Before the masterful Suspiria, Italian horror director/writer Dario Argento began his career with The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970). Not only would this be Argento’s debut feature, but also the beginning of his “Animal Trilogy”. Now almost 50 years later, Arrow Video is proud to release this thrilling murder mystery on Blu Ray. Packed with loads of new commentary, and 4k restoration, this revamped edition is an absolute must to own for Argento fans. Part of the package allows viewers to enjoy plenty of commentary that analyzes the picture, with thoughts from the director/writer himself. The visual update also adds to the lush colors in each violent scene, bringing out the tension and ferocity in each action packed moment.
For those who aren’t aware, the film follows an American writer who witnesses an attempted murder. As he begins to learn more about a series of mysterious murders taking place, he becomes obsessed, leading him to embark on his own investigation. What follows is a compelling tale of gruesome imagery and suspense, full of puzzles for our protagonist to solve. Argento’s writing presents a thriller that will keep viewers guessing as to who the killer actually is. We are offered the slightest of hints via visual and dialogue cues, building upon the mystery. At one point the protagonist discovers a painting that is somehow linked to the killer; and the way the film goes about revealing its significance makes for an extravagant surprise.
The Bird With The Crystal Plumage not only made a large impact on Italian cinema, but redefined the “giallo” genre. The cinema of giallo typically revolves around that of: crime fiction, psychological thrillers/horrors, erotica/sexploitation, and slasher flicks. There’s an even balance between the use of thriller and horror slasher elements throughout the film. At times the picture will follow the protagonist interviewing individuals as to who the killer may be, to then transitioning into violent scenes.
The killer, dressed in all black with their face hidden, attacks their victims in horrific manners. In one of these scenes, the camera goes into a first-person-perspective of the victim, going about their business before the killer arrives. Upon the reveal of the killer, the camera shifts back and forth in perspective, having the viewer’s eyes dart about the screen. We follow the shine of the blade as it traces the victim's flesh. These moment-to-moment transitions bring a stellar sense of anxiety, capturing a pure vibe of terror.
Argento is an iconic name in giallo, with The Bird With The Crystal Plumage honing in on what makes the genre effective. In the case of Argento, one cannot deny the director’s masterful ability in how he uses color. For example, whenever there is a use of red on the screen (such as blood), it captures the essence of the scene. There’s a hyper-sense of tension and adrenaline, accompanied by a creepy score. This latter element is all thanks to legendary composer Ennio Morricone, with the brilliant cinematography done by Vittorio Storaro.
The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is a classic tale of mystery that every fan of horror should witness. It’s a must own for the Argento purist, showcasing the remarkable beginnings of one of horror’s greatest directors. With striking visual and audio qualities, alongside a captivating story, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is one of the best horror-thrillers of our time.
Michael Pementel is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago's Creative Writing Program. When he isn't writing for Film Daddy, he writes full time for Metal Injection and New Noise Magazine. He has also written for Alternative Press, Film Inquiry, and The Curator. He's the Social Media Manager for death metal record label Ultimate Massacre Productions. When not writing, he enjoys a hot cup of black coffee, a good book/video game/film, and to cuddle with his fiancée and cat.
Follow Michael on Twitter @pementelm.