Thomas M. Sipos | Santa Monica, CA | 10/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film has gone by several names, including MALASTRANA (the director's original choice) and PARALYZED. It's one of Barbara Bach's several pre-007 Italian thrillers. I'm undecided whether the American-born Bach, fluent in Italian, dubbed her own voice. As she is the best known in the cast to contemporary American audiences, Bach gets major billing, although she mainly appears in only a few early scenes.
The film opens with a man believed dead who, we soon learn, is alive but paralyzed, his condition unknown to all. Will they bury him alive? Will they perform an autopsy? It's an old conceit invigorated by flashbacks as the man tries to remember how he arrived at his predicament. Intercut with scenes of his paralyzed body being ferried about the hospital, these flashbacks comprise the bulk of the film.
The man (French-born Jean Sorel) turns out to be a Western journalist whose Czech fiancée (Barbara Bach) disappeared, propelling him on a search. Thus, Paralyzed interweaves a medical thriller with a mystery film. Yet because of its mise-en-scene (its Prague setting and black leather jacketed Communist police), it also imparts the sensibility of an espionage thriller. And as the tale progresses, it becomes an occult thriller.
This blend of mystery, foreign intrigue, and the occult has been done elsewhere. Former "Watergate conspirator" and CIA intelligence officer E. Howard Hunt was also a remarkably prolific novelist who published numerous thrillers under various aliases (e.g., David St. John, Gordon Davis, Robert Dietrich), sometimes spicing his novels with the occult (The Coven, The Sorcerers). The X-Files episode, "Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man," was inspired by the real-life Hunt.
It's difficult to discuss this film in detail without spoiling the surprise ending. Thematically, it posits a millennia-long exploitation of the freedom-loving young by the Satanic elderly. The film not only features threatening commissars, it depicts old people as inherently scary, a device used in Rosemary's Baby and The Sentinel. In one scene, Jean Sorel sneaks past a decrepit group of Communist Party hacks in evening dress, male and female, listening lifelessly to a slow-moving classical concerto. Their faces are pasty white, reminiscent of the dead souls in Carnival of Souls. This image contrasts starkly with another scene featuring a lively young, long-haired folk singer.
Style-wise, this film is your typical 1970s Euro-thriller. Lots of telephoto shots with shifting focus, heavy use of zoom lens to create energy (the pre-MTV equivalent of a shaky camera and frenetic editing), and badly dubbed dialogue.
A curious and enjoyable film."
Recommended for horror/detective fans
(4 out of 5 stars)
"An unusual and challenging horror/suspense film. Great concept, story line, editing, and overall wallop. Not much like a traditional giallo. Only downside is the dubious dubbing and sometimes awkward foreign dialogue, but if you're used to the genre, it's not too bad. This original film deserves a bigger audience. This deserves a place with the best of Italian horror/fantasy cinema."
"In this city girls disappear all the year round"
Andreas Faust | Tasmanian Autonomous Zone | 01/17/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Aldo Lado wrote this film to reflect some of the political realities in italy when it was made 1971, and also inspired by the spirit of Kafka. The later parts of the film have some atmospheric similarities to Dario Argento's 'Deep Red', but I like 'Short Night of Glass Dolls' better than the aforementioned. Prague makes a stunning backdrop for any film, and the soundtrack by Ennio Morricone adds tension and pathos, as does the atmosphere of the Cold War.
The movie features a strange cast of characters working behind the iron curtain, such as the American millionaire's daughter turned pseudo-hippy, who likes to bed Communist men. There are great shots of underground and overground Prague - the beautiful surface, and the occult depths it conceals.
The plot concerns an American who wakes in hospital, trapped in a cataleptic state. The story traces his memories back to the disappearance of his girlfriend and his attempts to track her down. The two mysteries (how he got in the trance, and what happened to the girl) are not resolved until the harrowing conclusion. I can't reveal more without giving the plot twist away, but trust me when I say this is a riveting mystery/thriller."
The Men Behind The Curtain
Veritas Veritatis | 08/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Short Night Of Glass Dolls" is a great
The plot is very interesting with
a 1970's pop-culture idea of
individual freedom which is being
suppressed by a secretive conspiracy
of cold-war, communist fascists in
Chechoslavakia who use some sort
of occult sex-magic religion as their
underlying means of control.
It seems that young woman are being
kidnapped to tap into their sexual power
which is required by those in control
of the civil government and other
aspects of culture such as the arts.
The story is delivered as the memories
of a man who is apparently dead, but
remains somehow alive and conscious,
a zombie in the voodoo sense, made so
by the above mentioned cult,
which is another mystery not explained
until the end.
His girlfriend is missing and he
must find her.
The search leads him to the discovery
of the cult.
If you like mysteries with lots of
culture and politics,
I'm sure this one will do.
Great cinematography, music (Morricone)
The ending pays off if you stay
with the slowly paced film.
There are excellent moments and
interesting characters throughout.
It is a very influential film as
it predates other popular
films with similar themes that
were loved by many whom I'm sure
never saw nor heard of this film.
Near to the end of the film
there is an occultic sex orgy
involving elderly people that
I found disturbing. It was a
really creepy soft porn scene
that would have been best done
in a more implicit way.