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Glass House

The Glass House

3.0 1
Director: Tom Gries

Cast: Alan Alda, Vic Morrow


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A group of new prisoners, including a political science professor, Jonathan Paige (Alan Alda), and a student, Allan Campbell (Kristoffer Tabori), arrive at a state prison, along with a new guard, Brian Courtland (Clu Gulager). Paige is a serving a year for manslaughter -- he accidentally killed a driver who had run down and injured his wife -- but his education


A group of new prisoners, including a political science professor, Jonathan Paige (Alan Alda), and a student, Allan Campbell (Kristoffer Tabori), arrive at a state prison, along with a new guard, Brian Courtland (Clu Gulager). Paige is a serving a year for manslaughter -- he accidentally killed a driver who had run down and injured his wife -- but his education doesn't prepare him for what he finds in prison. Nor does Courtland understand everything he sees in his new job, where he hopes to do some good. The warden (Dean Jagger) is spoken of as being on "short time," as though he were serving a sentence; the guard captain, Pagonis (G. Wood), is totally cynical about his work and his job; and one veteran guard, Brown (Roy Jenson), seems to be serving some of the prisoners -- and that small group of inmates have more to do with the running of the prison than does the administration. First among them is Hugo Slocum (Vic Morrow), a lifer who controls the flow of drugs and other contraband to the cons, wielding money and power without challenge until Paige gets assigned by the warden to the prison pharmacy, and -- thanks to his own sense of righteousness -- blocks Slocum's pipeline, a move that could get the professor killed. Meanwhile, Paige is trying to understand Lennox (Billy Dee Williams), the lifer he works with in the pharmacy, and discovers in him a true political visionary and leader, who lives the stuff that Paige has only ever lectured about. Lennox is black and proud, and a killer, and also (incidentally) smarter than Paige; he is also respected as a leader by the other blacks in the prison and feared just enough by the whites, including Slocum, to stay alive. Paige should only learn from him, but the professor is too set in his ways and too arrogant in his assumptions to do that. Complicating things further, Slocum has taken a decidedly physical liking to Paige's cellmate, Allan, a college student who is in on a marijuana charge and too naïve to recognize why the tough con is being so good to him until he rejects Slocum's advances. In retaliation, Allan is gang-raped on Slocum's orders, and later kills himself. Nor has Slocum forgotten about Paige or the pharmacy -- when Paige tries to reach out to another inmate, Sinclair (Edward Bell), who shows promise as a writer, Slocum destroys Sinclair's work and targets him, as well. Before he's killed, however, Sinclair reveals to Paige that, as Slocum's sometime bagman and former bookkeeper, he's recorded every transaction for the past eight years -- including every hit ordered by Slocum and how it was paid off, including the bribes to guards to look the other way -- and he passes the book with that record to the professor. It comes down to a do or die situation for Paige and Slocum, as each now has the power and the need to destroy the other to stay alive; the only question is whether Paige will figure out in time that he may have to back up his good intentions with lethal force.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
The Glass House, based on a story by Truman Capote (it was originally presented as Truman Capote's The Glass House), created a serious stir when it was first shown on CBS in February 1972. Shot on location at Utah State Prison, it tried for a realism that was unusual for either prison movies or made-for-TV movies, and ended up going farther in depicting prison life than even most feature films ever have. Indeed, it may have been too honest to achieve more than critical success, because its vision is so bleak and pessimistic that it makes The Shawshank Redemption play like a high school theater production. The violence of the movie, which includes depictions of rape, murder, and other brutalities, was exceeded only by the skill that went into telling its story, and the hopelessness of the story. Director Tom Gries (best remembered for Will Penny and 100 Rifles) shows an incredibly strong command of his material, and it's no surprise that he won an Emmy for his work here. He draws quietly powerful performances from his cast, including Clu Gulager (who was then at the top of his game, having also done The Last Picture Show), Dean Jagger, Vic Morrow (playing what could almost be an older, more corrupt version of his Artie West from The Blackboard Jungle), Billy Dee Williams, and Kristoffer Tabori. Indeed, the only weak (or, more accurately, unsteady) link is Alan Alda as Jonathan Paige, the college professor serving a one-year prison term for manslaughter; Alda tries hard and succeeds intermittently in creating a convincing portrayal, but his overt earnestness, coupled with the wide-eyed obnoxiousness in the writing of his character, and his passive-aggressive approach to the role, make it seem miraculous that Paige isn't killed early on. One scene, in particular (after he has been threatened and fully knows the score in prison) in which Paige turns off an unattended television set in a common area, is so incredible as to almost -- but not quite -- damage the movie's believability; the writing fails, but Alda's handling of the scene fails even more. As strong as the direction and most of the acting is, even more impressive is the work of editor Gene Fowler Jr., who has done a masterful job of assembling the material for maximum impact. This includes not just the individual scenes and the core of the story, but also a series of flashbacks (audio as well as visual) explaining how Paige came to be in prison, woven into the present sequences without interrupting the flow or the forward momentum of the narrative. The flaw in Alda's portrayal aside, the movie was so well made that it overcame any objections that it engendered.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Direct Source Label
[Dolby Digital Stereo]

Cast & Crew

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Glass House
1. One [14:23]
2. Two [14:03]
3. Three [16:44]
4. Four [15:32]
5. Five [15:17]
6. Six [13:54]

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The Glass House 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the movie because of its suggestive nature in relation to dealing with issues like rape, friction, extortion, homosexuality, intimidation, abuse, and rioting within the prison system in Utah. These activities were rare in a particular prison system back in 1972. At the same time, exploitation of prisoners was the exception in movies or in the actual world. I would rate this movie a 90 because of its horrific dialogue in the film. This motion picture was aired on The CBS Friday Night Movies on February 11, 1972. He would play the role of Captain B. F. Pierce on M*A*S*H from 1972 to 1983.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago