I know I said I was only writing about movies I have on VHS this year but I found Short Night of Glass Dolls on the Full Moon streaming channel last night and holy fucking shit y’all that is a good movie! I was devastated by the ending. I can’t remember the last time I was kept in suspense by a movie right up until the credits rolled. And they rolled right over the horrified mid-screaming face of a character who was about million times as disturbed as I was, if that’s possible without actually dropping dead. I had to watch The IT Crowd until I passed out after that ending, and I still had nightmares!
The story begins with a dead man found in a park. Only he’s not dead, he’s just in some kind of suspended animation. He can still think, but he can’t move. So the rest of the movie is told in flashback as the poor guy lies in the hospital and tells us how he thinks he got in the position he’s in. The frozen man was an American journalist in Prague, in love with a local girl who disappears in the middle of the night after he takes her to a party attended by some weird people who seem very taken with her. The police won’t help him, and while at first they try to distract him with another body, they end up trying to pin her murder on him, even though her body may or may not be found. Then there’s a religious cult that really likes music, and has secret concerts in a club they own. There’s even a song sung about one of the themes of the film, in English by a Czech folk singer. I always like it when a film includes a song about itself, but I also have a thing about Czech music for some reason, so that was a big bonus for me.
The whole movie is very trippy, with elements of Satanism, voodoo, noir, and just good old fashioned anti-Communist paranoia. It’s like someone mashed up D.O.A. and Rosemary’s Baby, and I’m sure the paranoia is the dominant metaphor. There’s no way to tell who is against the main character. I’m sure it had an influence on one of the better giallos I’ve seen, All The Colors of the Dark, but what it isn’t is another “black gloved psycho drinking J&B and breathing down the telephone” giallo; unfortunately, that’s what I’ve always seen it listed as, which is probably why I never watched it before! Those movies are fun, but they’re almost always unsatisfying because they ultimately make no sense. Short Night of Glass Dolls does leave you with some questions at the end, but it’s the kind of wondering about a movie that just makes it more haunting because the mystery lingers like a half-remembered bad dream. Which is exactly what it induced in me! I can’t believe I haven’t watched this before. Have you seen it? What did you think? We can do spoilers in the comments.