The Glass House (1972)


In this TV movie co-written by Truman Capote, a prisoner (Alan Alda) and a guard (Clu Gulager) start life in prison on the same day and quickly learn what a dangerous and corrupt environment it is. Both men seek to shed light on the injustice, but will either of them survive to see the system reformed? Its production values are relatively unvarnished, but The Glass House benefits from writing and acting well above average for TV movies of the time. The film earns authenticity by shooting in a real, functioning prison and featuring actual prisoners as background players. (Alda even claims to have been held at knife-point during production.)

Alda and Gulager are reliable in the leads. The meatiest roles, however, go to Vic Morrow and Kristoffer Tabori. Morrow plays an intimidating godfather-like prisoner who offers the young Tabori his protection in exchange for sexual favors. When Tabori refuses, things get as violent as you might expect. And then worse. Billy Dee Williams is memorable as a well-meaning black leader among the prisoners, and Oscar-winner Dean Jagger (Twelve O’Clock High) plays the prison’s unsympathetic warden. Directed by Tom Gries.

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