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The Bird With the Crystal Plumage(1970)
In his first film as writer/director, Dario Argento (SUSPIRIA, DEEP RED, TWO EVIL EYES) single-handedly created the giallo genre and instantly emerged as the filmmaker critics worldwide hailed as ‘The Italian Hitchcock.’ Tony Musante (TRAFFIC, WE OWN THE NIGHT) and Suzy Kendall (CIRCUS OF FEAR, TORSO) star in this pulse-pounding suspense thriller about an American writer in Rome who witnesses – and is helpless to stop – a brutal assault, the cunning vengeance of a maniac, and the heart-stopping horror that lives – and kills – deep in the dark.
For more about The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and the The Bird With the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray release, see the The Bird With the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 21, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Eva Renzi, Enrico Maria Salerno, Mario Adorf, Renato Romano
Director: Dario Argento
» See full cast & crew
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray Review
Dario Argento's suspenseful Horror/Thriller arrives courtesy of fan favorite studio Blue Underground.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 21, 2009
I feel that I'm getting closer to the truth every minute.
Filmmaker Dario Argento is one of Italy's finest claims to fame, right up there with the Ferrari, the pepperoni pizza, and the Beretta 92. His directorial debut came in 1970 with The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, a film that both established him as an auteur of fine Suspense and Horror cinema and set the foundation for his string of cult hits to follow, including Suspiria and Opera. Argento is anything but a traditional Horror Filmmaker. His pictures veer away from the commonplace and arguably more audience-friendly American hack-and-slash style of Horror and embrace psychological terror, deliberate pacing, characterization, and physical violence that plays into the context of the story rather than serving as its centerpiece. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage isn't Argento's best work, but it's a fine example of his style and makes for perhaps the best film with which to introduce newcomers to his works. The film is smart and edgy, mysterious, but not too deep. Viewers will eventually catch up with and ultimately find themselves one step ahead of the main character, but not to the detriment of the experience. The story remains tightly woven and secretive through the better part of the runtime and features minimal physical violence but several scenes of intense psychological terror, all adding up to a film that exemplifies Argento's approach to filmmaking.
American Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is traveling abroad in Italy when he becomes witness to an attack on a woman inside a museum. Sam attempts to intervene but finds himself unable to breach the structure's oddly-designed entrance, finding himself trapped between two glass walls, unable to help the staggering and bloodied victim or apprehend the assailant. When help finally arrives, the girl's wounds are found to be superficial. Sam then finds himself the subject of intense questioning from the police. Though he is not considered a suspect, his passport is seized so he may not flee the country and leave the police without the help of their key witness. Soon, Sam and his girlfriend become targets of the killer, a killer known only to be left-handed and with a taste for fine clothing and cigars. Though Sam comes face-to-face with an assailant armed with a pistol and receives threatening phone calls telling to him to leave the country, he becomes obsessed with solving the crime and revealing the identity of the killer, something the police seem unable to do.
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is a fairly slow, deliberately-paced Mystery with only subtle elements of Horror mixed in to lend credence and urgency to the proceedings. It's a film that follows a natural progression, with no plot contrivances or sloppy writing to move the plot along or conveniently wrap up a poorly-conceived resolution. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is a fine example of good old-fashioned moviemaking where strong characterization, an accessible but not dumbed-down plot, steady direction, and overtones of the best of Hitchcock make for a brain-tingling, heart-racing Mystery. It's a rather simple movie from every perspective; there are no major special effects or overly fancy and elaborate sets to take away from the story. It's a throwback to a time where the story was the main selling point, reinforced only by smart direction and good acting. While The Bird With the Crystal Plumage features no actors whose names will jump out at the average moviegoer, each cast member delivers a suitable performance in the context of the story. They support the story rather than define it, and the same holds true for the steady and unobtrusive yet generally mesmerizing direction of Dario Argento.
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage arrives on Blu-ray with fine results. This 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer will not become the next go-to demo disc, but it does feature the film looking about as good as it's ever likely to. Detail is rather strong throughout, and colors are stable, though reds seem to stand out as a bit more pronounced than anything else on the palette. There are many locales seen throughout the movie that offer viewers the opportunity to see plenty of fascinating textures and objects, ranging from an antique store to Sam's apartment with its brick walls, plaid wallpaper and table cloths, and antiquated furniture and appliances. Each locale, and the objects in them, is colorful and nicely detailed. Foggy and other dark scenes are handled well by the disc with no pixelation and only a slight bit of noise. Grain is rather heavy throughout the picture, and viewers will note several speckles scattered about the image. Blacks are deep and inky and flesh tones stable. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage enjoys something of a classic look and feel, and its intended appearance is nicely replicated on this Blu-ray release from Blue Underground.
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage features a myriad of audio options, including a pair of English 7.1 lossless soundtracks and two Dolby Digital 5.1 EX tracks, one each in English and Italian. The DTS HD MA and Dolby TrueHD offerings feature no discernible differences compared one to the other, but the movie was screened in its entirety utilizing the DTS offering. Generally, this is a mostly bland and average soundtrack that is front-heavy, though it was never intended to be a rip-roaring sonic extravaganza. It's more of a quiet, contemplative track enhanced by various effects and music that punctuate certain scenes and sequences. What's available does offer a decent presence; music is generally pleasing, ranging form the lightest notes of a piano or earthy, breezy, soft music accompanied by a series of light chants, to the harsh beating of piano keys to punctuate the most violent and terrifying of images in the film. The track handles the range of music and effects nicely. However, several sound effects and musical cues are presented with a rather high-pitched and harsh tone. Dialogue reproduction is steady and emanates cleanly and discernibly from the center speaker. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage's soundtrack supports the film rather than defines it, and all of the mixes available on this track replicate the film's sound nicely.
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage flies onto Blu-ray with several extra features. Headlining this package is an audio commentary with Journalists Alan Jones and Kim Newman. This pair offers a fascinating track as they discuss the film's place in history, the background of its production, the contributions of the cast, the formation of the script and its translation to film, and more. This is a well above-average track that looks at the film from a historical perspective rather than a completely technical one; cinephiles will greatly enjoy this. 'Out of the Shadows' -- Interview With Co-Writer/Director Dario Argento (480p, 17:58) is a subtitled piece featuring the famed director sharing some details relating to his background as an individual and influences growing up, and moving on to discuss The Bird With the Crystal Plumage in detail, touching on the psychology of the film, his filmmaking techniques, some of the difficulties off-camera, and more. 'Painting With Darkness' -- Interview With Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (480p, 10:03) is another subtitled interview where the Storaro begins by discussing how The Bird With the Crystal Plumage defines Argento's career and later moving on to share his thoughts on how the film's unique visual styles help in establishing its many aesthetic and psychological layers. 'The Music of Murder' -- Interview With Composer Ennio Morricone (480p, 7:31) examines, with the help of subtitles, how the composer's work enhances the feel of the film. 'Eva's Talking' -- Interview With Actress Eva Renzi (480p, 11:19) is an English-language interview where the actress discusses her career and experiences in making the film. Concluding the supplements are the U.S. (480p, 2:46) and Italian (480p, 3:12) trailers and two TV spots (480p, 0:19 & 0:28).
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage hearkens back to a bygone era of cinema where less was more, the movie relying on the strength of its story rather than a collection of name actors or special effects to succeed. It's not a movie for everyone, particularly viewers more inclined to enjoy modern Horror or the flashier, more quickly-paced Thrillers of today. However, for audiences willing to allow the story to unravel in its own time and through the eyes of then first-time Director Dario Argento, the experience will be a rewarding one. It's also a superb film to serve as in introduction to Argento's style, allowing first-timers to gain a sense of what his work is all about in a film that isn't quite as bloody as his later films. Blue Underground has once again delivered a cult classic to Blu-ray with fine results. While neither the video nor audio quality match the intensity and beauty of newer pictures, the high definition treatment allows The Bird With the Crystal Plumage to look and sound as good as it is ever likely to for home viewing. The studio has also included a fine array of bonus materials to round out another good package that deserves a place in every serious Blu-ray collection, particularly connoisseurs of finer Horror and Mystery motion pictures. Recommended.
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The Bird With the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Bird With the Crystal Plumage Announced for Blu - October 31, 2008
Blue Underground has announced that they will bring the classic horror film 'The Bird With the Crystal Plumage' to Blu-ray on February 24th. Video for this influential film will be presented in 2.35:1 1080p accompanied by both 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 7.1 Dolby ...
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