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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Bird With The Crystal Plumage (VCI DVD Edition)

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Film: B-



When people think of Italian horror directors the three names that come to mind are Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, and of course Dario Argento.  Out of the three the work of Argento seems to hold up better over time and his earlier work show a director more of the verge of creating a sub-genre from what Hitchcock had been doing his entire career.  While Hitchcock had established the murder/mystery/suspense portion of thrillers, the Italian directors attempted to take it one step further into a more graphic and gorier nature.  With the release of The Bird With the Crystal Plumage we see a younger, more adventurous Argento, who had not yet established his own “style” per se, but was on his way.


The story is based around Sam (Tony Musante), an American writer who is in Rome when he witnesses a murder attempt on the wife of an art gallery owner.  Apparently Sam’s intrusion on the murder attempt leaves the woman being the only survivor of a series of attacks.  As with most cases, this one becomes just another with no end and no one seems to be doing anything about it, so Sam takes matters into his own hands becoming involved into something he maybe should have stayed out of.  The formula here is basis, but the overall production works well, especially for a lower budget type of film.  


VCI has brought forth the film in its uncut version showing more detail during one of the murder scenes as well as some additional dialogue all of which makes for a better film.  The film runs 98 minutes versus the shortened 96-minute that was available up until this time in the U.S.  The film is presented in its original 2.35 X 1 scope image shot by master cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who would go on to do amazing work like The Conformist (1970), Last Tango in Paris (1972), Apocalypse Now (1979), Reds (1981), and the more recent mini-series Dune (2000).  His ability to use masterful color and framing work well for a semi-erotic thriller, easily establishing him as one of the best genre filmmakers in the field.


There is definitely a fair amount of debris and dirt still on this print, but overall nothing too major.  Darker scenes seem to suffer more and become too soft.  Darks are never fully as dark as they should be.  Colors look ok especially when compared to the 2.35 X 1 scope theatrical trailer.  Even the blood looks far better than some films (especially during the 70’s) were using that had a more pinkish look to it. 


Besides being a very visual sound the other component that makes the film slightly better than average is the masterful music composed by Ennio Morricone, who had just one year prior pulled together some of his best work on Once Upon a Time in the West (see that DVD review on this site).  This shows his ability to work not just on Westerns, but also on thrillers, although his composition seems to have a unusual feel from what most films of this time were doing.  The music is much more flowing relying on visual cues more than audio cues for the suspense.  The tension is familiar despite Morricone’s attempt to do something outside of what Bernard Herrmann was doing and it works!  For this DVD the film has been remixed for a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround option, which is acceptable even if purist will want the original mono mix.  One incredible feature for this DVD is the jukebox setup that allows you to listen to the original soundtrack as each song (11 tracks) are accessible to listen to one at a time.  More DVD’s should do this! 


This is one of those films that can be enjoyed even for those that are not necessarily big Argento fans or schlock horror films in general.  This appeals to those more interested in stylish thrillers that set the mood for a newer generation of suspense.  Also recommended would be Cat O’ Nine Tails, which (yes) has also been covered on this site.



-   Nate Goss


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