• Man In The Glass Booth, The

    Released by: Kino Classics
    Released on: June 6, 2017
    Directed by: Arthur Hiller
    Cast: Maximilian Schell, Lois Nettleton, Lawrence Pressman, Luther Adler, Lloyd Bochner, Robert H. Harris, Berry Kroeger, Leonardo Cimino, Connie Sawyer, Henry Brown, Norbert Schiller
    Year: 1975
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    A Jewish businessman, Arthur Goldman (Maximilian Schell), oversees his monetary kingdom from high atop his Manhattan penthouse, served by minions such as Charlie Cohn (Lawrence Pressman) who support him out of loyalty despite his erratic and often abusive behavior. Having survived a concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Europe, he frequently slips into sarcasm when discussing the plight of his people. He rules with an iron fist, throws extravagant parties, and spies on the world around him with his telescope. One day, men with guns burst into his apartment and take him into captivity, spiriting him away to another country to stand trial for offenses against humanity.

    The Man in the Glass Booth began life as a novel by Robert Shaw, first published in 1967 as the second in a trilogy of works. The following year, Shaw adapted it as a stage play. In 1973, producer Ely Landau founded the American Film Theatre, a production company dedicated to filming great plays. These were not examples of plays filmed as plays but rather as plays adapted to the film format. From 1973 to 1975, the company produced 14 films, which were then sent to select theaters nationwide, where viewers who had purchased a subscription to the entire series could view them. There were seven films for each of two seasons, 1974 and 1975. Unfortunately, low interest in the series resulted in it being discontinued not long after it began.

    Among the films produced was this adaptation of Shaw’s novel and play as the first in the second season. Oscar-winner Maximilian Schell was cast in the lead role of Arthur Goldman. Schell was a Swiss actor born in Austria; knowing something of the Nazi regime—he fled with his family when the Nazis invaded Austria—Schell became an actor and then a writer and director in Europe. He focused much of his work on the war, proffering the anti-war sentiment so popular at the time. Upon arriving in Hollywood, Schell’s work didn’t diverge from his typecasting, and with only his second role, for Judgment at Nuremberg (1961; a part he had originated on American television), he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. The Man in the Glass Booth was a return to form, and it resulted in Schell’s second Oscar nomination, though he didn’t win.

    Schell’s isn’t the only great performance in the film, though the film’s success does hinge on him. Even minor roles represent the best in dramatic acting. Hiller’s direction takes a back seat to the performances. He shoots it in typical play fashion, with the camera following the actors rather than setting its own course. There are only a few sets (Goldman’s apartment, a jail cell, a courtroom), with people entering and exiting stage right and left. This is not an action-packed movie, and the direction is content to take a backseat to the thespians. It’s an appropriate tack to take. The result is a work of raw emotional power.


    Kino brings The Man in the Glass Booth to Blu-ray courtesy of an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition. The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The opening credits contain a great deal of speckling and debris, though it mostly clears up thereafter, with only occasional and very minor issues inherent in the source material. The first reel is the most problematic. Some scenes are reasonably detailed, though nothing to write home about, while others are grainy and dark. The mix of debris and grain certainly contributes to a filmic experience, though there are a couple of scenes with grain a bit too blown out. Detail becomes even more obscured in dark scenes; the brighter areas of the frame appear fine, but clarity is lost in the darker areas. After the first reel, however, the detail picks up quite a bit, with threads in furniture and clothing clear enough that they can practically be counted. Colors appear fairly typical of mid-1970s cinema, with a reliance on greens, grays, and blues. As was so often the case at the time, there’s sometimes soft-focus in the photography, which is never conducive to crystal clarity. Yet, most of the remainder of the film looks quite stunning. Detail becomes strong enough to perceive the limitations in Stan Winston’s makeup, for example, and the trees in Goldman’s penthouse deck are revelatory. When Goldman and his acolytes are sitting in his living room or at his dining room table, detail and the intentionally dark, somber color schemes are aesthetically pleasing. During a second-act sequence, there are more reds and pinks present, and they look very good. The film is placed on a single BD50, which allows the two-hour movie as well as its extras ample breathing space.

    The film’s soundtrack is offered in English LPCM 2.0. This is a very theatrical, set-bound film, one in which conversation is the primary raison d’etre. As such, viewers shouldn’t expect too much from the sound. Scoring is minimal, and the relatively low-key sound effects are never allowed to interfere with or overcome the dialogue. Some viewers have noted hiss and slight distortion; this reviewer noticed no serious problems in either case. The film doesn’t sound like it was recorded yesterday, but that’s because it wasn’t, and purists wouldn’t want it to anyway. Unfortunately, Kino did not include subtitles for the deaf or hearing impaired, which is the one real negative related to this release.

    The extras include two separate interviews, both recorded in 2002. The first runs for approximately 22 minutes and is with director Hiller, who discusses the story’s route from book to play to film. It is separated into parts, each aptly named (“Adapting the Play,” “Opening It Up,” “Robert Shaw,” “Maximilian Schell,” “Shooting the Film,” “The Critical Reception,” and “Happy To Do It”). If you want to see what the film looked like prior to BD but don’t have a DVD, check out the images spattered throughout the featurette.

    The second interview lasts approximately 26 minutes and is with Edie Landau… It follows a similar pattern to the previous featurette, with individual sections given titles apropos to the material covered (“The American Film Theatre Concept,” “Acquiring the Play,” “Producing the Films,” “The Performances,” “The Subscription Service,” and “The Play vs. the Film”). Scenes from various American Film Theatre productions are included.

    “Ely Landau: In Front of the Camera” is a vintage featurette hosted by producer Landau to tout the subscription service and its films and to advertise the second season.

    Kino has included trailers for 12 of American Film Theatre’s productions, including not only The Man in the Glass Booth (2:44) but also Butley (2:58), A Delicate Balance (3:25), Galileo (3:30), The Homecoming (2:36), The Iceman Cometh (2:38), Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well… (3:26), Lost in the Stars (2:10), Luther (2:31), The Maids (3:06), Rhinoceros (1:55), and Three Sisters (2:43).

    The Final Word:

    The Man in the Glass Booth is an exceptionally powerful film full of emotional resonance. Performances are excellent from all involved, and Hiller wisely pulls his camera back to give the actors center stage. While the beginning of the film has some dirt and debris and is a little less than ideal in the visual department, it quickly corrects itself so that the majority is beautifully colored, clear, and sharp. Extras are solid, making this a superior release from Kino.

    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 is currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out in 2018.

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