• Short Night Of Glass Dolls

    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: November 21, 2016
    Directed by: Aldo Lado
    Cast: Ingrid Thulin, Jean Sorel, Mario Adorf, Barbara Back Fabijan Sovagovic, Jose Quaglio, Relja Basic, Piero Vida, Deniele Dublino
    Year: 1971

    The Movie:

    The corpse of a reporter, Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel), is found in a park in Prague and taken to the morgue. Unbeknownst to the attendants checking him out, he’s actually alive but in a state of paralysis, unable to so much as blink an eye. As doctors wonder why his body has yet to become rigid with rigor mortis, Moore mentally flashes back to the events that led to his paralysis and the discovery of his “corpse”: An American, he is in town on an investigation, but things take a strange turn when his girlfriend, Mira (Barbara Bach), disappears while the two attend a party. It soon becomes clear to Moore that she isn’t the only pretty young woman to have disappeared in the area. At first the police are of little help, but as the investigation continues, they increasingly become obstacles to the truth. With the help of Jessica (Ingrid Thulin), Moore delves deeper into the mystery, only to find that the solution is as unexpected as it is gruesome.

    Short Night of Glass Dolls (original Italian title: La corta note delle bambole di vetro) is not a typical giallo. Most of its running time is dedicated to solving its primary mystery—the disappearance of Mira—with very little of the on-screen violence (or even the aftermath of violence) that so often punctuates this peculiarly Italian subgenre. However, during its denouement it takes a shocking turn into full-throttled horror terrain with one of the most sadistic and downbeat endings in genre history.

    Beginning life as Short Night of the Butterfly (a reference to the butterfly collection that Mira gives to Moore), Short Night of Glass Dolls was Aldo Lado’s directorial debut. He had begun his cinematic career in his native Italy as an assistant director in 1967 before graduating to screenwriting the very next year. After a couple of years of both, he moved up to film direction in 1971 with this, his first tentative step into horror territory. The film isn’t entirely successful, yet it does have audacious moments. For much of its running time, it’s simply too slow moving for comfort, and the mystery isn’t all that deep or interesting. Nor is Moore’s relationship with Mira particularly well developed; rather, it’s a series of cliched interactions designed to show the audience how cute and loving the two are. Performances are mixed, as one would expect, though Sorel (Belle de Jour, 1967; Day of the Jackal, 1973) and Thulin (Wild Strawberries, 1957; Cries & Whispers, 1972) are both fine.

    Regardless, Lado’s direction can’t be faulted. From the opening credit montage of city streets as seen from the cab of an ambulance to the way Lado frames virtually every scene, Short Night is the very definition of “eye candy.” It’s a visual treat that never stops given, even when the story itself falters. And for that reason, it’s a must-watch at least once, not only for gialli fans but also for horror aficionados.


    Short Night of Glass Dolls comes to Blu-ray in the United Kingdom via 88 Films, which has released it with an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. While that ratio is allegedly the same as the old SD release from Anchor Bay, there is slightly more information around the edges of the frame in this presentation. (Note: The film was also released on DVD by Blue Underground in 2008, but this reviewer does not have that version to compare.) Given the high bitrate—the film is placed on a BD50—and the fact that the film was given a lush new 2K scan from the original camera negative, it would be difficult to fault the visual presentation in any way. In this release, the film appears far sharper and far less “orange” than it did on the old AB DVD. The rich technicolor palette at times resembles that of a 1950s film while skin tones appear natural. Consider the bright adornments worn by some of the female characters, the pastel curtains that hang in some of the palatial locations, and so on. Detail exceeds expectations, with virtually every inch of every frame proving a substantial improvement over past standard-definition releases. The only exceptions occur when the cinematography is slightly out of focus. There is minor noise early on, but it soon resolves itself into an organic grain field that is pleasing and filmic. Details in a few of the darker scenes are crushed, but these moments are not the norm. Overall, this is a beautiful production, with a transfer that reflects Lado’s keen directorial eye.

    There are two soundtracks, with optional English subtitles that can be turned on for either. The first track is in English LPCM 2.0, while the second is in Italian LPCM 2.0. Voices are mixed front and center and are foremost, while Ennio Morricone’s eerie and lush score resonates beautifully. Dialogue, score, and sound effects are mixed neither too low nor too high, so tightly grasping the remote throughout the viewing remains unnecessary.

    Unfortunately, there are few extras, but these include an English-language trailer and an Italian-language trailer. The English trailer contains video-generated titles and is soft and waxy looking, while the Italian trailer contains original titles, has some dirt, debris, and scratches, and is much sharper. There are 12 chapter breaks.

    The sleeve is reversible and features the title in both English and Italian.

    Despite the fact that the disc is listed as Region B on the slipcase, it played in both my Region A and Region B machines.

    The Final Word:

    Short Night of Glass Dolls is an interesting if flawed example of a giallo. More mystery than horror, it moves at a slow pace and is missing many of the striking scenes of violence that grace (or mar, depending on your point of view) so many Italian films of its ilk. Despite some minor noise at the beginning and a few instances of softness caused by Giuseppe Ruzzolini’s original cinematography, Short Night of Glass Dolls features a sharp, colorful transfer that should please its fans. Sound is good, but extras are sparse.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out later this year.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!