Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Glass House

I bought this movie not knowing what to expect, but it was cheap (probably 20 cents) and it had the name of Truman Capote on its cover. It was on VHS, but being an old TV movie that didn't matter much. The cast also was pretty strong, spelled wrong though some of the names were on the Finnish cassette cover ("Vice Morrow"!). The Finnish title means "The Law of the Strongest" (or "The Strong Rules"), and the description of the movie is as wrong as can be, making the film some kind of a vigilance fest.

The story behind The Glass House is interesting. Seems like Truman Capote wrote the original screenplay, but it was so bad another writer was called in, mainly award-winning Tracy Keenan Wynn, who'd later written stuff like The Longest Yard and The Drowning Pool. He tossed Capote's script out of the window and started from scratch. Because of the contract with Capote his name had to be kept on the credits (the Finnish cassette cover says it's from Capote's novel). The film was shot in a jail, with inmates working as extras and in bit parts. There's a really gritty feel to the story and atmosphere, and the ending is really bleak. No one would be able to make this on American TV anymore - or maybe, then again, a channel like HBO might. This is a very realistic movie about the jails and the struggle for power in them, and there are not many clichés in it, though there have been lots of realistic jail movies for decades. This is not action-oriented, mind you, it's more a drama with lots of violent tension in the air.

The actors are superb. Vic Morrow as the homosexual gang leader is brilliant, Alan Alda is his usual good self. Clu Culager is for once the good guy, but there are no easy solutions for him in the film. The directing is not very visual, but it's physical and effective. Tom Gries is not known for his insightful films, but his filmography might warrant a second look.

Seems like the film is easily available on DVD, but based on what I've read about other TV movies of this era (the golden era of American TV movies?), that's not always the case.

I don't know who collects nowadays the Tuesday's Overlooked Films posts, can someone shed some light on this? Todd Mason hasn't done a blog post in over a month.

EDIT: corrected Tracy Keenan Wynn's script credits.

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