Director – Dario Argento
Cast – Tony Mustante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho, Renato Romano, Giuseppe Castellano, Mario Adorf, Pino Patti, Gildo Di Marco
Release Year – 1970
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Italian horror maestro Dario Argento broke onto the horror scene in 1970, and has since given us such horror classics as Deep Red, Suspiria, Tenebre, and Opera. Despite his late 70s and 80s success, many seem to overlook the very film he broke onto the horror scene with, The Bird With The Crystal Plummage. Argento set the stage for the giallo films he went on to popularize with this beautifully shot horror/mystery that shows the immense talent Argento possessed at the earliest moment of his career.
This film follows Sam Dalmas(Tony Mustante), an American writer who while visiting Italy witnesses an attempted murder of a young woman. After hard questioning by Inspector Morosini Sam learns that this attempted murder matches many actual murders that have been plaguing the city the last few weeks. Sam knows he is missing a few vital details about the attempted murder he witnessed, but cannot remember them at the time. He decides to investigate the matter on his own, hoping it will help his memory of that night. Unfortunately for Sam, he does not know the killer…but the killer knows him and will stop at nothing to make sure Sam does not leave Italy alive.
Boy did this film impress me. For a first time effort this film is a masterpiece, and despite that it can still stand up against many other films from veteran directors due to how great this piece is. This film really sets the stage for Argento’s later works as we get all of his veteran trademarks that have gone on to define his name and style. Right from the beginning we are thrown into the murderous mystery and then followed by awesome development that kept me entertained and interested throughout its 96 minute runtime. The pacing is amazing, thanks much to Argento’s expert execution and this film’s engaging storyline that keeps the viewer on edge, and comes with the usual Argento twists and turns that make his film so darn fun to watch. I do not know what it is about these Argento mystery/horror films, but they get me each and every time. The guy has a knack for these films, and it is a shame to see that his recent works pale in comparison to his earlier stuff, but regardless he has given himself a timeless title due to these great works.
As far as atmosphere goes, Argento made this a true joy to watch. His beautiful sets engage the viewer, and the fact that he shows us some supreme horror only makes them all the more enjoyable. His musical score is a great one, and resembles no other musical score I have ever heard in a horror film. It is somber, creepy, and most importantly…effective. The gore is here and there, and while it is not nearly as great as it was in Tenebre, we get some very sweet kills that I am sure generated some very obvious expressions on my face, heh. As usual, Argento tricked me with who the killer was even after I was SO certain who it was. I succeeded in picking the killer in Tenebre, that but seems to be my one and only score against this great giallo master. Of the applicable films; Argento = 7, Me = 1. Of course, I do not mind that one bit, I like being shocked at the end of a film.
Overall, this is an awesome film that I recommend to all horror fans, especially those who enjoy Argento’s giallo films. This one shows just how great he was right from the get-go of his career, and gives us all the infamous Argento trademarks and elements that make his films so much fun to watch.