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The Bird With the Crystal Plumage
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage
Actors: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho
Director: Dario Argento
Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
PG     1999     1hr 36min

An American writer (Tony Musante - Toma, TV series) traveling in Rome is the only witness to an attempted murder by a sinister man in a raincoat and black leather gloves, though he is powerless to do anything to stop hi...  more »

     

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Movie Details

Actors: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho
Director: Dario Argento
Creators: Vittorio Storaro, Dario Argento, Franco Fraticelli, Artur Brauner, Salvatore Argento, Fredric Brown
Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Vci Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
DVD Release Date: 11/16/1999
Original Release Date: 06/12/1970
Theatrical Release Date: 06/12/1970
Release Year: 1999
Run Time: 1hr 36min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
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Member Movie Reviews

Jefferson N. from BLAIRSVILLE, GA
Reviewed on 11/16/2010...
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is director Dario Argento's directorial debut and it's definently one of his best early efforts. This is a giallo and it's a great example of that genre of film. A man is going home one night and sees a man and woman struggling through a glass door. He tries to get in to help her, but the man flees while he is getting in the sealed door. As the movie progesses, more and more people, mostly young women, show up dead. The man has to figure out how to stop the killer since the police seem to have little interest in the case. Is there something about his first encounter with the killer that could help solve the case, or will he and his girlfriend be the next victims? Argento cut his artistic chops on this movie and it's a classic for his fans. It has the strange, childlike music of Ennio Morricone giving it a creepy background. There are shots that stand out because of their vividness...things that you will see that will make you scream at the hero that he is missing. And this is the first of the black-gloved killer movies that Argento will use for probably the rest of his career. This first film in the "animal trilogy" is the best and one of Argento's best giallo's. If you're an Argento fan and haven't seen this, then get it in gear and check this one out. If you've never seen an Argento film, then if you like mysteries, I'll just about guarantee you'll like this one.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

His first and arguably one of his best
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 12/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I really couldn't tell you why I have yet to watch every film in Dario Argento's filmography. A few years ago it was easy to claim ignorance of many of this Italian director's important works because it was often so difficult to find any of them in an uncut form. Fortunately, DVD arrived on the scene and salivating film fans with dollars to spend prodded numerous companies to start churning out any movie they could get their hands on to satiate the masses. It wasn't too long before practically every Argento film arrived on store shelves, with many of these releases being the uncut, unrated editions. Even Troma, the flagship of flaccid filmmaking, released a so-so version of Argento's "The Stendhal Syndrome." People outside of the world of Italian horror cinema have most likely never heard of Dario Argento, unfortunately. These days, more people are familiar with the director's beautiful daughter Asia than with the horror maestro himself. What a shame. Argento's films, at least the ones I have seen, are masterpieces of style injected with truly cringe inducing gore. And to think it all started in earnest with this engaging Hitchcockian thriller, "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage." Argento and his fans never looked back, but this is an apt starting point for those unfamiliar with this director's work.An American reporter staying in Rome witnesses a truly shattering event one evening when he sees a gruesome assault takes place inside of an art gallery. Barred from interfering with the proceedings due to huge sliding glass doors, Sam Dalmas can only look on with horror as two figures, one clad entirely in black and the other a woman, struggle with each other over a very shiny knife. The person in black flees the scene of the crime, leaving behind the hapless woman with a knife wound to the abdomen. When Dalmas does his duty by calling in the police, his story leads the officers to cast a doubtful eye on the concerned American. The police insist that Sam stay in Rome until the investigation turns up some clues, much to the consternation of Dalmas and his pretty girlfriend Julia. It seems that Sam was planning to leave Rome, but all bets are off as more murders occur that the police suspect are linked to the crime seen by Dalmas. Moreover, Julia and Sam start receiving grim phone calls from an unknown person who almost certainly is the figure behind these crimes. Our hero is in a real fix, with his only supporters being his woman and a friend who works at a museum. At least the cops start to come over to his side as the bodies pile up, especially once they listen to those eerie phone calls. A unique sound in the background of one of these calls provides the break Dalmas needs to identify the killer he saw on that fateful night. The conclusion has more twists and turns than a cyclone. "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage" helped inaugurate the era of the Italian giallo (Italian for yellow), so named because in Italy cheap paperback crime novels came with yellow covers. These are the films with the anonymous, black-gloved killers toting gruesome looking knives while stalking their mostly female prey. The crimes are often seen from the point of view of the killer, giving the audience the impression that they are part of the heinous murders. Argento plays the giallo for all its worth here, matching this disturbing technique with a great score by the inestimable Ennio Morricone and camera work rarely seen in the horror genre. The cinematography here is simply divine, with the director including a shot from the point of view of a man falling from a tall building and an ultra cool scene where the camera points at a lighted doorway from inside a darkened room. All these elements combine to make this film a taut thriller of enormously entertaining dimensions. Moreover, of the few Argento films I have seen to date, "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage" contains one of his most coherent plotlines.Gorehounds might find themselves a bit disappointed with the lack of the trademark Argento gore (no sharp corners to bash a head against here!) in this movie, but the stellar camera work, truly creepy scenes of murder and mayhem, and the strong performances from Tony Musante as Sam Dalmas and Suzy Kendall in the Julia role more than make up for the 'PG' rating. Still, that rating made me wonder a bit about what the people at the MPAA were thinking when they viewed this picture. There is upsetting violence here, along with some truly disturbing scenes that hint at where Argento would go in the future. The way the killer caresses those weird looking blades (one of which, I am almost certain, appeared in a later Argento film called "Deep Red") and the participatory effect the audience feels during the killings makes you wonder how this movie got off with such a mundane rating. The DVD version of "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage" is strictly bare bones: you get the film and a trailer, which is good considering its relative obscurity but could have been better. As others have said, the audio is quite muzzy at times and the picture quality isn't anything to write home to mother about. After viewing this picture and a couple of other Argento films, I must say I really enjoy how these movies mess with your mind. Just when you think you know what's going on, good old Dario throws another curveball. He does this in many of his films, but he does it here for the first time. What a joy it is to watch it today!"
Broad appeal for Argento's debut feature
Libretio | 01/03/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)

"
THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE
[L'Uccello dalle Piume di Cristallo]

(Italy/W.Germany - 1969)

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (Cromoscope)
Theatrical soundtrack: Mono

Even those who don't care for writer-director Dario Argento's later baroque extravaganzas may warm to his debut feature, a well-received thriller in which an American writer living in Rome (Tony Musante) witnesses an assault on a woman in an art gallery and is subsequently targeted by the would-be assassin, a crazed psychopath who's been terrorizing the city with a series of brutal murders. Typical of an Argento thriller, the hapless hero's investigation unleashes a cycle of violence which culminates in a climactic unmasking that will take some viewers completely by surprise.

Loosely inspired by Fredric Brown's novel 'The Screaming Mimi' (filmed under that title in 1958), Argento's first film is a fairly straightforward thriller with horror asides, anchored by a strong narrative, an increasingly bizarre series of supporting characters, and a strong Everyman hero who slots the puzzle together piece by piece before realizing that the most important clue to the killer's identity was there in front of him all the time. Musante is given excellent support by English actress Suzy Kendall as his girlfriend (the scene in which she's besieged alone in her apartment as the killer hacks through the door with a knife is truly the stuff of nightmares) and Enrico Maria Salerno as the cop charged with finding the killer before he/she strikes again.

Despite Argento's prior screenwriting credits, including significant contributions to the script of Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1969), producers were unconvinced of his directorial abilities and wanted to pull him off the picture during the first few weeks of shooting, but Argento persevered under an iron-clad contract and ultimately proved his critics wrong with the finished product, a genuinely engrossing mystery punctuated by scenes of explicit horror.

The film puts a late-1960s Italian spin on the kind of movie that Hitchcock had already popularized in America, and is leavened with the same kind of uproarious humor: Salerno gets the best line of dialogue during a police line-up when he despairs: "How many times do I have to tell you? Ursula Andress belongs with the transvestites, not the perverts!" And later, an outrageously camp antiques dealer offers a jaw-dropping description of one of the killer's former victims: "It was said she preferred women. I couldn't care less - I'm no racist, for heaven's sake!" Briskly edited by Franco Fraticelli, and featuring a brief appearance from distinctive character actor Reggie Nalder (MARK OF THE DEVIL, SALEM'S LOT) as an assassin-for-hire, "Bird" is arguably Argento's warmest, most humane thriller until TENEBRAE in 1982.
"
Fast-paced and clever
Jeffrey Leach | 08/27/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)

"There are two types of Dario Argento films: those after "Four Flies on Grey Velvet" (excluding "The Five Days of Milan," which was never released in the U.S.) and those before it. "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage," Argento's first film, belongs to the category of the before and includes the noticeable differences between the two. While the entire body of Argento's work is something to admire, his first three films are surprisingly well-plotted, given Argento's notorious lack of interest in matters of narrative structure. "Bird" begins with Sam Dalmas, an American writer living in Rome, witnessing an attempted murder in an art gallery. Though he is unable to do anything, his fortuitous arrival saves the victim from almost certain death. His passport confiscated and at first held as a suspect, Sam is told by the police that this is the fourth attack in one month. The only difference is, the victim, a beautiful woman named Monica Ranieri, was the first to survive. Troubled by the idea that he saw something that didn't quite fit, he soon begins his own investigation, putting both his life and the life of his girlfriend at great risk. Several attempts are made on their lives, and everytime Sam is able to learn of someone who might be able to help him, that person is murdered. Finally, in a double-twist ending, Argento reveals the identity of the killer in a cleverly constructed manner. A pure delight from start to finish, "Bird With the Crystal Plumage" is one of the most entertaining (if minimal) thrillers since Hitchcock. Another attribute is Argento's knack for always creating a cast of wonderfully offbeat characters. Be sure to catch Inspector Morosini's exclamation regarding the "perverts" in the line-up sequence. Black humor is equally interwoven with generous amounts of suspense to create a fast-paced and clever mystery/thriller."