Italy, at the time, was not unfamiliar with the Giallo. Il Maestro, Mario Bava, had created the thriller sub-genre in films like THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and the seminal BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. Others followed the trend throughout the 1960's, but it would be Bava's young protege who would step in to perfect the conventions of this purely-Italian art form. His name, of course, is Dario Argento, and he would pave the way for countless other directors with his breakthrough feature film THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE.
Writer Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) witnesses an attempted homicide from outside of a small art gallery, but he isn't able to call the police in time to stop the culprit. Now, he must work to piece together the clues from his shattered memory in order to help the authorities catch their killer.
All of the basic blueprints for the modern Gialli are laid out quickly as Sam sets out on his quest, from the mysterious black-gloved killer, to the gradual revelation of forgotten events and the grandiose murders that decorate the convoluted plot in blood. Argento demonstrates the same incredible sense of style and originality in design as his mentor. His fluid camera movements and strategic framing paint a visual tapestry that is able to tell the story without the need for dialog. Having yet to dive into the extraordinary world of color and sound that would later be found in SUSPIRIA, Argento uses much more muted tones, focusing instead on the play of light and shadow against the darkened streets of Rome. If any fault could be found in the film's design, it would have to be in the questionable explanation behind the killer's motives, a common problem that would resurface in countless Gialli to follow.
THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is an intelligent film, it is an important film, but most of all, it is a good film. A very good film, and one that holds a very strong historical significance in reshaping Italian cinema forever.
If you liked THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, check out:
THE CAT O' NINE TAILS, THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS, ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK.