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
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