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Dario Argento's Bird With Crystal Plumage with take you into a flight of fear

Go out on a limb and watch
Go out on a limb and watch
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The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (VCI)


VCI has released a pristine print of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which should be cause for flinging hats into the air and dancing in the street, not only for fans of the genre "giallo", a small but virulent group, fans of slasher films, a larger and much more virulent group, horror fans, a much, much larger group, or simply fans of great films in general, which would hopefully include all of us.
Released in 1970, it pre-dates real American slasher films by some years. Psycho was 10 years before, but Friday the 13th was a decade years later, and the use of blindingly red blood, absent from the Hitchcock, was certainly present in later American films, undoubtedly influenced by the abundant use of blood in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. This was the first film Dario Argento directed, and he certainly hit the ground running.
Strictly speaking, Mario Bava started the cinematic trend in Italy around 1963. Yet The Bird with the Crystal Plumage may well also be the first true giallo film. Giallo is the color yellow, used for the cover of violent suspenseful books sold in Italy. Beginning in 1929, these pulp novels, a series called Il Giallo Mondadori, literally Yelllow Books published by Mondadori, had the trademark yellow background on the cover art, and initially consisted of Italian translations of the master, such as Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, Edgar Wallace and Raymond Chandler The style was soon stolen by other publishers, and soon giallo simply referred to violent mystery novels.
Although American and English films were somewhat influenced, it was Bava who picked up the genre and shook it for it's more supernatural and exploitative nature. But Argento brought an artist's hand to the procedure, and his work is breathtaking.
The rules of the genre are pretty specific: gorgeous, usually semi-clad, women are brutally murdered by a psychopath wearing black leather gloves and frequently using a shiny weapon, usually a long glistening knife. However, the real attractions are the grand-guignol, operatic settings and incredible use of staggeringly beautiful color. In many ways, especially in Argento's work, watching the color almost supersedes the plot and characters. Scenes of blue and green blend into yellow, dark shadows with shafts of bright light illustrate the characters, and stark grays are interrupted by the inevitable spurt of red blood.
Sort of based on the Frederic Brown novel Screaming Mimi (uncredited), the plot is basic: a writer, played by Tony Musante, witnesses, or thinks he witnesses, a brutal stabbing, and the killer, fearing recognition, tries to kill Musante. Could it be simpler? As the colors play and the plot deepens, the sewers and back streets of Rome take on gorgeous hues while our hero alternately runs from or chases the killer to the ultimate climax. Along the way, such cinematic tricks as a camera being dropped six stories to simulate a victim's fall, the creepy and ubiquitous Reggie Nalder (The Man who Knew Too Much, Salem's Lot, The Manchurian Candidate) trying his hand at offing the hero, and a wonderful score by Ennio Morricone to top the proceedings off.
A long forgotten and underestimated film, this movie, which influenced untold movies to come including America's slasher genre, deserves a viewing. And, once seen, it will not be soon forgotten.