When I was asked to contribute to the Halloween 15, I immediately said yes, however when I was asked to take on “La corta notte delle bambole di vetro” (or “Short Night of Glass Dolls”) for those of us who don’t speak Italian, I must admit to being a bit nervous. Embarrassingly, my knowledge of Italian cinema in general is severely limited, let alone horror. Basically, unless we’re talking about Argento or Fulci, I’m clueless. I know there’s a lot of great material out there, I’ve just never been exposed to it. I even had to google the word “giallo”. I’m hoping I don’t come off sounding like a total moron with this write-up, but if that turns out to be the case, this was an attempt at an excuse.
Short Night of Glass Dolls opens with an American reporter is found seemingly dead in Prague by a groundskeeper. I say “seemingly” dead because as it turns out, he’s still very much alive, only trapped in his own body unable to move or speak. As he’s taken to the morgue, he begins to attempt to remember how he ended up this way. From here, the movie is primarily told through a series of flashbacks, narrated by the reporter (Gregory) as he presently lays in the morgue. We learn that his girlfriend strangely disappeared at a party the the two had attended. Unsatisfied with the work of the local law enforcement, Gregory begins looking for clues to her disappearance himself, and uncovers several similar unsolved cases of young women gone missing.
That’s about all I can say without spoiling the movie, and believe me this is one that you just need to experience for yourself. I’ve done a bit of research on the film since watching it, and it appears to be generally well-liked. Coming from someone who knew absolutely nothing about it, and as stated above, a limited knowledge of Italian cinema, it absolutely blew me away. I’m sad that it’s taken me this long to watch it. The movie is extremely slow paced, but performances never get boring, and the story kept my attention completely. I was glued to the screen waiting to see where things were going next. Then there was the payoff, the big reveal, and not only did I not see it coming, but I found it to be pretty disturbing and kind of hard to watch. High praise coming from yours truly, in case you’re wondering.There was even one final twist at the end, which I thought was great.
One of my absolute favorite things about watching older genre pieces is seeing how things that I am familiar with were influenced, even if slightly, by what came before. This one brought to mind a few examples. First and foremost was a Tales From the Crypt episode in which a doctor is injected with a drug that makes him physically appear dead, while his brain functions. The exact same thing happens here. Other things that came to mind included “Rosemary’s Baby”, which actually came out before this one, and more recently Ti West’s “House of the Devil”.
Overall, I have to say I genuinely enjoyed my time with Aldo Lado’s “Short Night of Glass Dolls”. It actually takes the term “slow burn” almost to extremes, but if you don’t mind that sort of film making, there’s a lot to like here. Nothing in the way of blood and gore, but it does have one fairly disturbing scene which got to me a little. Definitely worth a watch, although I might classify it as more of a thriller than true horror.
I’d like to take a moment to thank The Moon is a Dead World for asking me to take part in the Halloween 15. It’s always an honor to be asked to write for somebody else’s website, and I’ve been a regular reader of The Moon is a Dead World for a while now, so this one was particularly special. I also want to thank Ryne for bringing this gem to my attention. I had a blast watching this and writing it up. I fully plan to explore more Italian cinema, and if this one is any indication, I think I’m going to find plenty that I like.
If you didn't check out the link to The Moon is a Dead World above, I encourage you to give the site a visit. Immediately following my write-up in this post, Ryne also offers his take on the movie which is admittedly far more detailed and superior to mine, however be warned that he went into more plot detail than I did, so there are spoilers.