The Bird With The Crystal Plumage [UHD Limited Ed]
(Mario Adorf, Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, et al / 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray / NR / (1970) 2021 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: In 1970, young first-time director Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria) made his indelible mark on Italian cinema with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage - a film which redefined the giallo genre of murder-mystery thrillers and catapulted him to international stardom.
Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante, We Own the Night), an American writer living in Rome, inadvertently witnesses a brutal attack on a woman (Eva Renzi, Funeral in Berlin) in a modern art gallery.
Powerless to help, he grows increasingly obsessed with the incident. Convinced that something he saw that night holds the key to identifying the maniac terrorizing Rome, he launches his own investigation parallel to that of the police, heedless of the danger to both himself and his girlfriend Giulia (Suzy Kendall, Spasmo).
A staggeringly assured debut, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage establishes the key traits that would define Argento’s filmography, including lavish visuals and a flare for wildly inventive, brutal scenes of violence.
Blu-ray Verdict: With sumptuous cinematography by Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now) and a seductive score by legendary composer Ennio Morricone (Once Upon a Time in the West), this landmark film has never looked or sounded better in this brand new 4K Ultra HD presentation from Arrow Video!
It all begins rather nonchalantly – with a semi-rugged, handsome and solitary man (visiting American writer Sam Dalmas) calmly walking along a dark and empty Roman side street.
Across the way, inside what appears to be a high-end contemporary art gallery, Sam witnesses a struggle between an obscured, shadowy man and a woman dressed in white.
The mysterious black-gloved man appears to be attacking the woman with a large knife or razor. Shocked, Sam runs over to help, banging on the fiberglass partition that shields the gallery from the street, but it is all in vain.
Without warning, the galleries alarm goes off and another invulnerable partition quickly slides into place from behind, thereby trapping Sam between the two.
He has no choice but to watch helplessly as the woman is repeatedly and mercilessly stabbed by her masked, leather-clad attacker. And we have no choice but to sit and watch along with him.
Although there is great danger in store for Sam if he remains in Rome (being the only eyewitness to a still unsolved crime), he is determined to assist however he can. The only way he really can help is by forcing himself to confront the memories of what he saw that night. And we are forced to do the same.
Argento gave us almost all the clues to solve the movies mystery right up front, film title included (something the character of Sam does not even get to consider). We saw exactly the same things Sam did. Can we recall those initial images we should not have taken for granted, and with them, guess the killers identity?
Can Sam figure it out before he is next on the killers list?
Throughout Bird, Sam is haunted by what he saw, or rather, what he did not see, and only by immersing himself in the horror of the memory (and the future danger that comes with it) can he free himself from its ghost; like John Harrington in Bavas Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Sam Dalmas must go on.
One of the most auspicious directorial debuts in genre cinema history (if not in all of cinema), Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage took the world film markets (and critics) by complete surprise upon its initial releases throughout 70-71.
Dario Argento was an already accomplished screenwriter, having co-written Sergio Leones epic, unsurpassable masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West, but Argento’s directorial debut was neither greatly anticipated nor expected to be of much note.
Today Argento is considered to be among the most influential genre filmmakers alive, and the roots of so much that we take for granted in the world of cinematic thrills and suspense first took seed in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.
Despite Bavas originating the giallo sub-genre with 1962s The Girl Who Knew Too Much and 1964s Blood & Black Lace, it took Argento’s Bird to kick-start the craze, which ran for a further twelve blood-riddled years.
This nail-biting interim include great works by Lucio Fulci (Lizard in a Woman’s Skin; Don’t Torture a Duckling) and Sergio Martino (Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key; Torso), but Argento himself brought the giallo’s glorious run to its end with his overtly self-referential 1982 film Tenebrae - in which, again like Hatchet for the Honeymoon, the protagonist and antagonist are one and the same.
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage however, keeps first-time viewers guessing in addictive frustration, and shaking in their seats until its final sadistic scenes.
Unlike Bava, the dialogue and plot matter a great deal to Argento, and few if any other giallo’s can match Birds inventive narrative. Aided by intelligent, imaginative and disquieting camera-work by future Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro (who like Argento was a prior relative unknown), and a gorgeously arid percussive score by Ennio Morricone, Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was the start of an ingenious and daring career that has seen many highs, and many unfortunate lows.
Even though Bava will always be the Renaissance Man to lovers of Italian Horror, Argento should be remembered as the Mannerist, the Expressionist. He took it to the next obvious yet intelligent level, away from Bavas bold, entertaining experiments in style, contrast, perspective and otherworldly lighting, and instead into a darker, morally-contrarian realm.
One where the feelings and intentions of the artists images, and the audiences reaction to them, may not be in sync; where a world of fever-dreams and waking-nightmares is ruled by Freudian panic; and where the word primal may lose its definition, for it could be all there is.
Most amazing of all, Argento’s best works were yet to come! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
New 4K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films
4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
Restored original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks
English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
Audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
Black Gloves and Screaming Mimis, an interview with author and critic Kat Ellinger exploring the films themes and its relationship to both the giallo and Fredric Browns novel The Screaming Mimi
The Power of Perception, a visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexanda Heller-Nicholas, author of Devils Advocates: Suspiria and The Giallo Canvas: Art, Excess and Horror Cinema, reflecting on the recurring theme of perception and the role of art in Argento’s filmography
Crystal Nightmare, an interview with writer/director Dario Argento
An Argento Icon, an interview with actor Gildo Di Marco
Eva’s Talking, an archival interview with actor Eva Renzi
Original Italian and international theatrical trailers
2017 Texas Frightmare trailer
Illustrated collectors booklet featuring writing on the film by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook, and a new essay by Rachael Nisbet
Fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative
Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards
Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring originally and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative