Sunday, September 16, 2012

166. THE GLASS CAGE (1961/64)

This independently made psychological thriller, shot in Los Angeles, has a complicated history. It was made under the present title in 1960 and first shown publicly at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1961 with actor John Hoyt (who also co-produced and co-scripted) in attendance. In 1964, it was acquired by Futuramic Releasing, the company who chopped Mario Bava's THE WHIP AND THE BODY down to the incomprehensible WHAT!, and given a brief theatrical release in New York under the title DON'T TOUCH MY SISTER. It subsequently became part of a short-lived TV syndication package under the moniker DEN OF DOOM.

The only directorial job of Antonio Santéan (the screenwriter of DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY), this is not unlike a shot-on-location police procedural with the poetic, off-kileter atmosphere of a classic OUTER LIMITS episode. Hoyt stars as a world-weary police lieutenant, but the real lead is Robert Kelljan (the future director of the Count Yorga movies) as younger police sergeant Jeff Bradley, whose assignment to a case involving a shot man's fatal fall from a second floor ledge introduces him to Ellen Sawyer (Arline Sax), a shy, overly sheltered young woman who admits to firing the shot at the intruder in self-defense. Things take a slow turn toward psychological horror as Jeff becomes enamored of Ellen, whom he soon recognizes as emotionally fragile and living too much under the sway of her more psychologically assertive twin sister Ruth (also Sax). As Jeff's cautious courtship proceeds, more signs arise that Ellen is more deeply disturbed than he suspects, for reasons eventually traced back to the proverbial moment of trauma.

Under her subsequently adopted name Arlene Martel, Arline Sax starred opposite Robert Culp in the OUTER LIMITS episode "Demon with a Glass Hand" which, like her nightmare sequence here, was shot in LA's famous Bradbury Building. Also featuring Elisha Cook, Jr. in a creepy, pivotal role and King Moody as a greasy artist appropriately named Tox.

Will be reviewed at greater length in VIDEO WATCHDOG 171.
Viewed on Sinister Cinema VHS.

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