Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 18th, 2009
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: February 24th, 2009
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 English, DTS HD 7.1 English, DD-EX 5.1 English, DD-EX 5.1 Italian
BluRay Release: Blue Underground
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $34.95
“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. When compared to the Blue Underground 2005 DVD release for The Bird with the Crystal Plumage the transfer for this BluRay release improves upon colors, details and black levels. This transfer also does a superb job retaining a natural grain look and edge enhancement is kept to a minimum.
For this release two new audio options have been created, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 English and DTS HD 7.1 English. Two audio tracks from the Blue Underground DVD release have been carried over DD-EX 5.1 English and DD-EX 5.1 Italian. Three audio mixes Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Stereo Italian and Dolby Digital Mono Italian have not been carried over from the Blue Underground DVD release. All four audio mixes included with this release sounds clean, clear and dynamic with the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 English being the best sounding of the lot. Removable English subtitles have been included. It should be noted that a line of dialog ‘Bring in the perverts’ is missing from the English audio track.
All the extras included on Blue Underground’s 2005 DVD release have been carried over. The extras are the International English language trailer, Italian language trailer and two T.V. spots. Other extras include an 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. Rounding out the extras are four interviews. The first interview is with Dario Argento who provides a few amusing antecedents about his debut as a director. The second interview is with the films Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro who discusses the project with great clarity and fondness. The Third interview is with composer Ennio Morricone who discusses a wide range of subjects including his various collaborations with Dario Argento. These first three interviews are all in Italian and come with removable English subtitles. The fourth and final interview is with actress Eva Renzi who discusses the various stages of her career including The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. This interview also ends with an amusing story about one of Germany’s most famous actor’s of the 1960’s and 70’s. This interview is in English. Overall Blue Underground has put together another exceptional release, highly recommended.