The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Dario Argento is one of those filmmakers who I’ve seen a few films by but am not really sure where I stand with them. Before I first saw his stuff I’d got really excited by the prospect of it by reading Maitland McDonagh’s articles about him, and, well, yeah. What I saw didn’t quite live up to the hype, for the most part. Anyway, I’m looking at a revisit to some of his works and catch a few I haven’t seen (thanks once again to the Brendan DVD library; I must get that box with five of Dario’s films from him at some point), so tonight I’ve started that process with his debut. Unlike Zombie Flesh Eaters, I’ve only ever seen this in Italian, cos the one previous time I saw it on SBS (some time in the late 90s or so) they showed the Italian-language print then, and I watched the DVD in Italian too… This was nice to revisit, cos I didn’t really remember much about it and had only a dim memory of kind of liking it though I couldn’t be sure. Now it looks like a pretty remarkable first effort if you suspend logic a bit (which seems to be the prerequisite for the giallo anyway), with style—manifesting particularly in the form of Vittorio Storaro’s camerawork—being pretty much on par with substance in a way I don’t think is true of quite a few of the later films (hello Suspiria and Inferno). Pretty good story—man witnesses murder attempt, finds killer stalking him—copped in vague fashion from Fredric Brown, handled in quite a pleasing manner (with a particularly striking sequence as our hero is chased by a yellow-jacketed assassin through a bus depot, a sequence that ends in bizarrely comic fashion as he then pursues the killer into a boxing convention full of people in the same jacket), albeit with a few lapses that even I picked up on. Quite enjoyable, though, glad to have seen this again.

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