Movie Review: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
Directed Dario Argento
Starring Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salemo, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho, Renato Romano, Giuseppe Castellano

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This is a very important title to Italian horror fans. It is, of course, the directorial debut of Dario Argento, and what would be the first film in his ‘animal trilogy’. It was this picture that would start Argento down his path as one of the most popular Italian directors, whose career has spanned more than five decades. Sure, some might frown upon some of Argento’s later films, even from the last couple of decades. But no matter how bad you might consider those films, that doesn’t change the fact that the titles in the early part of his career still are stunning classics and, more importantly, still effective today. As Troy Howarth points out in his commentary that is featured on this new disc from Arrow Video, “His reputation as one of the most influential and imaginative of genre filmmakers can never be taken away from him.” So there you go.

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American writer, Tony Musante, witnesses an attempted murder of a woman, but couldn’t help her because he was trapped inside between two glass windows. The police arrive and the woman survives the attack, with the black-coated fiend escaping through a door after stabbing the woman. But something isn’t sitting well with Musante as he recalls what he witnessed to the police. He can’t put his finger on it, but something just isn’t right. So he spend the rest of the film trying to unravel the puzzle in his mind. Meanwhile, there is a black gloved killer on the loose, killing young women throughout the city.

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There are more than a few shots that would show us the future of Argento and his camerawork, including a great transition shot while looking at a painting. As well as him giving us some beautifully crafted shots making nice used of the 2.35:1 ratio, with plenty of action happening across the screen, or sometimes just on the edge of it. This is a perfect example that right from the beginning, Argento understood what to put in front of the camera and how and where.

This film is also the first time that composer Ennio Morricone created a score for Argento. This is very different than what we usually expect from him, but it really works here. Once again, showing the sheer talent of this amazing musician.

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What can be said about this film that hasn’t been said, written about, or documented a hundred times before. This is definitely an essential title for any fan of giallos, Argento, as well as fans of thrillers and horror films. If you don’t own a copy of this title already, then now is your chance. The print here looks amazing and there are plenty of extras, which we will mention shortly. But the real question is if you have a previous release of this, is it worth double-dipping? As much as I hate having to do that, I do think that since this is a very important title in the genre, this is an amazing release. Arrow has done an exceptional job here, making the film look great, as well as giving us quite a few interesting extras. When you’re talking about a special film like this, sometimes double-dipping is a must.

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Arrow has gone all out for the extras on this release. Author Howarth supplies the audio commentary here, which is filled with so much information, everything from the making of the picture, the people involved, whether it is actors in front of the camera or the crew behind the camera. And not just the predominate names, but ones that have little bit parts. One of things that I really enjoyed about Howarth’s commentary is that is feels like he’s having a conversation with you, as opposed to just reading a bunch of notes, so it comes off more sincere, showing you how much he loves the genre.

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The disc also has a new interview with Argento himself, as well as actor Gildo Di Marco. There is a very informative analysis of the film from journalist Kat Ellinger, as well as a “visual essay” on the films of Argento called The Power of Perception by author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. This edition is presented in a 1080p High Definition Blu-ray, from a brand new 4K restoration of the picture from the camera negative in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, as well as a standard DVD.

So what are you waiting for….go buy this!

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