Archive for vittorio storaro

THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by goregirl

Argento has long been one of my favourite Italian directors. Having seen several other Giallo from the early 70’s this month I decided it was high time I gave ‘The Bird With The Crystal Plumage’ a re-watch. As a bonus, I was able to rent the 2-disc Blue Underground DVD, which has more awesome extras, then you can shake a stick at! Seriously, if you buy DVD’s you need to have this one in your collection!

Sam Dalmas, an American writer visiting Italy witnesses a struggle in an art gallery on his way home one evening. He approaches the huge glass doors to get a better look and sees a woman has been stabbed. Another set of glass doors traps him inside and he is unable to help the pleading woman. Eventually someone passes by and the police are sent freeing Dalmas and saving the woman’s life. Dalmas plans of going back to America are cut short when the police detective takes away his passport, insisting he stay for questioning. Dalmas becomes obsessed with the idea he seen something that night he can’t recall. He begins his own investigation but when his life is threatened he begins to work more closely with the police. Together they race to find out the killers identity before another woman turns up dead.

‘The Bird With The Crystal Plumage’ is an early Giallo that became the blueprint for many that came after it. It is a tightly written story with an excellent climax/reveal and you won’t be left scratching your head at the end. It’s finale is one of the most logical I’ve seen, and the facts of the story actually support the conclusion. The story is light on horror leaning heavily towards the thriller-suspense. There are some remarkable moments throughout that are reminiscent of Hitchcock. But Argento worries too little about dialog. Chat in almost all his films is flat and his leads and supporting characters are often iffy. This has always been Argento’s weakness. Some of his films can rise above the weak dialog, where others end up being slightly lesser for it. Argento brings a bit of humour in to this one through some quirky and bizarre characterizations. The players are a real mixed bag of nuts. Tony Musante plays the main character Sam Dalmas and Suzy Kendall plays his girlfriend Julia. These two characters aren’t exactly unlikeable but didn’t have particularly good chemistry together. It is the supporting characters that end up leaving more of an impression. Certainly the killer in the delightfully diabolical finale is memorably psychotic! It’s only too bad the scene wasn’t longer! Other supports include a stuttering pimp, his wacky associate who “knows nothing” but can find you answers for a price, and a cat-eating artist. Overall, the performances are fine but it is really the story and the visuals that impress.

One of the most appealing aspects of ‘The Bird With The Crystal Plumage’ is its voyeurism. The viewer is made to feel complicit in the crimes they’re watching. There are countless images that would impress even the most cynical. One of the coolest bits takes place in an Art Gallery. A sterile white cavernous room with massive colourless sculptures. Argento has even outfitted the victim in a chic white outfit making the blood more brilliant. We see what Sam Dalmas sees as he is trapped between two massive glass doors and the bleeding victim is reaching out begging for help. I could literally watch an early Argento film without the sound and enjoy it. The cinematographer on the film was Vittorio Storaro who also worked on the film I reviewed yesterday ‘The Fifth Cord’. It was completely a fluke, but both discs had an interview with Storaro. I must admit to not knowing my cinematographers, but when I looked up Storaro on IMDB I couldn’t believe the impressive resume! You would have to expect this level of beautiful imagery and fantastic set pieces from the duo of Vittorio and Argento! Its beauty is well complimented by an amazing soundtrack from Ennio Morricone that uses lots of human voices in a really creepy and effective way. This is definitely one of my favourite Morricone soundtracks!

‘The Bird With The Crystal Plumage’ is a tightly crafted film with memorable images and amazing suspense that was slightly marred by ho-hum leads that don’t have much chemistry. There is far more to admire then criticize here and the perfect finale will leave you mucho satisfied. If you are a collector this two-Disc Blue Underground set is the one to buy! For starters the transfer looked perfect and the sound was flawless. There were a few different audio options including the original Italian with subtitles. There are interviews with Dario Argento, Vittorio Storaro, the great Ennio Morricone and late actress Eva Renzi (who was pretty bitter and may have been liquored up for this interview). There’s also commentary from author Alan Jones (Profondo Argento) and cult film scribe Kim Newman who give some interesting and detailed insight on the ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Dario Argento

Starring: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho, Renato Romano