The Bird with the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray Review
The birth of mainstream giallo
Dario Argento's striking debut The Bird with the Crystal Plumage establishes the director's visual flair and trades in the same Hitchcockean psycho-mystery thrills as gems like Blow Up and Blow Out.An unofficial, uncredited adaptation of US author Fredric Brown's pulp detective story The Screaming Mimi, Argento's screenplay serves up the strange tale of Sam Dalmas, an American writer living in Rome, who witnesses a crime from behind a glass wall, helpless to intervene. When the investigating police officers take his passport and serve him up as bait - the only witness who can identify the attacker - he decides to take matters into his own hands and try and solve the case himself. Although purportedly playing an American writer in Rome, star Tony Musante was quite obviously Italian - dubbed for the majority of releases - making you wonder why they didn't just change the nationality of the lead character.Nevertheless, beyond quirks like this, Argento's work on his directorial debut deserves recognition, sitting alongside the great suspense works of the likes of Hitchcock, De Palma, and Antonioni, from Rear Window to Blow Out to Blow Up, whilst also catapulting the Italian giallo genre into the mainstream, as well as kick-starting not only Argento's auspicious career but also one of his most celebrated trilogies. Capturing some exquisite moments of horror-driven tension, whilst managing to keep you on your toes (even the best part of half a century on) with a series of innovative twists, Argento fashions a stylishly striking brew of psycho-killer thrills, innovative cinematography, and memorable scoring (from Ennio Morricone no less).
Picture QualityThe Bird with the Crystal Plumage gets its second Arrow release in the UK on a Region B-locked disc (with a simultaneous Arrow US release) complete with a brand new 4K restoration from the camera negative, fixing a great many of the problems encountered on their previous release. The 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen.
The new 4K restoration fixes a great many of the problems from the first Arrow release
Detail is excellent, notwithstanding the budget and vintage of the piece, allowing for some excellent close-ups, and impressive texture even on mid-range shots. Some of the more adventurous shadow-play still proves difficult (including the chase in and out of the shadows with the hitman), and lapses into a softer look, but, for the most part, it's a very good looking restoration, cleaner and better than ever before. The colour scheme is broad and vibrant, also well-represented here, and overall it's likely the film will never look any better than this.
Sound QualityIn terms of audio options we get two strong lossless LPCM 1.0 mono tracks - both the original, far superior Italian audio, and the more commonly heard, but far more unintentionally comical US dub (some of the voices have to be heard to be believed - they're truly ridiculous).
The track is natural and faithful to the original sound design
Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the frontal array, delivered clearly and coherently throughout, whilst effects are nominally represented, picking up on the slashing and screaming, the clatter of footsteps and thup of a suppressed pistol (or at least the movie sound of a suppressed pistol). Police sirens screech, and a few busier moments provide some atmospherics, but it's still an (expectedly) limited offering, bolstered by a strong score by Ennio Morricone, which elevates the piece no end. It may not be a striking aural offering, but it's natural and faithful to the original sound design.
ExtrasArrow's new edition comes in a lavish box set, complete with booklet, art card and artwork, as well as a series of new extras commissioned for this release. The new Audio Commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films headlines the selection, accompanied by The Power of Perception, a new visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Devil's Advocates: Suspiria and Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study.
The new edition comes in a lavish box set.
There are also a series of new Interviews, including a new analysis of the film with film critic Kat Ellinger, a new interview with Writer/Director Dario Argento, and a new interview with actor Gildo Di Marco (who had the memorable cameo of Garuillo the pimp in a couple of scenes).
Blu-ray VerdictArgento's work on his directorial debut deserves recognition, catapulting the Italian giallo genre into the mainstream.
This second release from Arrow is impressive, delivering a vastly improved and arguably definitive 4K restoration, as well as strong original mono tracks and a plethora of new extras, all in a lavish box set. Fans should celebrate this impressive package.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.99
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