Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage revisted

It's been about five years since I've reviewed The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, so I thought it was time to revisit the film. I've been in a bit of an UP WITH DARIO! mood of late after seeing Suspiria on the big screen in 4K. There is a sweet spot with his films, but his later films have merit as well. I'm going to hop around his catalogue and see what there is to see and what I'd like to review again now that I'm a bit older.

Bird is part of the Dario Argento "Animal Trilogy" of films that include Bird, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, and The Cat o' Nine Tails. Like many of these trilogy arrangements, I'm not sure Dario set out to make a series of animal based films at first, but it's a highly marketable aspect of the films and it was ripe to be exploited. Out of the three, Bird with the Crystal Plumage happens to be my favorite.

The film opens with the classic giallo trope of a man named Sam Dalmas who's on his way up and out. He's completed a writing job, he gets paid, and now it's time for him and his new girlfriend to fly back home. However, he's spots a potential murder in progress at an art gallery and, when he tried to get in to help, he's trapped between two glass doors and can't go in or out. The murderer flees. The woman stumbles towards him and collapses to the floor.  He's forced to wait for the police to arrive as the poor woman struggles to stay alive. What a fantastic and tense moment!

Sam gets swept up in looking for the killer. The police keep tabs on his as he investigates the players and the net grows wider and wider each day as more and more information comes to light. And, of course, as Sam moves through the web of intrigue, the killer makes threats to Sam and his girlfriend Julia (Suzy Kendall).

I just love the film on so many fronts. We get Argento's great camerawork and wild storylines. We get some really cool set pieces to view as well. But, we also get a laundry list of wacky characters as Sam inches closer to the killer. Folks like Mr. So Long - a man in prison that Sam questions about the goings on who happens to stutter, so he says "so long" after sentences to get himself to stop. His eyes bulge out and are spread apart and there are some cute little parts like where Sam gets confused by the "so long" and stands to leave.

"Hey! Where are you going?"
"You said 'so long', so I thought you were done talking.'

Good stuff.

The plot twists and turns and avenues are explored to multiple dead ends. Then the big third act gets really wild as things come to a conclusion. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is a real thriller. I love it.

You can really see Dario starting to shine here. I mean, this is his first directing spot and he's already knocking it out of the park. The following year, he'll go on to make both The Cat o' Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet - both of which are fantastic films in their own right. He tries to escape the genre pictures by making Le cinque giornate , but it seems that people are not ready to have their Argento do historical fiction. So, he dives back into the horror world in 1975 with DEEP RED (Profondo rosso ) and kicks much arse until 1987, really. A fantastic run of films.

But, what I find to be fascinating is that it's all in The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. The plot twists, camera angles, style, and characterization were all strong and alive in Bird and just got better from there. It's a start akin to the start of people like M. Night Shyamalan or Orson Wells - coming out of the gate red hot and ready to make films the best they can make them.

Track down The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. You won't regret it. It gets better every time I watch it.

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