Originally titled "Malastrana," "Short Night Of Glass Dolls" marked the directorial debut of Aldo Lado, a former assistant director to Bernardo Bertolucci.
Lado's creepy little tale takes a seductive hook - a live man inexplicably mimicking the characteristics of a corpse - and details every nerve-racking nuance during the course of one night. Using a cast of then-popular Italian and international actors, some fine Prague locations, and eerie cinematography by Giuseppe Ruzzolini ("Burn!", "Teorema"), Lado's clever little film deliberately descends into a bizarre, somewhat Kafkaesque race for the truth, with virtually no gore - quite an accomplishment, considering other Giallo entries by 1971 had made great strides in showcasing crimson-drenched violence.
The anamorphic transfer is very sharp, and boasts some rich colour schemes (ah, those heady seventies), and the high contrast night sequences show off deep blacks with very little grain. The mono soundtrack is evenly balanced, although some of the accents of the dubbed voices crumple key dialogue. (Barbara Bach's voice, incidentally, is not her own in this English version.) Ennio Morricone's music offers minor variations of his haunting vocal theme, and is adequately mixed with the film's sound effects.
The lengthy trailer (in good condition) uses a great deal of music in place of dialogue to camouflage the film's 'foreign' origins, a ploy that certainly demonstrates the difficulty distributors had in marketing their wares to English-language countries (although incessantly flashing a main title card also reveals a certain contempt).
As Anchor Bay's other entries in their Giallo series, a concise interview with the film's writer/director sheds some light on the production's history, the leading actors, and a few funny anecdotes about the numerous title changes and Lado's physical battles with his prima donna cinematographer (who often referred to the film as "shit").
An excellent thriller worth hunting down, this title is available separately or as part of Anchor Bay's Giallo Collection box - the first of hopefully more volumes.
This title is available separately or as part of Anchor Bay's Giallo Collection box, which includes "Bloodstained Shadow," "The Case of the Bloody Iris," "Short Night Of Glass Dolls," and "Who Saw Her Die?"
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan