review for The Man in the Glass Booth on AllMovie

The Man in the Glass Booth (1975)
by Craig Butler review

Although people tend to be in two camps about the ultimate quality of The Man in the Glass Booth, it's hard to deny that the film packs a very powerful punch. Although Robert Shaw decried Edward Anhalt's adaptation of his stage play, the fact is that it's a respectful version of the original; the problem is that, as part of the American Film Theatre series, the film by design and intent has been opened up only minimally. Those who prefer their films to be cinematic will likely find Booth somewhat claustrophobic, but director Arthur Hiller actually deserves a great deal of credit for using his camera in such a way as to make the film feel like it's moving even when it's not. Some will have a bigger problem with the screenplay, feeling that it is too manipulative, achieving effects that shock without really digging into deeper moral and dramatic issues. While there is some validity to this, it's also true that this manipulation is enormously effective. Audiences will also be about two minds concerning Maximilian Schell's Oscar-nominated performance. Detractors will complain that he hits one note too often and for too long, and that furthermore that note is shrill. But there's such intensity, power, conviction, and sheer showmanship in his performance that others will be inclined to overlook these complaints. There should be general agreement, however, that Lois Nettleton turns in a subtly nuanced yet surprisingly strong supporting performance and that Lawrence Pressman provides a nicely shaded Charlie. The Man in the Glass Booth's screenplay and central performance have their flaws, but those flaws are inextricable from and add to the film's ultimate impact.