Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
Directed by Dario Argento

Starring Enrico Maria Salerno Eva Renzi Suzy Kendall Tony Musante Umberto Raho

A great thriller and a must-see for Argento fans, this early film from the Italin Hitchcock features incredible cinematography and a complex mystery plot. Those familiar with Argento's films should be able to see the groundwork that was being laid for later classics like "Deep Red" in this one.

Musante plays an American writer in Rome who, after witnessing an attack by a murderer on a young woman in a twisted art gallery, finds himself being stalked by the psychotic killer. The attack, which he witnesses through a large, mechanically operated glass door, which he's trapped behind, is beautifully filmed by director of photography Vittorio Storaro, who went on to film "Apocalypse Now". The scene is as atmospheric, tense and freaky as anything in an Argento film has ever been.

It turns out, the attacker is actually a black glove-wearing stalker and serial killer. As the murderer's body count mounts, Musante has to protect himself and his girlfriend (Kendall) from the killer and remember details from the crime he witnessed that could be crucial for solving the mystery.

The film is also memorable for Ennio Morricone's score, which evokes some of the childish themes we'd hear in the music of "Deep Red" and consistently raises the tension level.

The plot is based loosely on the novel "The Screaming Mimi" by Frederic Brown, a psychological mystery that pre-dated "Psycho." In it, another character witnesses a crime scene through a plate-glass window. "Bird with the Crystal Plumage" has, arguably, the best plot of any Argento movie. It would also help launch the new subgenre in horror known as the giallo film -- Italian spaghetti horror films that generally feature black-gloved killers, lotsa blood, and complex mysteries -- part crime drama, part Hitchcockian psycho shock machine.

While many have hailed Argento as the "Italian Hitchcock," some have compared the style displayed in "Bird with the Crystal Plumage" to William Castle and Mario Bava: i.e., the cheap shocks of Castle's Hitchock-influenced filmmaking with the color of Bava. It's difficult not to argue that this film's plotline wasn't influenced by Castle's "Homicidal" -- especially given the twist ending.

Also known as "L'Uccello dalle Piume di Cristallo," "The Gallery Murders," and "The Bird with the Glass Feathers," the film had a number of less-than-satisfying VHS and DVD releases, before Blue Underground showed up and delivered a stellar 2-disc, special edition release, fully uncut in the U.S. for the first time in 2005.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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