(Dario Argento, 1970)
Dario made his debut with this stunning little psycho-thriller, and in doing so popularizd a genre introduced to theatre patrons by Mario Bava only seven years prior. Although the "giallo boom" only lasted until the mid-70's, it's influence on modern cinema lingers to this day. Loaded with amazing cinematic style, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage laid the foundation for any future thriller with its trademark use of black leather gloves and straight razors, as well as fetishism of death and voyeurism.
The story unfolds at a brisk pace as writer Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is witness to an attempted murder in an art gallery one night. The event haunts him, as he feels as though he saw something that was out of place at the time, though no attempt to remember just what bears fruit. After learning of a string of recent, similar murders, he and his girlfriend Julia (Suzy Kendall) are drawn into the mystery and begin their own amateur investigation. This proves to be hazardous for them both as the killer is quite aware of their intrusion.
Bar the usual subpar dub job, the acting herein is uniformly solid. Despite the subject matter, violence, and then-unheard of gore, the story is sprinkled liberally with humor, however dark it may be. Argento got the balance between suspense, fright, and comedy just right, and the story never drags as it does in much of his later films.
On the technical side, which is where Dario has always excelled, TBWTCP was groundbreaking. The extreme close-ups of the killer's eye, the POV murder shots, and Argento's inventive lighting, paired with the chillingly minimal Ennio Morricone soundtrack, made this a brand new experience for theatre goers of the time, and the film has lost little of its potency 41 years since. Highly recommended, and a great introduction to the world of Italian horror and thriller cinema. Buy it here.
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