Child Of Glass, a forgettably innocuous TV movie about pre-teens and ghosts shown on The Wonderful World Of Disney TV program back in 1978, is fondly remembered by a number of adults who saw it as kids when it first aired as a spooky tale worthy of repeated viewings. Modern kids whose nostalgia-blinded parents force them to watch what amounts to a horror movie with training wheels will surely wonder what all the fuss is about.
But don’t judge your lame out-of-touch parents too harshly, modern kids! When Child of Glass aired, the only other TV options were The Hardy Boys Mysteries, which was basically the same program, but for teenagers and 60 Minutes which continues to air in zombie-like fashion to this very day! (In retrospect, Dan Rather investigating the “disco craze” is surely more frightening than anything Child of Glass can serve up.)
The Armsworth family has gone and bought themselves an old mansion in the South and mom and dad plan on renovating it so they can hold fancy parties there. Alexander and his sister Connie Sue instantly turn the audience against them with their complaining about the move because even though they don’t have to change schools, they are living five miles further away than they were before!
But they’re just getting started! Alexander, a whiny and crabby kid all the time, is a little put out by some strange goings on in the old barn out back. That dang ghostly blue light coming from it is keeping him up at night. And his gal pal Blossom Culp (whom he treats like crap the whole movie) isn’t helping any by talking about ghosts haunting the old place.
As anyone whose ever moved into a haunted house knows though, that ghostly blue light is indeed a ghost! And not just any old fussy ghost, but a kid ghost!
The ghost is Inez Dumaine who lived in the mansion years ago with her river pirate uncle who reportedly hung himself. Inez died a mysterious death herself and now she’s floating around demanding that Alexander put her soul at peace so that she can go on and meet her parents in the afterlife.
To help him do this, she tells him a rhyme that supposedly has all the information he needs. It involves where a murdered lass sleeps and a child of glass being reunited with that murdered lass.
Alexander and Blossom figure out pretty fast that the murdered lass is Inez and that where she sleeps is in her tomb at the local cemetery, but they’re a bit stymied by the child of glass bit. No time to worry about that though because Alexander’s parents are having a big cotillion he has to attend!
Inez appears as she frequently does to whine about how Alexander isn’t busting his ass to solve her riddle. He proves he knows how to handle the ladies by telling her even though he’s at the party, he’s thinking about his next move.
Then she uses her one time only power to become real and waltzes with Alexander. Obviously this is where the film loses normal viewers. There’s a ghost and rumors of a treasure trove of diamonds the river pirate left on the grounds, but we’re watching two 13-year-olds dance? Inez’s ghost dog saves the day by waking up the viewer when he ruins the party with his wacky shenanigans.
As if the hunt for this child of glass wasn’t enough drama for these brats, Anthony Zerbe shows up to collect a paycheck for a few days work as the drunken, backwoods handyman who gets fired by Alexander’s family for not fixing up their gazebo the way they wanted.
He swears revenge and then burns up their barn while Alexander is inside it! Alexander escapes with Zerbe in hot pursuit and falls down a well! This provides the classic moment where Inez’s dog starts yapping at everyone as they look for Alexander and then leads them to the well. You’ll find yourself desperately hoping one of the characters will breathlessly intone “What’s that, Ghost Dog? Alexander is trapped in the old well?”
While rescuing Alexander, Blossom solves the child of glass mystery. I never figured out though why Inez needed this child of glass and what it had to do with the curse the river pirate put on her. Or how come she had to impart the information in riddle form. Or why she couldn’t just use her one time power of turning real to retrieve the child of glass for herself. But I suppose the ways of the spirit world are lost upon us mere mortals.
The movie moves along for the most part, but really stalls once that party happens. Since there wasn’t a lot to the mystery (find the kid’s child of glass and dump it on her grave) the film had to stretch things out a bit and throw in the drunken handyman to liven things up.
The kids while initially irritating, especially Alexander with his nasty southern accent and vaguely cross-eyed/inbred look, for the most part acted like normal kids would if they were getting haunted and chased after by Anthony Zerbe, so I can’t dump too much on them. (I’m especially not going to dump on the dude that played Alexander because he bought it in a car wreck when he was only 25 and I don’t need him haunting me!)
Child of Glass is the sort of movie you needed to see at a certain age when it first came out to have anything other than a passing interest in it. Viewers who became fans 30 years ago will no doubt defend it as good clean moderately scary family fun. Everyone else (including their kids) will likely shrug over what is only one of several of these types of Disney movies released during the 1970s-1980s when the company was still trying to figure out what sort of entertainment to try and sell kids who were rapidly becoming more enamored of special effects laden blockbusters like Star Wars, Superman and Raiders of the Lost Ark rather than films featuring Don Knotts and marginal TV fare like this.
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