REVIEWED
4/2/06

STORY



LOOK



The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (aka Uccello dalle piume di cristallo, L')
Director: Dario Argento
Year: 1970
TRT: 1:38


This is the first feature-length outing by Argento as a director and sure, it shows. The plot can plod on for a bit, and logic isn't always relevant. But here are the seeds of a very visual and shocking filmmaker which doesn't completely suck.

American fiction writer Sam Dalmas is at the end of what is basically a two year sabbatical in Italy. But two days before he's about to leave, he ends up witnessing an attempted murder, averted by his attempts to stop it. The police pretty much cock him, taking his passport and telling him he can't leave as he's a suspect in the case. But their ineptitude and general congeniality soon find the police bringing the writer into the investigation in hopes that he'll eventually remember EXACTLY what he's seen. Sam delves into his own investigation since he's obviously more adept than the local police, and so much more experienced in tracking down suspected serial killers. Or it's a ridiculous plot device to throw a couple red herrings into the whole investigative mystery. You be the judge.

While not a fantastic film, it's a nice start for Argento, who would become one of Italy's prime contributors to the giallo genre. Some great moments between the dull spots, showing some excellent early visual style that makes this somewhat plodding script worth it. What do you expect from a genre originally based on 1920s pulp crime novels? From Italy.

Great Scene: What will become an Argento signature, the geometric stairway shot.

DVD Notes: While giving you a nice list of extras, the VCI Home Video version of this flick is not really the best in presentation, both visually and aurally. Blue Underground just recently released a 2-disc special edition, which I imagine is in much better shape than this version. The audio is all over the place, the black levels, while necessary particularly in an Argento film, are way too much so (I imagine) you're losing a bit of detail, and the print itself can be a bit hacked up.