The Bird With The Crystal Plumage

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The Bird With The Crystal Plumage Spanish Poster
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Also Known As

  • El Pájaro de las plumas de cristal (Argentina / Spain)
  • Bird with the Glass Feathers
  • Dödens fågel (Finland) (Swedish title)
  • Fuglen med krystalfjerpragten (Denmark)
  • Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Handschuhe (Germany)
  • Kuoleman lintu (Finland)
  • Ljudet av kristallfågeln (Sweden)
  • Ljudet från kristallfågeln (Sweden)
  • De Messen moorden (Belgium) (video box title) (Flemish title)
  • L'Oiseau au plumage de cristal (France)
  • O Pássaro com Plumas de Cristal (Portugal)
  • O Pássaro das Plumas de Cristal (Brazil)
  • Paradisfågelns hemlighet (Finland) (Swedish title)
  • Paratiisilinnun arvoitus (Finland)
  • Phantom of Terror
  • As Plumas de Cristal (Brazil)
  • Point of Terror (USA) (alternative title)
  • Svarta handsken (Sweden)
  • The Gallery Murders

Taglines

  • A stunning portrait in psycho-terror!
  • All the screaming in the world won't help!
  • If you think you are being followed home from this movie, keep telling yourself that it's all in your mind.

Main Details

  • Released in 1969
  • Color
  • Running Time: 98 min | Finland:97 min (1972) | Belgium:108 min (VHS version) | Argentina:105 min | Germany:101 min | Netherlands:92 min | USA:96 min
  • Production Co: Central Cinema Company Film (CCC) | Glazier | Seda Spettacoli
  • Distribution Co: Universal Marion Corporation (UMC) (1970) (USA) (theatrical) (dubbed) | Constantin Film (1970) (West Germany) (theatrical) (dubbed) | Suomi-Filmi (1972) (Finland) (theatrical)

Cast and Crew

  • Directed by Dario Argento
  • Written by Dario Argento, Fredric Brown
  • Starring Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho, Renato Romano, Mario Adorf
  • Produced by Salvatore Argento, Artur Brauner
  • Original Music by Ennio Morricone
  • Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro
  • Film Editing by Franco Fraticelli

Film Review

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Before starting his career as a director, Dario Argento was a film critic for Rome's Paese Sera newspaper and later became a screenwriter. One of his most famous screenworks was an original story which he co wrote with Bernardo Bertolucci and Sergio Leone. The story was for the film was Once Upon A Time In The West (1968). Growing up, Dario never had really wanted to be a director. His father, Salvatore Argento was a big producer in Italy and Dario found he didnt like the intensity of the film sets, especially all the yelling and craziness that went on.

After working on the script for Once Upon A Time In The West, Dario decided he would try and direct his first film. He worked very hard on drawing precise storyboards for the films elaborate sequences. Dario knew exactly what the film would look like in his head before he shot one roll of film, this gave him more of a positive sense of what was going to be done when he got on the actual set.

The genre of this film was called "giallo" (yellow) in reference to the color of the paper the cheap Italian pulp novellas were printed on. The gialli were murder mystery stories that quickly became a big rage in Italian Cinema. Director Mario Bava had started the giallo craze with his early films like The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Blood and Black Lace and directors such as Dario, Sergio Martino, Lucio Fulci among others really explored the genre even more in the 70s and 80s.

Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is an American writer living in Rome. After spending time with a friend one night, on the way back to his flat he notices something strange happening in a museum across the street. It is two figures, a man and a woman wrestling on the staircase. As Sam focuses he sees that the two are violentally arguing and suddenly the woman is stabbed and the dark figure in black runs quickly out of the museum. Sam runs up to the large plate glass window and tries to get into the museum but then gets caught in between two separate sliding glass partitions. The woman (Eva Renzi) in the museum reaches out to try to let Sam in to help her but she cant, shes bloody and in a state of extreme pain.

Out of the dark, a man shows up and Sam tries to tell him to open up the doors from the outside, but the man cant hear him. This adds a bit of comedy to the extreme scenario which clues us in to Dario Argento's style. The police finally arrive and Sam is questioned in the crime, but he is angry when the police lead by Inspector Morosini (Enrico Salerno) begin to suspect him as part of the attempted murder of the woman. Sam tells them exactly what he saw and they confiscate his passport and let him go, but tell him not to leave Rome. The police hold a lineup and ask Sam if he recognizes any of the suspects. Noone fits the bill, and we get another laugh when a transvestite shows up and is thrown out and redirected to another room.

Sam decides to do his own investigation and try to find out who the killer in black really is. He begins looking for clues. The killer has been murdering women around Rome for several months so he visits each of the previous victims places of work. This leads him to an art gallery where one victim worked.The night of her death, her last sale was a portrait of a woman being murdere (watch for the gay gallery owner who provides some more laughs). Sam continues to do more research on the previous victims and he gets deeper and deeper into the web of murder and mystery. While walking down the street on a very foggy day, Sam is almost taken out by the killer, luckily an old lady tells him to look out and the killer just misses his head with a large cleaver. Sam chases after the figure, but he speeds of in a car. Now Sam knows hes on the killers hit list, so the police place bodyguards on him and his girlfriend Julie (Suzy Kendall).

Meanwhile, the killer makes a call to the police where we hear his voice for the first time. He snickers as he whispers and taunts the police. They record his voice and special audio equipment is used to try to help narrow down the suspects for the killer is. With all their technology, the police still cant find out who the killer is. They seem to be lost on this case, but Sam is actually learning more by doing real invcestigations.

One night while out walking, Sam and Julia hear a car driving up behind them. The driver rolls up onto the sidewalk and runs over their bodyguard who is several feet behind them. Sam and Julia run around the corner and we see theres 2 people in the car not one! A man in a bright yellow jacket hops out of the car and begins chasing Sam and Julia down. Julia hides in an alley, but Sam is trailed by the yellow hitman through the dark. They get into a game of cat and mouse in a city bus parking lot, but Sam manages to make it out onto the busy street, he tells some people that hes being chased, but when the man in yellow shows up he heads in the other direction. Now in a twist, Sam begins to trail HIM. Sam follows the man into a building where he ducks into a door. Sam opens the door and he sees a room filled with men in the same yellow jackets the hitman wore. When the police show up, they cant find the man Sam saw, so that closes that out.

Sam tries to find more clues that will lead him to the killer, but while he is caught up in the web of death, the killer in black strikes again and again using an array of sharp knives and straightrazors. Look for the sequence when Sam visits the cat loving artist of the "killer painting" (yep, its Italian crime film heavy Mario Adorf!) Also watch for the violent razor slashing sequence (then watch DePalma's Dressed To Kill) Another highlight is when Julia is in her apartment and the killer shows up and carves a hole in the door. Its one of the most thrilling parts of the film! Just when you think you know who the killer is, you will be shocked to learn the real truth. Its really one of the best giallo film twists.

Dario Argento utilizes all kinds of great camera tricks in this film. The use of POV shots, bright and muted colors, shadows, freeze frames, zooms add a dynamic which really makes the film pulse with energy. You can see in 'Bird' the influence of Hitchcock's thrillers as well as Antonioni's Blow Up (1966) one of the most influential films on the Italian gialli.

Dario Argento's The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is a brilliant debut. The film is directed masterfully and the creative, fluid camerawork is exciting to watch. The music by Ennio Morricone is a perfect aural accompanment to the film. It has an eerie, childlike sound which gives an extra thrill to the sequences its featured in. Highly reccomended!

Reviewed by Popeye Pete - 5/28/07

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