Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971)

My only prior experience of Aldo Lado’s films is Night Train Murders, which I saw some years ago and don’t think I liked very much; maybe I just didn’t quite buy him trying to spin some political significance onto a knock-off of Last House on the Left. I should probably give it another go, though, cos I did like this earlier film by him (his debut, indeed) somewhat better. A lot of commentary I’ve seen on the film seems to go “wah, it’s not a real giallo” as if that made some sort of difference; maybe it doesn’t live up to the “rules” of the genre but arguably it does something more interesting. The “dead man talking” idea, having a dead character relate proceedings, wasn’t new, having been done in Sunset Boulevard 20 years earlier, but the wrinkle here is that the character isn’t dead yet, everyone just thinks he is; he’s an American journalist working in Prague, and his “corpse” is found in a park there. The rest of the film is basically him flashing back to try and work out how he got into this predicament. As we find, all this stems somehow from him trying to help his lovely Czech girlfriend try and flee the country (don’t forget the then-recent historical events there), then she vanishes and the whole thing culminates in the discovery of who’s really pulling the strings behind the Czech establishment. So it’s not a regular giallo so much as it is a kind of 70s paranoia thriller with vaguely occult overtones, the sort of thing that could probably be remade reasonably well today (just update the period references)… don’t think it’s a masterpiece of the art of cinema, but it’s a pretty good first feature and Lado seems to have handled the political overtones in this film better than in NTM, at least in that you can actually see them here (I’m still not sure they’re as visible in the later film as he thinks)…

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