Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Eyes Shall See: Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971)

Short Night of Glass Dolls (La corta notte delle bambole di vetro) (Italy, 1971) (AKA "Paralyzed", "The Short Night of the Butterflies")
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Ingrid Thulin, Jean Sorel, Mario Adorf

To some horror fans, the term giallo is likely be associated with violent 70s Italian murder mysteries under the works of Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci or Dario Argento, which will become a strong influence to the existence of slasher movies, mainly because some gialli practiced the use of splashy yet methodic murders for their bodycounts, something that would become the key element to their more stalk-and-stab grandchildren. However, once in a while we get subtle oddities of a giallo that are much closer to noir thrillers than a bodycounting dead teenage flicks. Oddities like Perfume of a Lady in Black (1974), Death Laid an Egg (1968) and this title here, Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971).

From the very start, Glass Dolls catches our attention with a strange premise; on an early morning at a park in Prague, a body of a man is found by the park keeper who, assuming it is a corpse, phones the ambulance to pick it up. Upon arriving at the hospital, the body is identified as Gregory Moore, an American journalist, and somewhat baffles the nurses as one of them points out that it suffers very little rigor mortis. The reason for this is quite terrifying as it turns out Gregory is in fact still alive, but paralyzed in a death-like catatonic state and his situation will soon turn deadly as he is eventually deemed dead and to be dissected for a medical class.

Desperate for answers, Gregory has no choice but to try and recall what lead to his predicament and it is here we see what went on days earlier: while visiting the country, he fell in love with a local girl named Mira and promised to help her escape from Prague. She, unfortunately, disappeared after attending a social event, prompting Gregory and his two colleagues to investigate this when local police failed to do any form of progress on the case. What Gregory didn't expect is that this isn't the first time such a disappearance happened and there are people at high places working to keep it all a secret and they're not afraid to dispose a body or two.

Since it has a stronger approach on building an intriguing mystery than exploitative kill counts and sleaze, Glass Dolls does a commendable effort in bringing the serious out of its surreal plot as it begins with trailing through what could have been a standardized crime thriller, only to end up with a nightmarish scenario that greatly and effectively plays on paranoia. It can get a bit over-the-top with a few hiccups of cheese and the fantastic littered here and there, but the execution of its mystery in a near-whole is realistic at most and captivating enough to follow through even if the ride can get a tad bumpy, if not overlong at times.

The film looks and feels wonderful with its artsy use of visuals and haunting scores, both used quite often here to emphasize the dream-like quality of the story, as well as act as visual and auditory pieces to many recurring themes. Its editing and direction can leave the movie a bit too brooding for its own good, especially around the first half where our characters were given some form of development before they begin looking into or falling victim to whatever is going on within the city. It can get a while to get things going in turn, but once the movie crawls its way to its climax, the surrealist nature eventually sobers down and patiently works its way to a possibly grim conclusion.

Talents involved were okay-ish for most parts, including Jean Sorel as our now-victim-then-cocky-journalist Gregory Moore who does a good run on his slow character transformation, and Barbara Bach as the mysterious Mira who is more or less a pretty face before she becomes a simple name that just drives the plot to wherever it needed to go. Suffice to say, not a whole lot to discuss about acting as it's hardly that bad, but it's not that spectacular either.

Since the murders are often offcamera and whatever gets to be shown onscreen aren't all that creative, those expecting the same kind of brutality or showmanship on the killing department may need to look elsewhere, or at least try to loosen up. For its worth, Short Night of Glass Dolls is a recommendable giallo title for those who love a good mystery on their Italian thrillers and don't mind a little tameness and strangeness along an incredible setting.

1 male seen dead
1 female body found near a river
1 male thrown off from an overpass, falls to his death
1 female seen dead underneath flowers
1 male murdered with a switchblade offcamera
1 male stabbed on the chest with a scalpel
Total: 6

1 comment:

  1. Donno, but the woman who lied dead naked under the flowers, seem to juat steal all the spotlight ♥