Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970)

Dario Argento is one of the most important names in Italian giallo cinema and some of his films are classics of the genre. This new release from Arrow gives everyone the chance to see where he started, with a crime giallo which is as stylish and convoluted as one might expect from Argento.

The plot is based on a Fredric Brown novel called The Screaming Mimi, and follows an American writer, Sam (Tony Musante) who witnesses a stabbing in an art gallery. The assailant escapes, and the victim, wife of the gallery owner Monica (Eva Renzi), is only injured. There is a serial killer at large, picking off women in Rome, and the police are interested in this latest attempt. The film then follows Sam as his girlfriend Julia (Suzie Kendall) is attached, and he himself receives death threats, until the mystery is unveiled at the end ...

As with Argento’s later films Deep Red and Suspiria, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage plays on reflections and brilliantly set up visuals. There are touches of genius here as we see things in plain view which turn out to be misdirections. There’s a smashing art deco staircase which echoes Suspiria’s scenic design, and the murders are a panoply of close ups and terror. Even the score, from Ennio Moricone, echoes future films with human sounds mixed in with the disjointed jazz tempos as the killer chases their victims.

It’s a hugely enjoyable film, with a plot that makes sense, and good performances from all concerned. It’s actually hard to believe that it’s Argento’s directorial debut, it’s that accomplished.

As usual on the Arrow release there are interviews with all the major players, including a new discussion with Argento himself on the film, and a very insightful narrative from critic Kat Ellinger.

Directed: Dario Argento

Writer: Dario Argento

Arrow DVD released 19 June 2017

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