Bird With The Crystal Plumage was the movie that opened the worlds eyes and ears to the term Giallo. Legendary movie maker Mario Bava created a series of movies that were distinctly Giallo and made those in Italy unaware with the term very familiar. Giallo movies are basically the Italian version of what we would call a who-dunnit. With Mario Bava mastering this genre, newcomer Dario Argento a popular scriptwriter popped up with this blistering tale of terror. The combination of tense thriller and fantastic imagery made Bird With The Crystal Plummage the most successful Italian movie of that time.
An American working in Italy, Sam Dalmas is preparing to return to his native country. Deciding to take one last look around Rome at night. Unexpectedly he finds himself in front of an art gallery, where he notices a woman being attacked. Separated by a giant piece of soundproof glass, and battling to get some attention at the dead of night Sam manages to save the victim.
For Sam this is not the end of events but just the beginning, as he is forced to stay in Rome by the police, convinced he has seen more than he has. In staying Sam finds himself caught in a dangerous place as he turns private detective; but this has its downside as he finds himself number one on a serial killers hit list. As the bodies mount up Sam finds himself in search of answers in a sinister painting, and of course the bird with the crystal plumage.
This movie is one of the real classics of Italian cinema, the blend of psychological terror, humour and fantastic set pieces makes this a movie that’s difficult to take your eyes off. From the now legendary opening scene of the attack, your very much aware this is not the normal type of serial killer thriller. The bright lights and white colours of the gallery bleed out into the darkness and its very difficult not to find real beauty during this terrible and terrifying moment. For this very reason its incredibly difficult to get to grips with the fact that this movie is nearly 40 years old. Everything about it stinks of 1985, but never 1970.
The plot of the movie offers you twist after twist after twist, each time you believe you have correctly identified the killer something comes up to stop you from suspecting them, usually death. The story is knitted at a pretty good pace, even when the story sidetracks into the personal lives of the characters you can see the story is eating away inside of them; much like this sort of issue would have in real life.
One of the most bizarre issues about the movie are the things that sit in your mind after the movie finishes; the artist that eats cats, the bizarre painting of a woman being attacked in the snow. And the scene from the gallery. A pimp who cant stop saying “so long”. All of these issues become primary ones in not just mine but other people I know who have seen the movie; even despite the fact that some far more surprising imagery literally soaks out of the movie into your living room.
The performances are lock solid, which is somewhat of a rarity for an Italian movie from this time of cinema. Suzy Kendall a popular actress of the 60’s and 70’s was at the height of her sex siren status, her image on many a teenage boys walls proves she can really carry a movie even if its not made in her native tongue. More familiar with the Italian cinema was Tony Musante, a popular American actor who ended up doing a series of Italian and Spanish pictures around this period. Despite the laters performance, he nearly caused the movie not to be made altogether causing daily rows with Argento because he thought he new better than the newcomer director. The final actor worth a mention was German actress Eva Renzi who plays Monica the first person we see attacked as the movie begins. Eva provides the real sex appeal with her visually stunning model looks; Eva will always be remembered for this movie pulling herself along the floor covered in blood. Each scene she is in, her character fills showing a mixture of fear and tense aggression.