Review: Italian Shocker 'The Bird with the Crystal Plumage' Gets Incredible 4K Upgrade from Arrow

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday July 27, 2021

There is no such film genre as giallo without Dario Argento's "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage." Argento was just a young director when this massively influential film arrived in theaters in 1970 to shock and scare audiences across the world. It signified the arrival of a major talent that found a goldmine of varying perceptions and constant voyeurism in the Italian crime thrillers he specialized in. The grisly scenarios depicted here show up time and again in Argento's oeuvre, although few had the impact that his directorial debut had. On top of all that, he found a way to enact societal change in Italy within this film, showing how all the characters have an inherent bias that skews the inevitable truth.

Arrow Video brings "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a new 4K restoration from the original negative that's an improvement over Arrow's own terrific Blu-ray release of the film in 2017. Some may say that those releases came out pretty close together, but you can see the kind of care and attention put into the 4K presentation. Aided by Dolby Vision HDR and the original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks, this is the best the film has ever looked and sounded. And if you think the added resolution may be a bit too much and start to reveal the age of this 1970 film, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. If anything, the added resolution and clarity provides deeper blacks and grain fidelity that make this harsh, stark giallo really shine.

Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), an American writer living in Rome, inadvertently witnesses a brutal murder on a woman (Eva Renzi) in an art gallery by a masked, leather-wearing assailant. He swears that he saw something that could help identify the murderer, so he launches his own investigation, as he feels the Italian police don't care. Of course, this puts Sam and his girlfriend (Suzy Kendall) in danger.

The famous opening sequence at the art gallery is almost like Argento in a microcosm; A beautiful modern setting that puts the voyeur into captivity and makes them helpless in witnessing a murder. But even more than that, it cracks at the artifice of modern design while providing missives that Sam will have to work through later on. Aside from being a terrifying and violent sequence that still inspires legions of filmmakers to this day, it's a perfect summation of the thematic and rigorous structure found within the giallo genre.

As for special features, everything from the previous 2017 Arrow Blu-ray release of the film has been ported over, but that shouldn't dissuade you at all from picking up this breathtaking edition of a great film. All of the previous extras provide crucial dialogue about the film and Argento's illustrious career. I'd run out to pick this release up before it sells out, as I doubt we're going to see Argento's work and this film ever look this good at home again.

Special features include:

• Restored original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks
• Audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of "So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films"
• "Black Gloves and Screaming Mimis," an interview with author and critic Kat Ellinger exploring the film's themes and its relationship to both the giallo and Fredric Brown's novel "The Screaming Mimi"
• "The Power of Perception," a visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexanda Heller-Nicholas, author of "Devil's Advocates: Suspiria," reflecting on the recurring theme of perception and the role of art in Argento's filmography
• "Crystal Nightmare," an interview with writer/director Dario Argento
• "An Argento Icon," an interview with actor Gildo Di Marco
• "Eva's Talking," an archival interview with actor Eva Renzi
• Original Italian and international theatrical trailers
• 2017 Texas Frightmare trailer
• Image galleries
• Illustrated collector's booklet featuring writing on the film by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook, and a new essay by Rachael Nisbet
• Fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative
• Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards
• Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring originally and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative

"The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" is now available on 4K Blu-ray from Arrow Video.