The Bird With The Crystal Plumage

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970)
Blue Underground
Cast: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Eva Renzi, Enrico Maria Salerno, Mario Adorf
Extras: Audio Commentary, Four Interviews, International Trailer, TV Spots

Unsuspecting American tourist and writer Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) helplessly witnesses a possible attempted homicide, while spending time in Rome, in Dario Argento's first film as both writer and director "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" (L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo). At first suffering the consequences of simply trying to help and for a short time becoming a suspect himself, Sam must abandon his plans to return to New York as the police confiscate his passport and insist that he make himself available for further questioning. With the seemingly unstoppable serial killer now focusing their attention on Sam, he becomes the killer's next unwilling target. Setting out to investigate the case himself by exploring various leads, while risking his own safety in the process, Sam becomes more and more obsessed with the case as he delves further into the mysterious identity of the serial killer. Featuring the fantastic setting of Rome, Italy, I found "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" to be a rather interesting exploration into a sampling of the work from the mind of filmmaker Dario Argento, dubbed "The Italian Hitchcock."

Great job all around from Blue Underground with their presentation of "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage." Considering this film is from 1970, there is only minor evidence of fine grain throughout, and I do mean minor, as dust and dirt particles are completely non-existent, leaving an impeccably clean exhibition. Black levels are surprisingly rich in depth, with good color saturation that displays naturally appearing flesh tones, producing a very pleasing overall image.

In the sound department, Blue Underground went all out in providing this film with a full English Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and dts ES 6.1 soundtrack (with Dolby 2.0 Surround and a full Italian DD EX 5.1, 2.0 and original mono track, reserved for audio purists). Overall, balance is quite good in the 5.1 and 6.1 mixes, but working from an original mono track poses the problem of watering down the sound presentation, unless the original audio elements are discovered or newly created, which I don't think was the case here. Vocal reproduction is good, but does manage to show its age during various points throughout the presentation. I did notice minor lip-sync issues, where dialogue speed could not keep up with the visual presentation, visible amid some close-up shots.

Available extras include; a full-length audio commentary from journalists Alan Jones and Kim Newman, with an International Trailer, Italian Trailer and TV Spots found on disc one.

Inserting disc two, of this double disc set, will present you with four complete interviews. The first is titled "Out of the Shadows" and features co-writer / director Dario Argento discussing how he was brought up around entertainment, as his mother was a photographer of film actors in the 1960's. This fed Argento's interest in cinema, first becoming a film reviewer then taking up the art of writing screenplays and finally moving on to become a filmmaker. Next up is "Painting with Darkness", an interview with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. "The Music of Murder", which is a nice inclusion that features an intimate discussion with composer Ennio Morricone. It's nice to see the inclusion of a featurette devoted to the films score, an often overlooked part of the filmmaking process. Actor Eva Renzi is profiled in "Eva's Talking", another short and intimate interview that completes the interview section of disc two.

For fans of Dario Argento, or filmmaking in general, who like to experience something outside of Hollywood, you might just find "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" to be of interest. Fans might also find this two disc version a considerable upgrade over the previous DVD version from VCI (for a full review, read Guido's input here); with an awesome presentation that features a nice complement of extras.