The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

bird with the crystal plumage poster 1970 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking, nice thriller and example of giallo

Some aspects of the story are frustrating

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

Studio:  Central Cinema Company Film

Genre(s):  Mystery/Thriller/Horror

Release Date(s):  February 19, 1970

MPAA Rating:  PG

bird with the crystal plumage murder tony musante

Hey…lady! You’re ruining my evening with the whole “I’m being murdered thing!”

An American named Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) witnesses an attack on a woman (Eva Renzi) in an art gallery, but the attacker escapes.  Held by police who think he has seen something he cannot remember, Sam finds himself searching his memory for clues to the possible murder while researching the previous murders in the case.  As Sam, his girlfriend Giulia (Suzy Kendall), and Inspector Morosini (Enrico Maria Salerno) get closer to the truth, they become targets of the killer themselves.

Directed by Dario Argento, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (original Italian title L’Uccello dalle Piume di Cristallo) is an Italian horror-mystery giallo.  It is an uncredited adaptation of the 1949 novel The Screaming Mimi by Fredric Brown.  The movie was Dario Aregento’s first solo attempt at directing and the first part of his “Animal Trilogy” (followed by The Cat O’Nine Tails in and Four Flies on Grey Velvet in both 1971).  The movie was well received by critics as an example of giallo and often is listed on “Best Of” lists particularly in foreign countries.

I like Dario Argento films.  Their look, style and sound have a crazy style that is both over the top and fit the subjects.  This early film is a great example of the popular giallo which involves pulp crime, suspense, horror, and a general sexual thriller (the term derives from yellow crime paperbacks by Mondadori publishing company).  Due to aspects of the story a *****spoiler alert***** is in effect.

bird with the crystal plumage murder victim

Killing is fun!

Memory is always a big aspect of Argento’s films and here Dalmas keeps replaying the events of the attempted murder.  It reminds me a lot of the later film Dressed to Kill by Brian De Palma which obviously was influenced by this, but this (especially the lame explainer at the end) reminds me of Hitchcock’s Psycho.  The movie is both a thriller and a bit of a mystery as you (along with Sam) try to figure out what exactly is going on…the explanation is not necessarily the most satisfying, but the ride is fun.

All the actors give off a strange vibe in this movie (and many of these Italian films).  Some of it involves dubbing and some of it probably involves language barriers since the actors and filmmakers do not always speak the same language.  Instead of hurting the film, it gives the film a bit of a surreal feel that adds to the story.  I feel the gallery owners give off an immediate weird vibe that the police do not seem to care about so then it circles back around to maybe it is just stylized acting.

bird with the crystal plumage ending

Who’s crazy now!!!

Argento excels at visuals and the film is a great start to this.  The movie kicks off with an interesting set-up for a potential murder that spins off into a mystery.  The style of shooting and look of the film really help tell the story and enhance it (propping up some of the weaknesses).  It is not as flashy as some of Argento’s later films, but it shows a solid start.

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is fun but a bit cliché in plot and story.  What seems obvious to the viewer is apparently unrecognizable to the characters in the film.  This does create tension, but for me also provides more frustration.  You are often privy to more information than the people on the screen…which does help increase a lurking fear.  If you are a fan of Argento, this is one of his more calm films, and it is interesting to see how he has progressed.  Argento followed The Bird with the Crystal Plumage with The Cat O’Nine Tails in 1971.

Related Links:

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)

The Cat O’Nine Tails (1971)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response