"There are both good and evil in crime... they're not separate."
Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel) is an American journalist in Soviet Prague who finds himself on a slab in the morgue – paralyzed and fully conscious, but pronounced dead. As he lies helpless, Greg recounts the mysterious events of recent days: His girlfriend Mira (Barbara Bach) disappeared without a trace after a fancy cocktail party, leaving behind all of her clothes and her passport. Greg and his colleagues Jessica (Ingrid Thulin) and Ivan (Relja Basic) set out to find her, questioning the city's corrupt elite. They soon discover that Mira's disappearance is one of many, linked to a dark conspiracy hidden within the walls of an exclusive chamber music society. Can Greg piece together the clues? And will he recover from his paralysis before doctors can perform a lethal autopsy?
Short Night of the Glass Dolls (not to be confused with Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll) has a really ingenious hook – the main character is actually trying to solve his own murder. And because he is paralyzed and flashing back to the events, it's still a somewhat plausible scenario, where his recovery is a possibility. The city of Prague provides a heavy, almost claustrophobic atmosphere for the film and there are some really well-staged scenes. My favorites include the train-bridge scene, where the murderer is hidden behind a well-timed plume of smoke and the intense final five minutes.
- Ennio Morricone's score is reminiscent of the dramatic, dissonant work of Krystof Penderecki, with looming strings instead of his usual noisy, funky bop.
- Ingrid Thulin, who appeared in some of Ingmar Bergman's most acclaimed films like Wild Strawberries and Cries and Whispers, is really slumming here.
- The structure of the movie, with a main character narrating from the morgue, is reminiscent of Billy Wilder's film noir classic Sunset Boulevard.
What the Hell Am I Watching?
Um... Satanic naked geriatric sex orgy? And, man, those oldies are not shy about it.
No one ever alludes to the fact that Ivan, the Czech reporter, speaks with a thick Scottish burr.
Let's talk about Ivan's hippie girlfriend, who is so stoned when we first meet her that she doesn't realize that Ivan is groping her while telling Greg what a stupid slut she is.
Just as the action starts to amp up, everything comes to a screeching halt for a musical number, "Short Night of the Butterflies." It's a bright, happy tune sung by a hippie street performer, with lyrics about blood raining from the sky and butterflies getting their wings cut off.
One of my favorite parts is at a concert, where the soloist stops in what is clearly the middle of the piece, stands up, and walks away from the piano. What is going on in this movie?
Also: apparently, tomatoes feel pain.
Greg rocks an awesome string bow tie at the cocktail party. And check out that piping.
But the real fashion winner is Jessica, who stands out from the crowd in her purple velvet pantsuit with matching Gypsy head scarf.