La corta notte delle bambole di vetro (1971)

Directed by Aldo Lado [Other horror films: Chi l’ha vista morire? (1972), L’ultimo treno della notte (1975)]

This Italian giallo, widely known as Short Night of Glass Dolls, was a decent film for much if the run-time, but toward the end, it sort of went into a somewhat incoherent mess.

The mystery here is pretty good, and enjoyable to watch unfold. A young woman disappears without a trace in Prague, and her lover, an American journalist, attempts to find her. It’s typical for a giallo, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. It’s made better by the setting, and more so, the time period, as this took place when then-Czechoslovakia was a Communist state behind the Iron Curtain.

Because of that, there is a bit of anti-USSR material strewn throughout the film, and even toward the conclusion, though I don’t think it’s terribly over-troubling. It does lead to a more oppressive feel, and much of the going-ons have a very conspiratorial feeling to them. Problematically, the conclusion doesn’t explain what’s going on nearly as well as I’d have liked, and honestly, I’m at a loss right now as to what actually happened, and why. It’s just not made clear, as far as I could tell.

Worth noting, most of the main story is told via flashback, and the present-day material, luckily, is decently engaging. Still, I don’t care much for the conclusion they had there, either, though it certainly possessed a somewhat bleaker feel than some audiences might be used to.

I’m not trying to harp too much on the movie, because much of it is really engrossing. It’s not until the final ten minutes or so that the movie, in my opinion, falls apart. It’s just rather noticeable because my enjoyment level went down so much as the ending unfolded, and I felt that given how good the film was before, it was rather unfortunate.

I liked much of the principal cast of this film. Jean Sorel took a little bit, but he grew on me as the film went on. Playing a friend of his, I thought that Mario Adorf did well with his more care-free, fun-loving character. Lastly, playing the woman who goes missing, Barbara Bach did well as a beautiful, semi-mysterious woman.

For a giallo, La corta notte delle bambole di vetro is extraordinarily tame. There’s little to no gore, and many of the staples you might expect from the subgenre, such as first-person view from the killer, or black gloves, are absent. The mystery is certainly here, and like I said, it’s done well, but this movie feels really toned down, and if you’re expecting a run-of-the-mill giallo, then you’ll likely to be disappointed.

I will admit to being disappointed by this one, if only because the conclusion (to both the flashback and present-day stories) were so unsatisfactory. I can live with little gore, because the story was otherwise engaging, but what draws me to giallos is how everything’s pieced together nicely at the end, and I definitely didn’t get that feeling here. For what this movie is, it’s okay, but I’d definitely temper your expectations before jumping in.

6/10

Dark Echo (1977)

Dark Echo

Directed by George Robotham [Other horror films: N/A]

This obscure production (filmed partly in Austria) is, in many ways, partially a precursor to The Fog.

In a small lakeside village in Austria, individuals are being killed in mysterious ways. Though the townsfolk themselves are naturally superstitious, the evidence begins to point to the spirit of a captain blamed for a shipwreck causing the deaths of eighty people 100 years ago, those being killed in the present descendants of those who accused Captain Gohr. It’s a fun plot, and while it doesn’t have the atmosphere of The Fog, one can see how such comparisons can be made.

This movie boasts a decent cast, those standing out including Joel Fabiani (playing the main character), Karin Dor (who looked a lot like a young Allison Janney), and Wolfgang Brook (this is, in fact, his only movie). Fabiani played his character, a care-free, martini-drinking psychic, beautifully, and had some good lines throughout. Wolfgang Brook, despite this being his only film (at least according to IMDb) did well as an Inspector in a bad situation, getting worse by the day.

While the gore wasn’t the standout feature of this film (for the first hour and ten minutes, thereabouts, it had a television movie feel to it), there was a good stabbing about an hour and ten minutes in, along with a surprisingly violent scene in which a woman got the top of her skull chopped off, blood spewing and her brain falling out onto a table. Special effects in those scenes were done well, and the spirit/zombie of Gohr looked pretty good also.

The movie did lose a bit of steam, ironically enough, toward the end, and the final twenty minutes were a bit more unsteady than I’d have preferred, but overall, I thought the movie did well for itself. It’s certainly a slower flick, and it wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but the cast and the story did the movie justice. Quick note: some claim that the movie’s from 1986 (as does the copyright state at the end of the film), but it felt more like a 70’s movie to me, and as IMDb lists it as 1977, that year it will stay. Solid movie, and while not amazing, a good flick to watch on a rainy day.

7/10