The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

| June 18, 2017

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is a murder-mystery. But let me assure, dear readers, this film is very different from anything you’ve seen from Agatha Christie, Charlie Chan, or Jessica Fletcher from the hit 1980’s TV series Murder, She Wrote. Crystal Plumage was an original, violent, expertly shot whodunit, from first time director Dario Argento. I’m sure the name rings a bell, especially those of you who are die hard horror fanatics. Many of the familiar Argento tropes started right here. Crystal Plumage is a remarkable beginning, to say the least.

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage begins with Sam Dalmas, an American writer living in Rome, Italy. Walking home from work one evening, Sam witnesses a violent stabbing of a young woman inside a modern art gallery. Sam’s inability to help the young woman grows increasingly frustrating. Instead of letting the police work the situation out, Sam’s obsession leads him to investigate the attack on his own. The attacker is unenthused, and Sam begins to realize that now his life, as well as that of his girlfriend’s, is in serious jeopardy.

Crystal Plumage would inspire many filmmakers to come, including Brian DePalma. 1980’s Dressed To Kill is an obvious, if not more over-the-top homage, to Crystal Plumage, including a twist ending. Unfortunately for DePalma, the twist is immediately sniffed out, which cannot be said for the twist ending of Crystal Plumage.

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is Dario Argento’s directorial debut. Argento had previously been a film critic as well as a screenwriter, including writing the script for Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West. Argento had always been a part of the Italian film industry. His father was a well-respected producer. Due to his father’s connections, Dario managed to persuade Ennio Morricone to do the soundtrack for Crystal Plumage. Morricone is a legend in the movie industry, working with everyone from Leone to Quentin Tarantino.

Morricone actually attempted something on Crystal Plumage he had never attempted on a musical score: he improvised. As the scene would unfold, Morricone and his orchestra would basically play what they saw on the screen. The process was very effective.

Dario Argento is usually mentioned in the same breath as one of his giallo contemporaries, Lucio Fulci. These two directors couldn’t be more different. Whereas Argento uses violent imagery to accentuate the plot, Fulci is all about the violence. Fulci’s films generally have little plot, and what is there just seems to get in the way of the ever growing means of trying to disgust his audience with forever escalating gruesome effects.

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is the work of an assured director whose impact on horror would be felt for decades to come. Dario Argento would move on to direct some horror masterpieces, including 1975’s Deep Red, 1980’s Inferno, 1982’s Tenebrae, and most notably, 1977’s Suspiria.

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is a Blu-Ray/DVD combo release from the master artisans at Arrow US. The packaging for this release is incredible. This Blu-Ray comes with a reversible sleeve with original artwork as well as newly commissioned art from Candice Tripp. There is also a fold out poster featuring both sets of art, as well as a 60 page booklet featuring writings from various appreciative writers. There are also 6 lobby card reproductions. The extras are predominantly interviews. The main special feature is an all-new interview with the man himself, director Dario Argento, filmed in 2017 especially for this Arrow US Blu-Ray release.

If you are a horror fanatic who has loved and/or appreciated Dario Argento’s work, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is a must-have for your home media archives. Especially when you think to yourself: how did this twisted genius begin his legacy?

About the Author:

Steve graduated from Southwestern Michigan College with an Associate's Degree in communications. He currently resides in Niles, MI
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