DOC’S JOURNEY INTO HAMMER FILMS #24: THE GLASS TOMB [1955]

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Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , , ,

Hammer-films

 

UK

AKA THE GLASS CAGE [1955]

AVAILABLE ON R1 DVD

RUNNING TIME: 59 min

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

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Carnival barker ‘Pel’ Pelham desperately wants a good education for his young son. With money borrowed from bookie Tony Lewis, he persuades Sapolio, a professional ‘starving man’, to attempt to break his own world’s record of 65 days without food. Pel persuades a real estate broker to donate land for the show, which will feature Sapolio inside a glass cage housed in a tent to be ogled by the curious paying public. Prior to the start of the ordeal, Sapolio and his wife throw a party in their flat, but at the same time a girl who was blackmailing a friend of Pel’s in an upstairs apartment is murdered. Sapolio unknowingly glimpses the murderer, but cannot remember what he looked like, and suspicion falls on Pel and Tony….

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The Glass Tomb is an odd but interesting little [it only runs for 59 min!] film which isn’t very coherent but certainly keeps one intrigued. It doesn’t really exploit the great possibilities of its sideshow background, with a still quite memorable party scene which could have done with some more freaks despite a midget playing the piano, but it has quite a strong sleazy air, much sexual innuendo and a killer who kills someone than apparently stays with the body for two hours. And there’s an interesting emphasis on feeding, from Sapolio who stuffs his face at home, to Pel’s son who raids the fridge but wants [in one of several bizarre touches] to become a ‘starving man’, to death by poisoned ham. Add blackmail, a love triangle and assorted other elements and you get a film that certainly isn’t dull, but you also get one that doesn’t make much sense and which feels like whole pages of the script, adapted by Richard H. Landau from the novel The Outsiders by A.E. Martin, had been ripped out prior to shooting. Somebody receives a blackmail note from a girlfriend. Pel tells her to stop. Somebody kills the girl. In turn he’s killed by somebody else. Pel’s wife is taken for a rough car ride. And so forth. It’s all vaguely connected, but no more.

The murderer’s identity is revealed to the audience a third of the way through the movie, though some of the subsequent scenes proceed as if it’s still supposed to be a surprise to us, while the characters are pretty dumb in not working it out. Montgomery Tully does again prove himself to be a solid director of this kind of film, keeping the pace going and staging a few good scenes like a killing which is partly shown reflected in a window, and a bit on a train platform where one man considers how to get rid of the other but the words are drowned out until we hear the payoff when the sound comes back up again. The cast for this one is quite strong though none of the characters are well developed, even star John Ireland’s – he’s just an exploitative sideshow organiser and barker. Interesting to see Honor Blackman in an early demure role and Geoffrey Keen in an unsympathetic one. This is one film that could have done with a remake, as all the good ingredients are there but not stirred into a satisfying whole and it only seems to scratch the surface of its world. Still, it’s definitely a ‘B’ programmer worth a look.

Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2034 Articles

I’m a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don’t really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly ‘have a life’, I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I’ve always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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