attendance, amongst others.

That night Gregory gets a call from Jack and he goes to follow up the lead. It turns out to be nothing and when he returns home, Mira is gone. All of her clothes are still there, her passport, money and personal effects, but she is nowhere to be found. He calls the police and they send over Kommissar KierkoffGregory offers to help them in the investigation and they sternly rebuff the offer. This doesn’t stop him from trying to find out what happened to her. This leads him to a dark plot where other missing women have similar stories and follow a similar pattern. Where could she have gone and why is Gregory in this odd state of suspended animation? Can he show signs of life before it is too late?

That’s where I want to leave my recap as it gets you up to speed with what we’re getting here. What I find interesting though is that we really don’t jump into the beginning of the events until like 15 minutes into the movie. The premise with Gregory just stuck there while the doctors, nurses and the morgue attendants are looking him over gets really tense early into all of this. It is an interesting way to present this movie and it also reminded me of a short story that I read from Stephen King. His had to deal with a snake biting someone. It does make me wonder if he happened to see this movie at some point before writing that as well.

Now this movie really does have that classic giallo feel with a bit of a twist. I liked that our main character of Gregory is a reporter. It makes sense that he delves into the investigation like he did, especially for his girlfriend. The mystery that he jumps into is pretty wild as the police’s explanation makes sense. He must not have realized that she had more clothes. There is no sign of forced entry or a struggle. She either left with someone or on her own accord. What makes it tenser is we know where Gregory ends up. He needs to solve this mystery in his head, before it is too late. 

There is a lot of information I’m also leaving out here as I don’t want to go into spoilers for this. All I will say is that the more Gregory looks into all of this, the darker it becomes for sure. He has the police who already have him as a suspect. The more he looks into the things, the more upset that they become. Jessica wants him to give it up as she doesn’t feel that Mira is worth his time and effort. It is even eerier that when he asks questions to the family or those close to the other missing girls, they don’t want to respond. With the reveal it makes a lot of sense.

I think that next I will shift this over to the acting. Sorel is really good in this movie as the lead. What is interesting is that we first get introduced to him as he’s ‘dead’. Listening to his thoughts about his plight and how he might be killed got my anxiety going. To take it even farther though, he starts to question if he is dead as well. Hearing him consider giving up makes it heartbreaking. Thulin is solid in her role. She is bias as she loves him and wants him to choose her. I like the role that Adorf is playing. Bach is quite attractive in the minor role that she actually has here. The rest of the cast I’d say rounded this out for what was needed. 

What are pretty interesting here would be the effects. There aren’t really a whole of them to be honest. What we do get is practical and I’d say that is mostly the medical science of the doctors trying to figure out if Gregory is really dead. One of them is Ivan (Relja Basic) and since they were friends, he is trying all of these treatments to help him. Aside from that, there’s some interesting cinematography that is done to equate some psychological things that are happening. We also get montages right before we jump into more events of the past. 

Something that really intrigued me and I had to bring up was the fact that Ennio Morricone did the score here. For me, this isn’t his best work and it doesn’t necessarily stand out to me. I will admit I do hold him to a high standard though since he was one of the best composers. The score did fit for what was needed and it never took me out of it. It did have a creepy vibe as well that help the mood of the film.

Now with that said, I really liked the idea this giallo film does something a bit different. We get the troupe of someone defying the police to get to the bottom of what is going on here. There is an added layer to this though that gets to see where our main character ends up and that he’s in a type of suspended animation. How deep things go and where it ends up was quite interesting to me. The acting is good. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects, but it doesn’t need them. The last thing would be the fact that Morricone did the music. Not his best work, but definitely solid and fit for what was needed. I'd rate this movie as really good.


My Rating: 8.5 out of 10