Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 16th, 2017
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 19th, 2017 (UK), June 20th, 2017 (USA)
Approximate running time: 97 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH, English (Italian Language)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B / Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: $49.95 (USA) / £24.99 (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 transfer was created from a 4K restoration of the film from the camera negative in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors are nicely saturated, flesh tones look accurate, black and contrast levels remain solid throughout and details look crisp. Grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression. And when compared to previous home video releases, this new transfer is by far and away the best this film has ever looked on home video.
This Release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in Italian. Both audio mixes are in excellent shape, dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. Range wise both audio mixes sounds robust when they need too and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented. Included with this release are two subtitle options, English SDH and English for the Italian language tracks.
Extras for this release include, a trailer that created for 2017 Texas Frightmare (55 seconds), the international English language trailer (2 minutes 48 seconds), the Italian theatrical trailer (3 minutes 11 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), an archival interview with actress Eva Renzi titled Eva Talking (11 minutes 19 seconds, in German with English subtitles), a visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas titled The Power of Perception (20 minutes 57 seconds), an interview with film critic Kat Ellinger titled Black Gloves and Screaming Mimi’s (31 minutes 54 seconds), an interview with actor Gildo Di Marco titled An Argento Icon (22 minutes 4 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), an interview with screenwriter / director Dario Argento titled Crystal Nightmare (31 minutes 24 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films.
Topics discussed in the interview with Eva Renzi include, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, various other films that she has worked on and an amusing story about actor Klaus Kinski.
The extra titled The Power of Perception is an insightful exploration of Dario Argento’s use of perception in his films. This extra includes, comments about all of Dario Argento’s films from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage up to The Stendhal Syndrome (except Two Evil Eyes).
Topics discussed in the extra titled Black Gloves and Screaming Mimi’s include, Frederic Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi, Dario Argento adaption of Frederic Brown’s novel, how the film differs from the novel, recurring themes in Dario Argento films, Gerald Oswald’s film adaption of The Screaming Mimi, her thoughts about Dario Argento’s portrayal of sexuality in his films, emasculated male characters, homosexual characters and female killers in Dario Argento films.
Topics discussed in the interview with Gildo Di Marco include, his origins as an actor, the first time he met Dario Argento, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Dario Argento’s creative process, actor Tony Musante, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, actor Michael Brandon, The Tram segment from Door into Darkness, his thoughts about his three collaborations with Dario Argento and why their collaboration ended and how he was surprised by the interest in his acting career.
Topics discussed in the interview with Dario Argento include, the origins of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, the screenplay and why he decided to make the transition to director, the origins of the title of the film, finding finance for the film and conflicts with Titanus / Goffredo Lombardo, working with Vittorio Storaro, locations featured in the film, the cast, the visuals, the use of memory in his films, composer Ennio Morricone, Goffredo Lombardo’s negative reaction to the completed film, audience reaction to the film and how it’s success launched his career as a director.
The audio commentary with Troy Howarth is an insightful track that finds a good balance between analysis of the film and background information about the film and it’s creative talent.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art, a double-sided fold-out poster, 6 lobby card reproductions and a sixty page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled The Bird with the Crystal Plumage: An Appreciation written by Michael Mackenzie, an essay titled Rogues’ Gallery: Portraits of Fear written by Howard Hughes, an essay titled Sacrificial Knives and Cultic Objects: Reflections of The Screaming Mimi in Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage written by Jack Seabrook and information about the restoration / transfer. Also, included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo.
Overall The Bird with the Crystal Plumage gets a definitive release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.
Note: This Blu-Ray release is a limited-edition release of 4,000 copies.