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The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970)

DVD Cover (Arrow Films)
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Overall Rating 73%
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Ranked #2,308
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An American expatriate in Rome witnesses an attempted murder. He learns later that it's connected to an ongoing murder spree in the city, and decides to do his own investigation, despite being personally targeted by the killer. --IMDb
Tony Musante
Tony Musante
Suzy Kendall
Suzy Kendall
Enrico Maria Salerno
Enrico Maria Salerno
Eva Renzi
Eva Renzi
Umberto Raho
Umberto Raho
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: May 21, 2007
Every great director has to start somewhere. For Wes Craven it was "Last House On the Left". For John Carpenter it was "Assault On Precinct 13" (in terms of success). For Steven Spielberg it was "Duel". Dario Argento made his directorial debut with the 1970 horror film "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage". Although many consider Argento to be the master of a more intense kind of horror, i.e. "Suspiria" -- he is actually best known for his work within the thriller genre. No one tackles suspense and mystery quite like Dario Argento. "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage" is a serial killer released before serial killer films were even popular.

Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is an American writer living in Rome, doing his thing. One day he witnesses the attempted murder of Monica Ranieri (Eva Renzi), the wife of the owner of a successful art gallery. Trapped between two glass doors, Sam can only watch as Monica is attacked by a vicious serial killer. Fortunately, Monica survives the attack -- the first to survive an attack by this particular serial killer. When the police begin to show little effort it apprehending the man, Sam takes up the investigation himself, postponing his trip back to the United States and placing he and his girlfriend Julia (Suzy Kendall) in extreme danger.

This film did a lot of things that most horror director still emulate today. First of all, the serial killer in this film was a monster and had trademarks. Just as Freddy Krueger had his glove and Jason Vorhees had his mask, the killer here has that yellow raincoat that becomes synonymous with his character. Not many horror directors were doing that before this film. Most horror films were supernatural and the villain was a creature or alien. In this film, the killer was all real -- all vicious -- all the time. Argento relied on the same techniques that Alfred Hitchcock relied upon a decade before, but made them bloodier, more gruesome and far more believable.

Looking at where Argento's career has gone, it's hard to believe he got his start with "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage". It's just a stark contrast from his most successful works. However, if you look at his body of work as a whole, "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage" is really in the majority in terms of genre and content. If you're an Argento fan and want to see one of his typically overlooked masterpieces, I highly recommend this film. There is a special edition DVD available that is packed with extra features and such an enjoyable experience. So, if you think "Suspiria" and "Deep Red" are the only Argento films that can scare you witless, think again. 9/10.
Tristan #1: Tristan - added 05/21/2007, 09:32 PM
Thank you thank you thank you. I finally watched this last week, and I just loved it. I almost liked it more than Suspiria, but it was a definite contender for one of the scariest movies I've seen in a long time. 10/10
Nirrad #2: Nirrad - added 10/18/2008, 12:43 AM
Wow, what a great directional debut. This movie was simply fantastic. Great story, very suspenseful and a great soundtrack. I think this may be my favourite movie from Argento. And yes, some moments were actually scary. 11/10 Simply brilliant.
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