Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971)

Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel, Perversion Story) has a problem. His body has been found in a park in Prague, but the American journalist is anything but dead. His heart is still beating and his mind is still able to replay the sinister events of the last few days, a story that started with the disappearance of his girlfriend Mira (Barbara Bach) and ended even more horribly than he could have imagined.

The debut movie from director Alan Lado, Short Night of Glass Dolls subverts the giallo genre to move slowly into the supernatural. The only other giallo Lado created was Who Saw Her Die? which, much like this movie, doesn’t seem keen on following the Argento giallo formula like just about everyone else. Lado would also make the baffling Star Wars clone The Humanoid many years later.

Moore resolves to find Mira when the police can’t, so he joins forces with his co-workers Jessica (Ingrid Thulen, Salon Kitty) and Jack (Mario Adorf, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage). Never mind that he’s just had an affair with Jessica.

By the end of the film, we’re left wondering if our paralyzed narrator is really an unreliable one and whether or not he made his own girlfriend disappear. We needn’t feel that way for long. The truth is that she’s fallen into the claws of Klub 99, a black magic group made up of Prague’s social elite that uses the life force of the young and beautiful to stay powerful.

This is one dark giallo that feels like a swirling nightmare that the protagonist can’t wake from. Even when he’s moving and alive, he feels out of place, a man away from not just America, but from reality itself. The scene where he moves behind the audience and red curtain as they watch a man play piano is particularly striking as it separates him from everything else that is going on around him.

There’s only one on-screen murder and Lado really shows that he’s an artist here instead of a slavish follower of giallo convention. It reminds me of a much more downbeat All the Colors of the Dark where the cult is much more powerful. The end scene of the gallery watching the autopsy is a brutal finale.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

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