Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The (Blu-ray) (1970)

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Released 5-Aug-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Trailer-x 7 for other Shock titles
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 95:49
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Dario Argento
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Tony Musante
Suzy Kendall
Eva Renzi
Enrico Maria Salerno
Umberto Raho



Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Ennio Morricone


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English dts 2.0 mono (1536Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.00:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is an American author with writer’s block living with his girlfriend Julia (or Giulia as the subtitles have it) (Suzy Kendall) in Italy. One night while walking home he witnesses a woman being attacked and stabbed by someone dressed all in black; the attack takes place inside an art gallery but Sam is locked outside and unable to intervene. But his presence scares off the attacker and shortly afterwards the police, led by Inspector Morosini (Enrico Maria Salerno), arrive. The woman is Monica Ranieri (Eva Renzi), the wife of the gallery owner Alberto Ranieri (Umberto Raho), and fortunately her stab wounds are not life threatening. Morosini tells Sam that this attack looks like the work of the person who has already murdered three women. Sam is an important witness and he is certainly troubled; he believes he has seen something vital to solving the murders but cannot work out what it is. The murderer obviously thinks the same and attempts are made on Sam’s life. With the police investigation at a dead end, can Sam solve the mystery before the killer takes his, or Julia’s, life.

     The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (original Italian title L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo) is the first feature film by master writer / director Dario Argento, a film which launched his career. Over forty years on it is still a fabulous thriller, tight, tense, mesmerising and atmospheric because in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage Argento illustrates the old adage that showing less creates far, far more tension. Thus, in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage the killer in black is always half seen in the shadows and Argento uses POV shots that are very creepy; something is certainly out there, just at the edge of vision. There are some scares as the figure of the killer or a body is revealed and a couple of murders on screen are quite bloody and brutal, but in the main this is very much a psychological horror thriller using suggestion rather than action that really works.

     This is not because of the acting as both Tony Musante and Suzy Kendall are ok but stilted. The talent that drives the success of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was firmly behind the camera. A film of darkness and shadows requires a special cinematographer to make it work and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was lensed by Vittorio Storaro who in his stellar career won three Oscars, for Apocalypse Now (1979), Reds (1981) and The Last Emperor (1987), although I thought his work in The Sheltering Sky (1990) was wonderful. Some of the images in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage are stunning, with splashes of colour, light or shadow against a dark background: pause the film at 44:07, for example, for the effect of the yellow jacket. The other huge plus is the score by Ennio Morricone. Morricone, of course, came to notice in the west with his fabulous partnership with Sergio Leone and now, in a career stretching over 5 decades, he has a staggering 527 music credits in the IMDb and is still working, for example scoring the upcoming Tarantino western The Hateful Eight. Morricone’s work is always unique and in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage he provides an eerie and unsettling score that ramps up the tension!

     With The Bird with the Crystal Plumage Argento almost singlehandedly created the giallo genre and influenced generations of filmmakers. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was also a success at the box office and with critics, and it still has a 91% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is a genuine cult classic, and is still very special.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The original theatrical ratio of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is given as 2.35:1 and this is the aspect ratio of the Region A US Blu-ray. However the Region B UK Blu-ray is in 2.0:1 with this comment: “for this release a brand new High Definition restoration of the film was made from the original negative presented in director of photography Vittorio Storaro’s original 2:1 Univisium aspect ratio”. Our Region B Blu-ray seems to have been from the same source (it is also 2.0:1, has an identical running time to the UK release and like that release the photographs taken by the killer are in black and white, not colour as is the case in the US version). Certainly the film is cropped: see here for comparison screen captures, especially evident in capture 4, but as our Blu-ray is an “approved” version no points will be deducted from the score.

     Our Blu-ray is in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     This is a great looking print for a film now 45 years old. Colours are deep and rich, especially the reds, the blacks in the night sequences are inky while shadow detail is exquisite, allowing us to see just what we are intended to see. Grain is evident, but nicely controlled, brightness and contrast is consistent, skin tones natural.

     There was significant motion blur in some sequences such as 0:34 against the green leaves or 42:57 against the vertical lines on the tin, but marks and scratches were not evident.

     English subtitles are available in a clear white font. They appeared timely and were error free.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is a choice of English DTS 2.0 mono at 1509 Kbps or Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 224 Kbps; i.e., no lossless audio.

     Dialogue is clear and easy to hear in either audio track. The English dub is recorded at a higher level and effects could be slightly crisper but this is a mono audio and I did not notice a lot of difference as effects are minimal. The score by Ennio Morricone uses a diverse range of instruments and voice to create an eerie, unsettling atmosphere, building to a crescendo leading to attacks.

     There is no surround or subwoofer use.

     There was slight distortion in the music in a couple of scenes towards the climax of the film in the Italian version.

     Lip synchronisation was indifferent in both dubs as half the cast were speaking English on set, the rest Italian and a lot of the dialogue was looped later.

     I listened to both dubs in turn as the audio, and subtitles, can be changed on the go using the remote. Both were OK; I just felt the Italian had more character, but each to their own.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Cinema Cult Trailers

     Trailers for Hatchet for the Hangman (2:36),Masters of the Universe (1:39),Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (2:08),The Abominable Dr. Phibes (2:34),Electra Glide in Blue (3:17), Vanishing Point (2:14) and Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1:52). Sadly, no trailer for The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is included.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Blu-rays of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage are available in both the US and UK. They are both Region free but in different aspect ratios and include different extras: see the link to DVDBeaver in the Video section above for details. As we get no extras, either of the others would take preference, depending on your view of the extras and the aspect ratio.

Summary

     45 years after being made The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is still a fabulous film. If you like psychological horror thrillers and don’t know the work of Dario Argento, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, is a relatively straightforward film and a good way into the films of this Italian master. Fans of Dario Argento will be happy to see his cult film receive a Blu-ray release in Australia.

     The video is very good for a film of this vintage, the audio is mono and not lossless. Unfortunately we also miss out on the extras available elsewhere as well as the lossless audio which I feel would have enhanced the Morricone score.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, August 31, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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