“The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” (“L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo”)
“The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” is a thriller whose scares are on a basic level and works mostly by exploiting our fear of the dark. We keep following the hero into dark rooms, dark alleys, dark parks, dark corridors and dark basements. Of course this gives us a sense of uneasiness especially since the room in which we are watching the film is dark. makes us very uneasy. That’s what thrillers are all about, of course, and that is why this one works.
“The Bird” is the story of a guy who stumbles into a police search for a maniac murderer. At first, he is suspected of being guilty, and then becomes in involved in a deadly relationship with the killer, who wears black gloves, a black cape and black hat. He leads the hero on an investigation that turns up all sorts of interesting characters, including an artist who eats cats, a pimp who has to add “so long” at the end of every sentence to keep from stuttering, and an association of retired pugilists.
Then every once in a while, someone gets killed, but violence is not what this thriller is about. Thrillers use anticipation, fear and a feeling of impotence and work best when the viewer is afraid for the hero or his girl friend, and can’t help them, and they can’t help themselves.
For example, there is one scene that comes when the hero’s girl is alone in their apartment and the killer starts hacking away at the door. The lights are out and the phone is dead, and the girl collapses into hysteria and crawls around on the floor. We desperately want her to pull herself together and do something but she doesn’t and the killer keeps hacking away.
It starts simply with Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), American writer in Rome, walking alone at night and he sees a lovely girl (Eva Renzi), on the inside balcony of a modern art gallery struggling for a knife with a black-coated man. She is wounded and falls, trapped within. Dalmas is trapped without. The girl recovers, but Dalmas finds himself involved in a series of murders that lead to many beautiful young dead women and to the near-death of his own beautiful young mistress (Suzy Kendall).
“The Bird With the Crystal Plumage” has no interesting ideas about its ideas and so we see it as a generally conventional, somewhat sophisticated and often scary murder mystery.
The film was made in 1969 and was the directorial debut of Dario Argento, a native of Rome who had previously worked as a film critic and had written or co-written a handful of movies. He took the giallo genre and used it to create this film of stunning murders. It is an extremely polished and confident film with excellent pacing and photography.
Argento lets the narrative talk for itself, and there is plenty of squeamish material for the more imaginative.
Tony Musante, who portrays Sam with a level of believability and sympathy. Suzy Kendall does what she has to in the role of his girlfriend Julia, who is essentially a potential corpse throughout the whole film. She looks wide-eyed, cowers in corners and moans about the fact that the police keep bothering Sam and comes across as the stereotypical “girly” role. Sam treats her as an object, and she responds as one. I stop hear on discussing the plot so I do not give anything away,
SPECIAL FEATURES include:
– Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the camera negative in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release
– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
– Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
– English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
– New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
– The Power of Perception, a new 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
– New analysis of the film by critic Kat Ellinger
– New interview with writer/director Dario Argento
– New interview with actor Gildo Di Marco (Garullo the pimp)
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp
– Double-sided fold-out poster
– 6 Lobby Card reproductions
– Limited edition 60-page booklet illustrated by Matthew Griffin, featuring an appreciation of the film by Michael Mackenzie, and new writing by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook