Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 16th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, February 19th, 1970
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Fredric Brown, Bryan Edgar Wallace
Cast: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi
BluRay released: June 13th, 2011
Approximate running times: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono Italian
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: £22.99 (UK)
“The process of writing and directing drives you to such extremes that it’s natural to feel an affinity with insanity. I approach that madness as something dangerous and I’m afraid, but also I want to go to it, to see what’s there, to embrace it. I don’t know why but I’m drawn.” – Dario Argento
Synopsis: Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) an American writer witness the attempted murder of wealthy socialite Monica Ranieri (Eva Renzi). Dalmas and his girlfriend Julia (Suzy Kendall) are all set to return to America. When the police who have run out of leads confiscate Dalmas’s passport and force him to help in their investigation. Dalmas then decides to help the police in hopes of speeding up his departure from Rome. Can Dalmas uncover the truth before the killer silences him forever?
Very few directors have made the impact that Dario Argento and his debut film The Bird the Crystal Plumage did upon their arrival. Argento like a previous wunderkind Orson Welles would achieve perfection with his first film that he has yet to match with each subsequent films. The plot and narrative flow of The Bird the Crystal Plumage is flawless in every way as the dialog spoken in the film is not only humorous at times it is deeply rich in context to what is going on with in the film. A first glance at the cast for The Bird the Crystal Plumage and one would quickly assume that this is some knock off B-film which couldn’t be farther from the truth
Even at this early stage in his career Argento exhibits his knack for bring out the best in everyone he works with especially his actresses who he films with the utmost beauty that the charges of his films containing themes of misogamy is not only laughable but ridicules. Tony Musante who played the films lead Sam Dalmas had only acted in a few films before The Bird the Crystal Plumage and yet in this film he exudes a confidence that is missing is many of his other films that I have seen him in. Quite possible the biggest surprise of the film is actress Suzy Kendall who general gives wooden performances that never enhances the character she is playing or the films plot. One only has to watch the scene in The Bird the Crystal Plumage in Kendall’s character Julia is being terrorized by the killer as she is trapped in her apartment. The emotion she manages to convey and her screams of terror are genuine and in many respects this scene shows just what a director like Argento can accomplish even with a lesser performer.
Vittorio Storaro like Argento was relatively new to his profession and The Bird the Crystal Plumage clearly benefits from his expert use of the camera. Some of the best examples of his contributions is his use of minimal light in a few of scenes which help obscure details which we are not meant to see. When discussing this film one must one forget the invaluable contribution of Ennio Morricone’s who’s score The Bird the Crystal Plumage very much like Bernard Herrmann’s score Psycho is at least 50% or more of the reason why the film is a terrifying as it is. Since making The Bird the Crystal Plumage Dario Argento’s films have seemed rushed and in many cases obviously lack the funds he needed to do them properly. Also as a writer he seems to have the more fanatical route and as a fan of his films I long for the day he returns to more simpler time when he made films like The Bird the Crystal Plumage.
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand new High Definition restoration of the film from the original negative presented in director of photography Vittorio Storaro’s original 2:1 Univisium aspect ratio. And this decision to use a transfer that drastically alters the film’s original 2.35:1 ‘scope’ aspect ratio has many long time fans of this film (including this reviewer) scratching our heads in disbelief at unnecessary attempt at film revisionism. Needless to say the source used for this transfer is in great shape, too bad the image has been cropped due to reframing.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD Mono nix in English and a DTS-HD Mono mix in Italian. Both audio mixes are in very good shape as dialog is clear and there are no problems with background noise or distortion. The film’s score and more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are also both well represented. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles. Also the line ‘Bring in the perverts’ has been reinstated for this release. This line was missing from the Blue Underground BluRay release.
Extras for this release include a interview with Dario Argento titled The Italian Hitchcock: Dario Argento Remembers Bird with the Crystal Plumage (15 minutes 15 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), a interview with Luigi Cozzi titled A Crystal Classic: Luigi Cozzi Remembers Dario’s Bloody Bird (15 minutes 2 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), a interview with Sergio Martino titled Sergio Martino: Genesis of the Giallo (29 minutes 4 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles) and a audio commentary with journalists / writers Kim Newman and Alan Jones. Some topics covered in the Dario Argento interview include how he was almost removed from the film half way through by the distributors, being compared to Alfred Hitchcock and how other Italian filmmakers like Michelangelo Antonioni have influenced him as a filmmaker. Not to be overlooked are the two interviews with both do a very good dissecting Dario Argento as a filmmaker and the film The Bird With the Crystal. The interview with Sergio Martino also covers various other giallo’s, including the ones he directed and he also briefly discusses some of non giallo films that he directed. The audio commentary with Argento biographer Alan Jones and journalist Kim Newman. The two of them have a good time throughout duration as there is rarely a moment of silence. A few times they go off course and overall it would have been nice if there was more meat added to the analysis they were providing. Other extras include four sleeve art options with original and newly commissioned artwork, two-sided fold-out poster and a sixteen page collectible booklet with a lengthy essay about the film written by Alan Jones. Overall while there is a wealth of insightful extra content included with this release, it is hard to recommend this release The Bird With the Crystal Plumage due to the issues surrounding the transfer.