Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


THE GLASS WALL (1953). Director/co-writer: Maxwell Shane.

The explosion in the home video/DVD market has vomited a lot of should-be-forgotten crap onto the unsuspecting viewer, but now and then it has helped film buffs to re-discover a fine film that got lost in the shuffle, such as The Glass Wall. The film was the first American movie for Italian star Vittorio Gassman, and it was hoped that it would lead to a major starring career for the actor in American films. That didn't quite pan out, although Gassman appeared to advantage in other American movies, such as Rhapsody with Elizabeth Taylor and, years later, did an amusing turn in The Nude Bomb with Don Adams as Maxwell Smart. He continued to make many films in Italy and elsewhere.

In The Glass Wall, Gassman plays Peter Kaban, a "DP" [or "displaced person"] who stowaways on a ship heading toward New York after harrowing experiences in concentration camps and the like. Unfortunately, he's denied entry into the U.S. because he has no proof of who he is, and is to be sent back the next day by a tight-assed clerical type. Kaban knows that there is an American soldier, Tom (Jerry Paris), whom he aided overseas, who can identity him, and jumps ship so he can find him. Along the way Peter encounters hungry Maggie (Gloria Grahame), who tries to steal a coat [from Kathleen Freeman] and hides Peter out as they fall in love. [Grahame has a great, beautifully-delivered speech about how deadening her job was putting tips on shoe laces all day long.] Other complications include Tom's selfish fiancee (Ann Robinson of The War of the Worlds) who wishes Tom would stay out of the whole affair despite how much it means to a desperate Peter. It all leads to a dramatic climax on top of the U.N. building. The two leads are terrific, and there's excellent support from Robin Raymond [Girls in Chains] as a dancer who also befriends Peter, as well as Joe Turkel [Tormented] as her brother and Else Neft as her mother, among others. Joseph Biroc's photography is a definite plus. Shane also directed the mediocre Nightmare (1956).

Verdict: A lost film to remember, as they say. ***1/2.

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