• La Corta Notte Delle Bambole Di Vetro (Short Night Of Glass Dolls)

    Released by: Camera Obscura
    Released on: October, 2015.
    Director: Aldo Lado
    Cast: Mario Adorf, Barbara Bach, Jean Sorel, Ingrid Thulin
    Year: 1971
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    The Movie:

    Written and directed by Aldo Lado, 1971’s Short Night Of Glass Dolls (also known as Malastrana) tells the strange story of Gregory (Jean Sorel), an American reporter who is working in Prague and whose body is found dead in a garden as the movie opens. The corpse is brought to the hospital and wheeled down to the morgue for an autopsy but as this happens we hear Gregory’s mind, evidently still alive somehow, pontificating on how he came to be murdered.

    It starts with Mira (Barbara Bach), Gregory’s beautiful girlfriend who goes missing under very unusual circumstances. When he comes home and finds she isn’t there he starts searching the city for her but he comes up empty handed. As he starts properly investigating her disappearance he comes to understand that Mira’s disappearance mirrors several other similar cases that have taken place in the area in the recent past. As he begins to put together the pieces of this strange puzzle he uncovers a conspiracy of sorts… the kind you shouldn’t get too close too.

    Lado’s directorial debut is a very good film indeed. While it’s not necessarily a Giallo in the traditional sense but it has enough in common with the genre that it should appeal to fans. What it lacks in gratuitous sex and violence it more than makes up for with an interesting and inventive premise told from an unlikely point of view and a fantastic ending that makes the deliberate buildup all worthwhile. The story is also very well written. As Gregory goes about his investigation and encounters the various players involved or possibly involved in the plot, each one is given sufficient motivation as to have involvement in what happened to Mira. There’s nobody you meet in the film and immediately say ‘nope, not it’ and dismiss and this helps aid a lot in terms of building suspense and not only holding your attention but in keeping you thinking throughout the film.

    Jean Sorel makes for a dashing enough male lead here. He looks good on camera and carries himself well in the picture. As such, it’s never a stretch to buy him in the part and it’s fair to say that this is actually one of his better and more nuanced performances. Barbara Bach looks great here and does fine in her role but it’s not exactly a starring turn, more of a cameo. The camera loves her though, and Lado makes good use of her screen time.

    Just as interesting are the locations. Lado makes excellent use of Prague’s streets and uses some distinctive color choices to ensure that there’s always something interesting on screen to look at. The story toys with the theme of the bourgeoisie exploiting the proletariat class, so setting the film in the then communist nation is an appropriate decision and one that ties into the way that blood is used throughout the film. Adding to all of this is one of Ennio Morricone’s fantastic scores, a collection of compositions that perfectly heighten the tension in the film and that are just as arresting and evocative on their own as they are when incorporated into the film itself. It’s a bit slow and a little out there by the time it’s all over, but for attentive viewers with a taste for the unusual, Short Night Of Glass Dolls is top notch.


    Camera Obscura wound up running into problem after problem when bringing this movie to Blu-ray, all of which was well documented on their Facebook page, but to summarize the elements they had not only suffered from print damage but were in fact moldy. They did a manual restoration by hand and then did some digital clean up to further enhance the picture and the end result is, despite the issues they ran into, genuinely impressive. There’s a lot of depth to the film and the transfer boasts excellent color reproduction and very strong black levels. At the same time, the image shows no obvious noise reduction or compression artifacts nor does it suffer from any edge enhancement. Skin tones look perfect and texture is also very, very strong. It took them a while to get this done, but they did it right – Short Night Of Glass Dolls looks beautiful here.

    As to the audio, you’re offered the choice of German or Italian language tracks, both in DTS-HD 2.0 Mono with removable subtitles available English and German. Both tracks sound quite good and the score really gets a nice upgrade in depth and clarity from the lossless audio. No problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are nicely on both tracks. The English dub that was included on the US DVD release years ago isn’t here but personally that wasn’t a problem for this reviewer.

    The first commentary on the disc (there are two in total) is from regular Camera Obscura contributors Christian Kessler and Marcus Stiglegger who speak in German (with optional English subtitles) about the history of the film and offer up some interesting critical analysis along the way. They share some details about the locations, make some observations regarding the score and also do a good job of giving us some social context for the film. The make the case for this one being a bit more unique in the pantheons of Giallo cinema, noting how it unfolds in a rather unorthodox manner and how it clearly uses more psychologically twisted elements than many of its ilk.

    Actor Jürgen Drews contributes the second commentary, and he prove to have a pretty sharp memory about the time he spent working on this picture and he looks back on it quite fondly. He tells some interesting stories about what it was like on set, how he came to be cast in the picture and quite literally about every actor and actress that he interacted with during the shoot. His enthusiasm is pretty admirable making this a nice addition to the disc.

    There are a few featurettes here too, the first of which is a twenty-minute piece entitled The Need To Sing which is an interview with vocalist Edda Dell'Orso. She speaks here not just about how she got into the music industry, the different films that she worked on over the years and her working relationship with the great Ennio Morrcone. Great stuff. We also get a a twenty-three minute called Cutting Glass Dolls in which Mario Morra, the film’s editor, is interviewed. He talks about cutting his teeth working on Jacopetti and Prosperi’s notorious mondo movies, some of the difficulties of his particular profession, and some of the challenges that arose in putting this particular feature together to get what Also Lado wanted up there on the screen in the finished version of the movie.

    Normally that would be enough but Camera Obscura have included a second disc in this set (a DVD, not a Blu-ray) that has yet more supplemental material! The main attraction on this second disc is a feature length ninety-five minute long documentary called Czech Mate that does a fantastic job of covering Aldo Lado’s entire career. It starts off by covering the early days where he worked as a writer specializing in thrillers and Spaghetti Westerns. Of course, from there he decided to get into the director’s chair and here we learn about many of the films that he has helmed over the years. There is, understandably, a pretty substantial focus on Short Night Of Glass Dolls – it’s not only unique but one of the more popular entries in his filmography – but other popular horror pictures like The Night Train Murders are also covered. He not only talks quite candidly about working in the film industry and about many of the people he encountered before retiring, but he also offers up some pretty blunt thoughts on the politics of his films and why some of those messages are in those movies in the first place. This is not only amazingly thorough but very well put together too, and it’s a huge addition to this release.

    Producer Dieter Geissler gets to talk for a half an hour in a featurette called Einmal Italien Und Zuruck. He talks about his obsession with film in his younger days, how he started out in the film industry working in front of the camera as an actor and then how he went about shifting into the producer role. He then talks about various Italian co-productions he was involved with over the years, and his thoughts and memories of working on Short Night Of Glass Dolls.

    Also on hand is an eighteen minute segment that is Lado providing commentary in French with English subtitles over different sections of the film. He offers up some interesting details as to what the shoot was like, his thoughts on the cast members he worked with and some details on the story that the movie revolves around. Again, this second disc also features menus in German and English and there are a couple of Easter Eggs tucked away in here too if you want to look for them.

    Both discs are housed inside slipcover that in turns holds the fold out section in which the discs are housed inside sturdy plastic trays. Also tucked away inside is a nice booklet of liner notes written by Kai Naumann and provided in French and English.

    The Final Word:

    Short Night Of Glass Dolls holds up well, a twisted and involving mix of Giallo style trappings with a psychological thriller style execution shot with loads of style and performed by a solid cast. Add to that a killer score and this is one Eurocult fans should enjoy, particularly as presented here. The audio and video are top notch and the extras are amazingly comprehensive and just as interesting. A very impressive release overall.
    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!