Review Date: July 4, 2002
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 7/9/2002
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
Upon its introduction in the early 1960's, the giallo film has been a prominent genre in European filmmaking. Combining both modern sex and violence in a stylish manner, auteurs like Dario Argento and Mario Bava pioneered the genre, keeping it alive with several well made mysteries spanning several decades. Aldo Lado also contributed to the giallo genre with a few forays into the genre. His first, and perhaps his best giallo film, was the little seen 1971 shocker, Short Night of Glass Dolls
. Laced with political commentary and a non-linear story, the film is different than most of the gialli of its time. Presented in widescreen and with some supplements, Anchor Bay has finally brought this film out of bereavement, so let's examine this specimen, shall we?
"Help me! Help me!" American reporter Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel
) yells as he lies on a hospital bed. "Listen to me!" he shouts to a nurse looking over his condition, but she does not hear a thing. Gregory is dead, or at least appears as so. He lies there motionless and without a heartbeat, as paramedics transfer him over to the morgue. Although physically lifeless, it appears that Greg's mind is still able to function. How did he get into this situation, and what can he do to get out of it? Gregory spends the remainder of the film attempting to recall his past, as the seconds tick away before his comatose body is disposed of.
Assigned to work in Russia, Gregory is reporting on a political murder which could be involved with government scandal. While working he befriends fellow worker Jacques Versain (Mario Adorf
), and declines passes made by Jessica (Ingrid Thulin
), a rival reporter. Gregory declines them because he is currently involved in a relationship with Mira (Barbara Bach
), who both plan to escape the heated political climate of the Soviet Union. Things are shaken up though, when Mira is found missing and Greg is seen as a top suspect.
Other people turn up missing or dead as Greg attempts to uncover why his girlfriend, as well as other young women have turned up missing. But his mischievous detective work obviously leads to his paralyzed condition, so he must concentrate and make sense out of the garbled recollections in his mind before it is too late.
As mentioned previously, Short Night of Glass Dolls
is not a traditional giallo film. Rather than a mere rehashing of the traditional gialli formula, this film is rooted subtly in politics. Made during a time when Italy's government was questionable, director Aldo Lado wanted to question what may happen to an individual rebelling against the system. There is not a single murder on screen, and other then a few drops of blood, no gore to be found. But the film manages to keep the viewers attention with an ambitious plot, stellar editing and photography techniques and a great score.
When the zombies are not on the screen, it is Richard Einhorn's truly eerie score that keeps the ominous tone sustained throughout the film. Consisting of subtle shrills and organ notes, the score is very unsettling, and as stated in the included commentary "pushes the film up 8 levels". The score meshes perfectly with the barren and isolated landscape, and heightens the doom and gloom of the main characters. There is no relief to the film, and its looming and ominous score makes this one frightening picture.
Since the complex story is split between Greg's recollections of the past and his lifeless present state, editing plays a key part in the films credibility and presentation. It is done quite well, with long takes heightening the romanticism involved in the story, as well as frantic cutting during the suspense sequences. A series of images also flash before the screen prior to each of Greg's many recollections, appetizing the viewer on the sequence that is to follow.
Giuseppe Ruzzolini's stylish photography is also nicely done, with some great film noir-ish touches, and some exaggerated color usage reminiscent of Argento's films. In Greg and Mira's dinner scene, the color red engulfs the two lovers, with a surrounding red wall and scarlet roses, giving the scene a delicate, amorous feel. In later scenes the camera constantly sweeps around the protagonist, providing the viewer with a full 360-degree window around Greg's paranoia, increasing the suspense to the proceedings.
Also serving to increase the suspense during the action scenes, as well as give the film a beautiful romantic flair during its passionate scenes, is musical genius Ennio Morricone's exquisite score. With some tender piano strokes and a drawn out violin solo, the love scenes are given a tone of lust and fervor. Such elegance is then offset by a shrilling and repetitious sound, heightening the elements of suspense in the picture. Morricone is no stranger to the gialli films, with several collaborations with Argento in his repertoire, and he knows how to give his genre offerings traditional, yet inspired, musical scores.
Short Night of Glass Dolls[/b] is a slowly paced and at times confusing film however, which prevent it from greatness. Several characters are introduced on camera, but given little exposition, making the story more complex than it need be. Greg, in his pursuit of finding the truth is involved in a number of situations, and several of which are not given enough background to logically discern what is occurring. Upon second viewing, things are much clearer, but had more background been given to the characters and events, then such a setback would have been prevented.
Complaints about the pacing and complexity of the story aside, Short Night of Glass Dolls
is a well done film with a hauntingly effective climax and turn of events. For his directional debut, Lado has created an ambitious and expressionistic film about paranoia and government conspiracy. With talent like Ennio Morricone and Giuseppe Ruzzolini behind elements of the film, this is an easy recommendation for gialli and suspense fans.
Anchor Bay presents the film in its original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, enhanced for 16x9 television sets, and this is a beautiful transfer. The print elements are remarkably clean and without blemishes, and the overall transfer is very sharp. Grain is also at a minimal, and flesh tones are nicely saturated as well. Despite being a low budget 1970's film, this transfer hardly looks its 30-year-old age. But like the majority of 1970's films, colors are dulled and lack vivaciousness. The film is full of beautiful cinematography, and thankfully AB has given the film a transfer that maximizes the effect of its visual imagery. This is a gorgeous transfer that looks much better than it should.
Unfortunately, the only audio track included on this disc is an English Mono track, and it is somewhat under whelming, considering the quality of the visuals. This is a dubbed film, and therefore the dialogue is added in the post-production stage. Such a practice negates unwanted ambient distractions and makes the voices sound much clearer. So although only mono, this track sounds extremely clear, with loud and projected voices from the entire cast. Morricone's stellar score also sounds fairly full and contains a decent range. The overall quality of the mono track is excellent, but this film would have sounded beautiful with an expansive 5.1 soundtrack. Given the obscurity of the film though, it is understandable that Anchor Bay only took the time for a mono track.
An eleven-minute interview with director Aldo Lado entitled "Strange Days of the Short Nights" is included on the disc, and it provides some interesting anecdotes about the films production. Lado speaks in his native language, so the interview contains subtitles, but Lado speaks with a lot of life and at a brisk pace, talking about casting, Morricone's score, the political implications of the film, and the famous ending, among other things. It could have been longer, but what is here is a treat for Lado fans and those wanting to know more about the film. There is a spoiler warning at the start of the interview for good reason too, don't watch this if you want the ending to be kept a secret.
Also included on the disc is an interesting, but revealing trailer for the film. It features several cues from Morricone's score, as well as a pulsing heartbeat. A text listing of Lado's films is also included, but is overall a needless extra. The menus are nicely animated with good transitions and excerpts from Ennio Morricone's music. While this disc is a little short on the extras, the interview is entertaining and gives the film a good background.
Short Night of Glass Dolls
is a little seen, but highly effective giallo and suspense hybrid, with an ambitious plot and story structure. The production values, from the editing to the cinematography are first rate, and give the film an increased professionalism. The visual quality of the transfer is striking, and the audio is sharp, although only in mono. Anchor Bay has included an entertaining interview with the director to bottom out a nice release of a largely unseen title. Highly recommended.
Movie - A-
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B-
Supplements - B+
- Running time - 1 hour 37 minutes
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Mono
- "Strange Days of the Short Nights" Featurette
- Aldo Lado Filmography