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The Bird with Crystal Plumage

Dario Argento, whose father was a producer and mother a photographer to the stars, was born and raised in the film world. Spending some time writing reviews, he bounced into screenwriting in 1967 and — with friend Bernardo Bertolucci — worked with Sergio Leone to write his 1968 film Once Upon a Time in the West. But after a few years of script work, he made his feature film debut with 1970's The Bird with Crystal Plumage ("L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo"), and helped launch the profitable Giallo ("thriller") genre to an international audience. The film stars Tony Musante as Sam Dalmas, an American writer about to return home when he witnesses an attempted murder in an art gallery. However, when he comes to the rescue he finds himself helplessly trapped between two walls of glass. His shouting alerts the police, who then take his passport and question him — it turns out that this was not the first of the murderer's crimes. Sam's memory is fuzzy, and he can only remember flashes of details from the incident, so he wants to investigate the murderer for himself. But as he gets closer, he and his girlfriend Julia (Suzy Kendall) become targets for the killer. A stylish exercise, Argento's first feature film is a confident thriller that offers little beneath the surface but delivers sequence after sequence of technically audacious set-pieces. Working with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (The Conformist, Apocalypse Now) The Bird is plush, filled with striking visuals, while the plotting is one of the most coherent of Argento's oeuvre (the killers are actually identified in this one). It's also interesting to note that the film is thematically linked to Argento's Deep Red and Suspiria in that they all feature protagonists who spend most of the film trying to remember what they witnessed at the beginning of it. Blue Underground two-disc The Bird with Crystal Plumage offers a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with English DTS-ES, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby 2.0 Surround, and the original monaural audio, along with Italian DD 5.1, 2.0 Surround and the original mono with optional English subtitles (at this time, Italians filmmakers rarely shot in synch sound, so it's a "six in one hand" situation). On the first disc is an entertaining commentary by journalists Alan Jones and Kim Newman, the international and Italian trailers, and two TV spots. Disc Two includes four interviews: "Out of the Shadows" with Argento (18 min.), "The Music of Murder" with composer Ennio Morricone (8 min.), "Painting with Darkness" with Vittorio Storaro (10 min.), and "Eva's Talking" with actress Eva Renzi (11 min.). Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.

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