I've whinged about the price of these new re-mastered sets from Arrow (we seem to be in the middle of a 'nostalgia tax' from most boutique labels, where genre flicks from the 70s and 80s are attracting far higher prices than other similar restorations/special editions), but goddamn it, this is a pretty sweet ass set! First, that box is sturdy and pretty as hell. The lobby cards, folded poster and book are also pretty great (if a read/view once type dealy), and that's before we get anywhere near the disc. The new 4K restoration is lovely - fine grain, nice balance between detail and softness (due to cameras and film used, lighting, etc), no print damage at all and lovely colour reproduction. Its not quite as sharp as Deep Red, and I sold my previous version on Friday so couldn't do an A/B comparison, but it just looks really nice. The lossless English mono track sounded crystal clear, with a decent fidelity and dynamic range to it.
The extras are right up my street too - a 30 min chat with an academic (scary tattooed academic!) who takes us through the key themes of both the film and the original source novel, even looking at earlier filmed versions of the book to compare. A new 20 min visual essay looking at the similarities across all of Argento's works was also just as fascinating (cant believe I didn't pick up on the similarities between Phenomena and Suspiria - American student abroad, all girls school, etc). Throw in a new interview with Dario himself and a couple of shorter interviews with minor cast members and you have a pretty great suite of extras that cover both the film and Argento's career in a wider context.
The film itself gets better with viewings for me - there's just so much in it. On the face of its, its a straight forward whodunit - US journo in Italy witnesses an attempted murder in an art gallery but something nags at him and he investigates himself, getting drawn into a web of murder and a black gloved serial killer.....
What Argento does around this frame is pack it full of texture - almost all of the background characters feel so much more than just cookie cutter characters: the weedy pimp who ends every sentence with 'so long' (hodor?), the insane footchase that ends in a boxing union meeting (why? No reason at all!), the crazed hermit who eats cats (why? Again, no reason whatsoever!), the clearly gay art gallery owner. It all adds so much to the plot, which itself is packed with red herrings, inept policemen and a still pretty great switcheroo at its finale that you feel like you've had a sumptuous cinematic feast at the end of the 96 mins. Throw in some of Argento's classic shots (the reveal of the dead guy in the run down apartment is pure class - you can see where Carpenter got some of his moves from), a disarming score (made up of funky 70s beats and lilting, lullaby type voices) and a tone to it that, in amongst all the darkness, manages to keep things balanced between light and dark - its a really tough balance and one that was made even more immediate by watching one of those lousy straight to VOD horrors on Netflix straight after it (Don't Knock Twice if anyone's interested in staying away!), which just felt so monotonously dreary and dour in comparison, that no enjoyment was had by its conclusion at all. A belting giallo that fully deserves its place at the forefront of that particular genre.
Summary - a lovely package of a great film, presented beautifully and appropriately, backed up with a raft of genuinely interesting extras, all wrapped up in a stunning box. Arrow haven't put a foot wrong with this for me and totally justifies the £25 price tag. Stunningly recommended if you can manage to pick one up.
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage User Review
Another Arrow double dip......but worth every pennyReview of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray by Coz22998, Aug 12, 2017.This item was purchased for £24.99 from HMV in 2017. The reviewer still owns this product.