Dario Argento didn’t invent the film giallo, but he made the film that made the genre an international sensation. After Argento’s Bird with crystal plumage came out, Italian producers were eager to make mysterious slasher films, and distributors are renaming their films to include a colorful animal. Argento had worked hard as a screenwriter in spaghetti westerns, including that of Sergio Leone Once upon a Time in the West. Now he was the leader of a genre that wouldn’t dry up until the last victim was stabbed. Bird with crystal plumage remains an impressive first film even after discovering the real killer. The 4K UHD version will make it an even more shocking experience.
Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is set to return to America after his visit to Italy proved to be creatively unsuccessful. The only thing the writer did was scribble a book about birds instead of a novel. Of course, he has an English model girlfriend (Suzy Kendall). While walking on one of his last nights in the Eternal City, he witnesses a woman stabbed by a leather stranger in a modern art gallery. Sam runs to the building to help him, but finds himself trapped in the glass doors of the entrance. He helplessly watches the violence and the woman (Eva Renzi) bleeds to the floor as the killer escapes. The police finally arrive and free Sam from his glass cage. The stabbed woman is treated as Inspector Morosini (Enrico Maria Salerno) wants more information from Sam. It turns out that the killer is suspected of being a serial killer who attacked shop workers in the area . He grabs Sam’s passport to make sure his star witness doesn’t come home. Sam can’t wait for the police to solve the case since he has a plane to catch and he’s afraid the killer will want to clean his butt. Either he will come out of this mystery with a great detective story, or a corpse drawn in chalk.
Bird with crystal plumage has just the right amount of twists and turns to make things exciting and tense. He also has enough blood on the screen to be more than just a Perry mason mystery. It’s no wonder Alfred Hitchcock was impressed with what he saw on screen. Argento knew what he was doing on his first film because he hired two key contributors who brought so much. The first is the director of photography Vittorio Storaro. He’s a legend behind the lens and he does more than lights for a typical genre film. The second is the composer Ennio Morricone whose score raises the tension at the right time. You don’t want to take your eyes or ears off the screen when the movie starts. Argento adds his own touch to the film since that’s where he began the tradition of being hands inside black gloves for the homicide close-up. Bird with crystal plumage was born to fly.
The video is 2.35: 1 anamorphic. The new 4K UHD transfer brings out the beauty of Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography. What you enjoyed about Arrow’s Blu-ray release almost four years ago has been high. You will see the details in the dark. This is the best way to watch the legendary movie. Audio is DTS-HD MA Mono for English and Italian versions. Since the films feature international distribution, there is a good chance that both soundtracks of the films have been dubbed in post-production. Tony Musante is American so it’s probably not his voice on the Italian track. The film has English subtitles.
Audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So deadly, so perverse: 50 years of Italian films by Giallo is very informative. Howarth’s coverage of the genre gives him a good idea of Argento’s impact. He remembers the old faded VHS pan and scan copy that really doesn’t reveal the grandeur given by this Blu-ray transfer.
The power of perception (20:57) is a visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Devil’s Advocates: Suspiria and Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study. It’s refreshing to have a film scholar discussing the film. This brings me back to film school, except none of my instructors wanted to get too heady on slasher movies not directed by Hitchcock. She mentions that Fredric Brown’s book was given to her by Bernardo Bertolucci.
Black gloves and screaming Mimis (31:54) is an analysis of the film by critic Kat Ellinger. She explains how Argento adapted Fredric Brown’s novel The screaming Mimi in Bird which had been adapted for the cinema in 1958. It compares and contrasts the scenes of the book with the cinematographic vision of Argento. She sets up the elements of his first film which he refines over the course of Argento’s career.
Crystal nightmare (31:24) is a recent interview with writer / director Dario Argento where he talks about Brown’s book and the visions he gave it. He wasn’t sure if he would have a chance to direct or get stuck as a screenwriter again. Argento speaks Italian with English subtitles, so play this feature when you have time to focus on the screen.
An Argento icon (22:05) chats with actor Gildo Di Marco (Garullo the pimp). He entered showbiz thanks to being a rescuer during an earthquake. He covers his early career, including working with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer.
Eva speaks (11:19) sits down with actress Eva Renzi in 2005. She was supposed to do Card castle with Orson Welles, but her husband got her fired and she ended up Bird. His career started with Michael Caine Funeral in Berlin then she turned down a role in Bond. She can still play her role a little. She died in 2005.
Trailers are provided for an Italian and international release with a recent screening by Texas Frightmare. The trailers play with the fact that Hitchcock was impressed with the film. Who needs The New York Times when the master praises your work.
Double-sided folding poster featuring 6 lobby card reproductions.
60-page limited edition booklet with writings by Howard Hughes, Jack Seabrook and Rachael Nisbet.
Video arrow present The bird with the crystal plumage. Director: Dario Argento. Screenplay by: Dario Argento. With: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Eva Renzi. Graded: R. Duration: 96 minutes. Released: July 27, 2021.
Tags: 4K UHD, Arrow Video, Crystal Plumage Bird