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Of all Italian director Dario Argento’s movies, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE ($25) may be the one that is best known to American audiences, especially those that don’t count themselves amongst Argento’s legions of fans. THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE also marked the directional debut of the man responsible for such genre favorites as DEEP RED, TENEBRE, OPERA, PHENOMENA and SUSPIRIA (a brilliant horror film that I hope to see someday released on DVD with a new 16:9 enhanced transfer).

THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE stars Tony Musante as American writer Sam Dalmas, who has come to Italy to recharge his creative batteries. One night while returning to his apartment, Sam witnesses a woman struggling with a figure dressed in black through the plate glass window of an art gallery. In his efforts to help, Sam becomes trapped the gallery entryway by the fleeing assailant, which leaves a wall of glass between Sam and the stabbed woman. Fortunately, the woman survives the ordeal, but the police are unwilling to let their American eyewitness leave the country until they solve the case.

With the police stymied and his own recollections of the crime leaving him ill at ease, Sam begins his own investigation. As Sam get closer to the truth, he finds himself and his girlfriend Julia (Suzy Kendall) targeted by the deranged killer who has taken to slicing up women all over Rome. THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is a stylish and involving mystery that features the kind of unexpected ending one finds only in the movies. In some ways THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is reminiscent of Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, but the film certainly doesn’t copy the Master of Suspense. The cast of THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE includes Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, Werner Peters, Mario Adorf and Reggie Nalder.

VCI Home Video has done a very nice job with their DVD edition of THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. The transfer offers the film very close to its correct 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and the presentation includes the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. Additionally, VCI has released the uncut 98-minute version of THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE on DVD. Since THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE was an Italian production released in the United States in 1970, the movie is as pristine or well preserved as a film from a major studio. The film element used for the transfer exhibits occasional age related markings, but they never become distracting. Despite the minor flaws in the element, this id the absolute best video version of THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE that I’ve ever seen. The transfer is relatively sharp and provides a good level of detail. Colors reproduce reasonably well, offering a natural level of saturation and no problems related to chroma noise or bleeding. Flesh tones in general appear properly rendered. Blacks are somewhat off the mark, verging towards dark gray, and the level of shadow detail is a bit weak, giving the picture a somewhat flat appearance. Taking advantage of dual layer technology, this DVD doesn’t display any significant problems with digital compression artifacts.

The two-channel Dolby Digital soundtrack has been re-mixed into Surround, which isn’t very effective or convincing. Dialogue is intelligible throughout, however Ennio Morricone’s marvelous score is the only sonic element to garner any benefit from the Dolby Surround re-mix. The interactive menus contain a bit of animation and full motion video, but are very basic in their implementation. Through the menus one can access the standard scene selection feature as well as the DVD’s extras. An isolated version of Ennio Morricone’s score is offered in soundtrack album fashion, allowing one to access individual musical cues via the menu system. Also included on the DVD is a theatrical trailer, as well as biographies/filmographies for Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall and Dario Argento.

THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is definitely one of Dario Argento’s most important works as a director. Argento’s fans will definitely want to own this DVD, and for them it is a recommended acquisition.


The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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