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The Glitter Dome


‘…film historians could do worse than check it out; while uneven, The Glitter Dome is a scathing indictment of the worst excesses of La La Land…’

‘Halloween in Hollywood is redundant…the Glitter Dome isn’t a bar; it’s a pig pen. And Hollywood isn’t a city; it’s a land filled with broken dreams. Nothing is what it seems. Y’think this is a cop story; it’s not. It’s a story about survival – mine…’ so says Sgt Aloysius Mackey (James Garner) in Stuart Margolin’s forgotten thriller from the mid-80’s. Sporting zero critical reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB after nearly 40 years, this adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh’s bestseller dropped into one of the dustiest oubliettes in film history by debuting as a feature film on HBO in the States, but being distributed in Europe on the big screen, and being swiftly forgotten, or deliberately buried if you prefer, in both incarnations.

Of course, James Garner was a king of both film and tv, but his nice-guy routine feels a little out-dated in this seedy, seamy, murky film that aims to tell the unvarnished truth about Hollywoodland where the C word is used with abandon. If you’re expecting the laid-back charm of The Rockford Files, look elsewhere; The Glitter Dome acts like making and screening child pornography is one of the central underlying features of the LA film-making scene, and doesn’t pull many punches about that grim suggestion. Mackey and his partner Marty (early John Lithgow) investigate the murder of a shady Hollywood mogul, and uncover all kinds of horrid and deeply illegal activity that shakes their belief in their jobs…

So yikes, yikes and triple yikes; there are obvious reasons why this film has been buried. While Wambaugh generated traction as a scribe of indecency within the police force in The Choirboys and The Onion Field, The Glitter Dome was far too close to uncomfortable truths about the dark side of Hollywood. As if the sex-trafficking plotline wasn’t enough, Margot Kidder gets a big role here as Willie, an actress with a cocaine problem, and the resonance is more than a little agonising. Her monologue feels painfully sincere; “Y’know, they asked me on a talk show once… why I thought drugs were so prevalent in Hollywood, and I answered, ‘Because it’s the material we have to do.’ It got a big laugh, but I’m half convinced it’s true…”

The Glitter Dome is short on the gunplay and he-man swagger that 80’s cop movies required to connect, but it’s worth seeking out as a verboten text. Margolin and Garner had worked together for years on Rockford, and they’re well attuned to material which is sensational in its implication if not action. This film is viewable online these days, and film historians could do worse than check it out; while uneven, The Glitter Dome is a scathing indictment of the worst excesses of La La Land, and the existence of this film at all is surprising in today’s airbrushed, self-deluding world.

This is the best looking trailer I can find; subtitles are for Argentinian readers only.


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  1. I don’t think it got much of a cinema release. I was a big Wambaugh fan and I’ve never heard of it. But thanks for finding it and I’ll certainly give it a watch.

    • Is the correct answer. Impossible to firm any kind of film critique without seeing the state of the art…

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