Among other things that showed up in the mail while I was hospitalized for about a month was an absolutely stunning 4K Blu-Ray conversion of Dario Argento’s first film, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage courtesy of Arrow Video.
Packed with bonus features (including a new interview with Argento) and physical goodies collectors will love, this limited edition joins Arrow’s other gialli as another essential worth tracking down. While the film is the director’s tamest horror flick, it still packs quite a memorable visual punch thanks to some creative camerawork, cinematography by the great Vittorio Storaro (The Conformist, Apocalypse Now) and a few genuinely terrifying moments that still shock today.
After an American writer Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) witnesses an attempted murder at a closed art museum in Rome, he decides to throw himself into solving the case. Naturally, this turns out to be a very bad idea as he starts figuring out things are a great deal more complex than even the local police think. Yes, there’s a serial killer at work and despite all sorts of high-tech investigation work, no one has pegged the killer who continues to bump off your women at a reasonably efficient clip.
In true horror movie fashion, expect a few things to not stand up to common human logic, but also expect some twists and turns out of a Hitchcock or Mario Bava film. Dalmas has his passport taken away despite being obviously innocent (the cops need him as a witness), a few potential suspects drop on into the film more as diversions or live MacGuffins, Sam’s girlfriend (Suzy Kendall) gets put in mortal danger just so the finale makes more sense and so forth and so on. Still, everything here is the hook as you’re drawn into the mystery that lasts until the very end.
Even if you’ve figured things out before the big reveal(s), Argento is clearly in control and running the show up until the very end. There’s that sense of the director fully believing in his project while also allowing himself the freedom to drop a camera off a rooftop while it was attached to a rope (which didn’t work out well for the camera, but hey – that shot was gotten). The film also tosses in a bunch of cues to Argento’s later works where you see he was even more bold and assured in his creativity.
As noted, Arrow has packed this box to the gills with stuff. The Argento and late Eva Renzi interviews are the standouts here as Argento recalls everything from the producer hating the film to Musante being somewhat problematic on set. Renzi seems to not have liked her character at all, but you also discover that she was a person who kind of helped wreck her own career American thanks to some defiant choices (some of which were correct, mind you).
There’s a lot more to add, but my still sluggish typing and up/down pendulum mood is making me cut this short with a straight razor. Get this Bird and watch it with a few who haven’t seen it before or won’t go spoil its surprises by being nosy online. My hope is we get more Argento via Arrow Video as this set is about as good as it gets for giallo fans.
Score: A (95%)