Blu-ray Review: SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS From Camera Obscura (Ger)

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
Blu-ray Review: SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS From Camera Obscura (Ger)
Camera Obscura is one of the finest cult home video labels that most people have never heard of. 

Over the last three or four years ScreenAnarchy has been fortunate to jump on board the Camera Obscura train to see them grow from a wonderful distributor of silver age Italian exploitation to a top notch provider of Blu-ray releases for some of Italy's most well-loved yet under-appreciated genre film classics, and yet they still don't move the dial much in terms of casual cult home video fans.

With towering behemoths like Shout!/Scream Factory and Arrow Video in the mix, it's easy to see why Camera Obscura releases might be shouted down in the larger marketplace, but do not sleep on them, they have a lot to offer and their brand new release of Aldo Lado's seminal giallo film Short Night of Glass Dolls is one more reason that you should definitely put this label on your tracking list when it comes to finding the best releases of hard to find films.

Short Night of Glass Dolls
was made in 1971, near the beginning of the great giallo boom. Apart from Mario Bava, who created the genre with The Girl Who Knew Too Much in 1963, and Dario Argento who burst onto the scene with 1970's The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, most people don't know a giallo director from a hole in the ground. However, this uniquely Italian thriller subgenre has a decent number of rabid fans, for whom a dozen or more names identify the genre instantly. Apart from Bava and Argento, there are filmmakers like Lucio Fulci, Sergio Martino, Lamberto Bava, and Umberto Lenzi also made their marks on the genre, though no filmmakers were quite as focused as the above-mentioned giants within the giallo boom that lasted from '63 well into the '80s.

Director Aldo Lado was a debutante in 1971. He'd written a bit leading up to Short Night, but it was his work as an assistant director, particularly backing Bernardo Bertolucci on The Conformist, that ultimately led to grabbing his first gig with Short Night of Glass Dolls. Following this film, Lado would go on to direct a pair of giallo classics in Who Saw Her Die? and Night Train Murders, but I think Short Night of Glass Dolls is probably his finest solo work of the films I've seen.

As was the case with many of Italy's finest filmmakers and their films, Short Night of Glass Dolls is born of a tradition of appropriation. The plot itself, a dead/dying(?) man recounts the events that led to his demise, is nothing new. Films have been narrated by corpses since the birth of film noir, however, Lado's take on the subject matter takes a left turn toward the supernatural early on, misleading the audience in a most delightful way.

Since the film was created bear the beginning of the boom of a subgenre that would quickly devolve into the cannibalization of plot elements and a turn toward shock cinema, Short Night still has its creative wits about it. Part giallo, part supernatural thriller, the film is equal parts Rosemary's Baby and Sunset Boulevard, Short Night of Glass Dolls manages to suspend disbelief and careful reveal plot elements at just the right time to keep the audience engaged when it seems that the suspension will break.

I'm obviously quite hesitant to give up any plot details. Even though the film is almost forty-five years old now, it definitely qualifies as one that needs a rediscovery and therefore I'd hate to ruin the surprise. Wonderful performances from French mustachioed heart-throb Jean Sorel and the German chin (here hidden by a healthy looking beard) Mario Adorf (The Tin Drum) make the film incredibly watchable, and the sultry beauties Barbara Bach and Ingrid Thulin arent' exactly rough on the eyes either. However, with all of the beauty surrounding, it's still Sorel as the journalist lost in Prague in a search for his missing lover that woos the viewer.

To fans of the giallo genre, Short Night of Glass Dolls is no secret, however, the rest of you will find something special here. The film has previously been released on DVD in the US through Blue Underground, but for fans, there's no beating Camera Obscura's Blu-ray.

The Disc:

Camera Obscura presents Short Night of Glass Dolls on Region B locked Blu-ray disc in an absolutely stunning new transfer. The image is gorgeous, and the Ennio Morricone's score is mesmerizing. In terms of damage, there is nothing significant to note, apart from the usual odd speckle during the opening credit sequence which is just a matter of the era. Colors appear faithful and detail is bursting from every frame. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track supports dialogue, ambient sound, and Morricone's score beautifully. I doubt that fans will have anything to complain about in the technical department.

Short Night of Glass Dolls
was repeatedly delayed from release by Camera Obscura, and seeing the finished product, it's easy to forgive them. We're given a two disc package to pick through with hours upon hours of extras to keep you busy. We get two commentary tracks, one with historians Marcus Stiglegger and Christian Hessler who always deliver considerate and informative commentaries for Camera Obscura (in German with English Subtitles), and a second with actor/singer Jurgen Drews. 

As if two commentaries weren't enough, there is a feature length interview with Aldo Lado regarding the genesis and production of the film (among other things, Lado gets quite excited about politics at one point) which also features the odd bit of interview footage from Jean Sorel. There is an interview with editor Mario Morra, one with producer Dieter Geissler, and a wonderful interview with Edda Dell'Orso, who you may not know by name but you've heard her voice on countless Morricone tracks including the immortal Ecstasy of Gold from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. To round out the superb package is a 16 page booklet with writing from Kai Naumann (written in German and translated into English).

It's hard to find fault in this package, which is a definitive one for this staple of giallo fans worldwide. If you haven't seen it, you'll no doubt be surprised and impressed by the film; if you have seen it, your eyes will bug out and the outstanding package that Camera Obscura has put out. This disc is definitely one to get, and one of Camera Obscura's finest releases yet. Highly recommended.

Short Night of Glass Dolls

  • Aldo Lado
  • Aldo Lado
  • Ruediger von Spies (additional dialogue)
  • Ingrid Thulin
  • Jean Sorel
  • Mario Adorf
  • Barbara Bach
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Aldo LadoCamera ObscuragialloItalyRuediger von SpiesIngrid ThulinJean SorelMario AdorfBarbara BachHorrorMystery

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