"The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" was the directorial debut of the great Dario Argento; a filmmaker from Italy who primarily enjoyed working in the horror and thriller genres. He didn't often branch out, but he was always willing. However, be it a drama, a comedy, or a darned action movie that he makes next; the man will always be known for the kinds of films that he made and made well. My personal favorite out of all Argento's features is "Deep Red". His acclaimed "Suspiria" would come in second. And as of now, I'm pretty sure that this film deserves third place. It's the film that put the director on the map as someone to watch; someone to care about. This is the film that helped re-launch the sub-genre of "Giallo Horror"; a little thing that started with masterpieces such as the early works of Mario Bava. Argento's film is just as good. "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" is all about plot and all about style. It works like a good deal of Argento's films work, although it doesn't quite go as "all-the-way" with surrealism as his later features would. He could only do so much with what he got, and I assume that wasn't much, at that. But when you've got "not much" and you're still able to make a great piece of cinema and a riveting work of art, then maybe money and production value doesn't matter so much anymore. Perhaps it's all in the ambition and skill of the filmmaker. Times have changed; for both the worst and for the best.
Drawing heavily from the stylistic influences of Hitchcock's feature films, Argento's very own movie is very much interested in all of its elements. Much like the films of good old Hitchcock, it cares most about establishing a mood and creating an atmosphere in a number of different ways. Argento is like a more daring and bloodthirsty Hitchcock; sometimes, equally as good and skillfully at what he does. Argento has had his flops; but let's embrace those several successful films that he had before we criticize him as a man and as a filmmaker. This is one of his best.
"The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" has it all; images that stick with us long after the credits have begun to roll, solid performances from the entire cast, an engaging plot with many complex, deceptive but overall intriguing points, and a haunting musical score courtesy of the legendary Ennio Morricone, who does some rather impressive work here; not one of his best scores, or one of his most memorable, but a good one nonetheless. The story involves an artist in the form of a writer, a common character in the Argento films to follow, who one night walks the lonely streets of Italy (he's an American in a new sort of world, so it would seem) and finds himself the sole witness of a brutal murder attempt. The assailant escapes through a door within the building (a large sheet of glass window allows the character to see what's happening inside to begin with), while the lady who he was attacking survives thanks to the character's contribution and ability to communicate with someone on the outside, in spite of being locked in by the villainous being.
You would think that the hero would be able to forget this unfortunate incident soon after and let the local authorities do their job in delving as deep as they can into this murder mystery, but instead, the writer gets far more involved than he originally intended or expected. He can't seem to shake the images of violence and pure cruelty that he saw that night. He starts hearing taunting voices and thinks himself mad; that is until the escapee continues his/her killing spree, promting the writer character to take immediate action. He feels guilty for not doing anything more than "his part" in the beginning of the case, and now that the plot has thickened, he has been given a chance. But will he catch the killer and prove victorious when it comes to impressing the police and pretty much everyone else around him? Will his obsession take him to dark places, and will it be a turn-off for his girlfriend? This is one of those rare, fascinating films where I find myself saying: you'll just have to find out for yourself. But maybe that's the case with every film, every thriller; even the ones I don't particularly like. Because you never know who's going to be entertained, inspired, or thrilled.
Argento's craft comes in his ability to creep you the hell out, yet still provide a story where we care about the characters. This is seldom the case, even with some of his better features, but it's the case here; and that's all that really matters. "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" intends on delivering a celluloid nightmare and that is what it gives us; a film that toys with our fears of the dark, the unknown, and all those things misunderstood and impossible to comprehend. The film may not appeal to absolutely everyone due to the fact that Italian horror requires a certain state-of-mind and perhaps even an acquired taste. However, I'm telling all those who can appreciate movies like this to see it as soon as possible; while those alienated amongst the Italian horror buffs should still consider giving it a go, even if it might not appeal to them instantly. I think it's an excellent, flawless Giallo thriller that evokes horror and fascination as its key emotions. It is violent, relentless for its time, and indeed, quite thrilling. But it's also well-told, well-made, and visually artistic. I kind of have to admire Argento's attention to detail in the film's prolific opening murder sequence; where we are given glimpses of large bird sculptures and walls that are white, white, white. Sights such as these are not easily forgotten, and that's what I love about the film. It's quite the ride; quite the achievement. One of the best directorial debuts, probably of all-time. And that's saying something, isn't it?
Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is an American living in Italy. One day he comes across the near slaying of a woman named Julia (Suzy Kendall). A mysterious figure clad in black is seen running away from the scene. Sam saves the woman's life but is shocked by what he just witnessed. The murder attempt is part of a series of serial killings that have been committed around town. Instead of leaving well enough alone, Sam decides to play detective and searches around town for clues, … more
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