Plot: What’s it about?
A man stalks the streets of Rome, with a long, black raincoat on and a sharp blade hidden underneath. This man hunts down young women and then slashes them to death, in a most brutal, sadistic fashion. No one has survived this human beast until now, when a woman is able to escape with her life, but not by much. This attack and potential murder was seen by Sam (Tony Musante), an American writer spending some time in Rome. He could have aided the woman in her escape, but he was trapped in some glass doors, rendering him helpless, but to watch. This would seem to be a real break in the case, but police are unable to move the case forward and as such, Sam decides to embark on his own mission. As this sick killer roams the streets, Sam tries to track him down and stop his madness, but which of the two will find themselves trapped first?
The debut film from horror master Dario Argento, this giallo is a well crafted thriller, but might leave some folks disappointed. I think most casual viewers assume all European horror is of the splatter variety, but that simply isn’t true. So if you’re a gorehound and just want to see the red stuff, this won’t be a movie you’ll be pleased with. You’ll see violence on screen, but it isn’t too blood soaked, though still effective, I think. This movie should appeal to fans of Argento’s skills with tension and visuals, as this movie has some terrific suspense and a superb atmosphere, very eerie and quite chilling at times. The images stick with you even after the credits have rolled, especially a few particular ones, like the long black coat and sharp knives. I find the pace to be just brisk enough to carry the material, but Argento never rushes, which allows the suspense to build and the audience to ponder what they’ve seen. I highly recommend this movie to fans of suspense & horror and of course, Argento fans will be most interested.
The films of Dario Argento seem to fall within the brackets of gore flicks or visual feasts, but both elements don’t come together often. His finest efforts combine the two to great ends of course, but more often than not, Argento uses more of one than another. In this film however, he seems to blend the two well and neither overuses either, which means the full impact is retained. I like Argento’s use of heavy gore and visuals in other films, but this is a change of pace, as he is more restrained it seems. That restraint could be present because this was his feature film debut, but I think Argento holds back due to the material, which needs the treatment Argento gives it. This was his first movie and isn’t his finest effort, but The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is still a solid flick and one fans should add to their collections. Other films directed by Argento include Deep Red, The Stendhal Syndrome, Tenebre, Suspiria, and The Black Cat. The cast includes Suzy Kendall (Torso, Psycho-Circus), Tony Musante (The Yards, The Grissom Gang), and Eva Renzi (Taste of Excitement, The Pink Jungle).
Video: How does it look?
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. VCI has used a very clean print here, which shows minimal debris or grain elements, a good way to start off any visual transfer, I think. But some problems do surface, as contrast isn’t very refined and as such, blacks look more like dark grey hues. This is not extreme in nature, but it is obvious and shadow depth suffers, as expected. This error also causes colors to look washed out, which lessens the film’s visual impact. This is a flawed presentation to be sure, but it is not a total loss and is still more than watchable. I do wish a remastered edition were issued however, as if the contrast errors were fixed, this would be a superb effort in all respects.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included 2.0 surround option offers an improved audio presence over prior editions, but don’t expect too much here. I noted some problems with harshness at times, as well as some muffled dialogue, but nothing too serious in the end. Aside from a rather thin tone here and there, this is a more than solid audio track, with ample range for this kind of material. The atmosphere is enhanced when it needs to be, which is about all you can demand here. No, it isn’t a reference level audio option, but it more than covers the bases.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains the isolated musical score, talent files, and the film’s theatrical trailer.