Film: The Man in the Glass Booth

A 1975 film, adapted from a 1971 Broadway play, starring Maximilian Schell as highly eccentric, possibly insane Jewish New York City businessman Arthur Goldman. We are introduced to Goldman as he issues orders to his assistant Charlie Cohen over business, rants about the death of his father in Auschwitz at the hands of SS Colonel Karl Dorf, whom he barely survived, and seems paranoid that Dorf remains alive, plotting to finish him. Goldman compares himself to Jesus Christ and generally comes off as a raving, nearly deranged man. Then his paranoid fantasies seem to be justified, as the same car is seen across from his building numerous times, and he finally orders Charlie to go confront its occupants. They turn out to be Israeli agents, who burst into his apartment with guns drawn, accusing him of being Dorf, and displaying medical evidence which they say proves it. Proudly admitting it now, he is taken back to Israel and put on trial for crimes against humanity, where he defends himself (in SS uniform) from inside of a bulletproof glass booth, hence the film title.

The original story has some unusually strong links to the Star Trek franchise: Leonard Nimoy played the lead role in the original play and the story was remade into the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Bottle Episode, "Duet," one of the finest episodes of that series.

This film provides examples of:

  • Hannibal Lecture: Goldman/Dorf delivers several epic ones, most while on trial.
  • Large Ham: Schell is an incredible example, hamming it up nonstop in the film as Goldman/Dorf.
  • Plot Hole: How did Goldman manage to learn so much about Dorf, and have himself identified as being him by eyewitnesses?.
  • The Reveal: It seems the prosecution has an open and shut case against Dorf at first, particularly since he proudly admits to all the crimes they accuse him of. Except-a dentist is called in to authenticate an X-Ray of Dorf's teeth, who at last reveals they were replaced with the defendant's for money. The physician is recalled to confess that he did the same with X-Rays of Dorf's spine from a surgery. He was Goldman all along. When asked why he did it, Goldman first locks himself in the booth, then sits inside as the memory of his experience overtakes him. At last he goes catatonic, having apparently been driven insane by this experience. It seems that was his reason for pretending to be Dorf in this way. The people in the courtroom surround him, reciting a Jewish prayer.

Alternative Title(s):

The Maninthe Glass Booth