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The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) - Blu-ray Review

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The Bird With the Crystal Plumage - Blu-ray Review

5 beersBecause there is an art to murder. That’s why the films of Dario Argento continue to register with audiences. His films – no matter how brutal or kitschy – are beautiful portraits of horrible things. To merely describe one of the director’s films does so much of what he is capable of an injustice. His is the set-up; the building of suspense; the use of colors; and in the undoing of everything you’d expect from a thriller.

Believe it or not, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is Argento’s debut and, man, is this film ever a killer in steely-eyed execution. From the performances to its use of space, there is no limit in appreciating this classic. It is absolutely shocking just how confident this Italian film strolls out on the screen, forever bowling over its audience with a grand gesture of murder most foul.

And just like the giallo movement got its Citizen Kane. I’m not even kidding. Obsessively storyboarded, the fact that this thriller feels and behaves (it even tosses a camera out of the window as we follow a body to the street below) like one long, CAREFUL thought in film experimentation is a puzzling wonder and an endless joy.

I envy anyone who gets to see and hear this film for the very first time – especially if it is this release from Arrow Video and not any other. We have sacrament here; Christ’s body for giallo fans. From VHS to DVD, I have suffered through hiss, cracks, and pops, all the while knowing that I was looking at sheer genius level art. With this brand new 4K restoration of Argento’s first film, Arrow Video has delivered a gift to all film lovers, regardless of their genre preferences.

A woman is dropped off after a date. She enters her apartment building and calls for an elevator. It doesn’t arrive. She looks up, walking into a the A-frame as the camera peers down below. She sees a layered triangle of flights of stairs to climb. She ascends. There’s the butt of a cigarette. The lights go out. The music – composed by Ennio Morricone – thumps and a piano’s keys play distantly. A chorus of voices is heard. The woman is suddenly knocked down. She’s against a blue wall. And so is the killer. In black leather. Gloves. She starts screaming. A blade is flicked at the camera. Stabbing down. More screaming.

And none of what I’ve just written does the 3-minute sequence justice. If one thinks too hard about what Argento has assembled here, headaches are bound to happen. Each scene is a nuance. Each scene is a tonal strike. Each scene is a breathless stroke of glee. The camera and its subjects are glittering objects worthy of endless praise. Rome has seldom looked as beautifully weird and geometric as it does here.

Starring Tony Musante as the American writer at the heart of the mystery, Suzy Kendall as his girlfriend, Enrico Maria Salerno as the inspector in charge of the investigation into the murders, and Eva Renzi as Monica Ranieri, the first woman attacked by the killer looming tall and lanky. Argento’s uncredited adaptation of Fredric Brown's novel The Screaming Mimi is a shrieking success. It features the stellar camerawork of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (who would later earn an Oscar for his work on Apocalypse Now) and is entirely unforgettable.

Which makes this STELLAR release from Arrow Video – featuring a new commentary from Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films, tons of new supplemental items, an extensive booklet, lobby cards, and a foldable poster of the new cover art – an absolute treasure. Not to mention the brilliant upgrade in the picture quality as the 4K restoration is absolutely stunning.

If you are already familiar with Argento then you know of his successes with The Cat o’ Nine Tails, Four Flies on Grey Velvet and Deep Red, but even those films have beginnings. And they all lead to the shrieks of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

Stop drooling. Get this release. Right. Now.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
96 mins
: Dario Argento
Dario Argento
Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno
: Horror | Mystery | Thriller
A stunning portrait in psycho-terror!
Memorable Movie Quote: “Go to Italy. It’s a peaceful country. Nothing ever happens there.”
Theatrical Distributor:
21st Century Film Corporation
Official Site:
Release Date:
June 12, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 20, 2017
Synopsis: When Sam, an American writer in Rome, witnesses an attempted slaying in an art gallery, he unwittingly sets the killers sights on himself and his beautiful model girlfriend. But soon, things start to unravel as it becomes clear that the identity of the unknown slayer is very much open to question. Somebody’s killing everyone, who is the evil fiend? Could it be Sam himself?

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Arrow Films
Available on Blu-ray
- June 20, 2017
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
: English; English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

This two-disc, dual layered release from Arrow Video is absolutely the best the film has EVER looked or WILL ever look. Presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio, the film is blistering with pulpy goodness. Black levels are extensive and full of hard edges. There’s color bursting from each corner of Rome. Architecture is stunningly detailed. Flesh is supple and perfectly toned. There are visible fibers in clothing and the there’s a new vibrancy to the picture. The whole thing feels energized and absolutely alive; there's no dated aspect to it.  Even the art gallery at the beginning and end of the movie looks absolutely cosmic.  The sound is presented in your choice of either Italian or English 1.0 DTS or 1.0 Dolby Digital.



  •  The new audio commentary by Troy Howarth is both revealing, thoughtful, and endlessly interesting as he recounts the tales behind and before the production.

Special Features:

I’m just going to let the bonus features speak for themselves. Trust me, this is a MUST OWN. And, if successful, we might get more DELUXE treatments of Argento’s films from Arrow in the near future.

  • "The Power of Perception," a New Visual Essay on the Cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Author of Devil’s Advocates: Suspiria and Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study
  • New Interview with Critic Kat Ellinger
  • New Interview with Writer/Director Dario Argento
  • New Interview with Actor Gildo Di Marco (Garullo the Pimp)
  • Archival Interview with Actor Eva Renzi (Monica Ranieri)
  • Original Italian and International Theatrical Trailers
  • Reversible Sleeve Featuring Original and Newly Commissioned Artwork by Candice Tripp
  • Double-Sided Foldout Poster
  • Six Lobby Card Reproductions

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage - Blu-ray Review

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