The Bird With The Crystal Plumage – Arrow Video
Director: Dario Argento
Cast: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Arrow Video from marry old England continues tearing through the Argento catalog, this time brining “the Italian Hitchcock’s” first movie to glorious High-Def. The good news is that like all of Arrow’s Blu-rays, it is a region free disc, so despite it coming from across the pond, it plays perfectly well in our North American players.
The question is; should we care?
I mean, it is a film by Dario Argento, but it is his first film. Does everyone knock it out of the park their first time at bat? Well no, but come on … it’s Argento! So having never actually seen this film for myself before, I gave the old maestro the benefit of the doubt and gladly popped this one into my BD player.
Was this early Argento effort a pretty birdy, or just enough turkey? Let’s find out.
An American writer in Rome named Sam sees an attack on a woman in an art gallery by the staple of giallo movies; a figure in a trench coat, face-concealing hat, and the trademark black gloves. He intervenes and the woman lives, but in doing so the local police take his passport, as he is the only one to see the psycho who has so far sliced up three other woman. This also means he becomes the target of said psycho. When the killer tries to add Sam to his body count total, twice, the writer screws up his American gumption and decides to look into the matter and the mystery himself. Naturally more bodies pile up, the plot gets a bit too confusing too fast, and Argento adds his own quirky touches, like a cat-eating artist who lives in a room only accessible by a ladder to a second floor window.
Now if you go into this movie with Argento’s bloody, horror films fresh in your mind, expecting more of the same here, I fear you may be a tad disappointed. While technically a giallo film, Bird is the most “traditional” murder mystery movie he’s made. What I mean by that is while there is some blood, it’s not up to the usual Dario Argento standards of quantity or quality. Also, there are some murders to be sure, but they’re sort of basic and nowhere near as creative or awe-inspiring as other movies from the director. Like Deep Red, for example. And while the mystery is at times twisty, I figured out who the killer was before the movie spilled the beans, and that rarely happens in an Argento film. But most damning of all, while I thought the film was good, I didn’t think it was great and also found it at times to be a bit boring. I can’t remember ever saying that about another Argento film, so take that how you will.
As for this Blu-ray release, once again Arrow Video delivers the goods. Let’s count off the usual goodies. Four different options for the BD box art? Check. Double-sided wall poster? Check. Collector’s booklet written by Argento expert, Alan Jones? Check again. As for the extra goods on the disc, they are plenty. There’s a really good audio commentary by the aforementioned Mr. Jones and fellow author, Kim Newman. Luigi Cozzi, longtime friend and collaborator of Argento’s, does a 15 minute featurette on Bird. Sergio Martino, himself a well-known director of Italian splatter classics like The Mountain Of The Cannibal God and Torso, does a half-hour retrospective on giallo movies, with special attention paid to Argento’s films. Last but in no way least, Dario himself does a 15 minuet interview about his first major motion picture.
The Bird With The Crystal Plumage isn’t the best Argento film, but it is still pretty darn good. Also, it’s the first, and that means it is simply historic. Perhaps for that reason alone it deserves to be in the home library of any giallo, mystery and/or horror fan. I’ll leave that up to you.