The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
Although it never attains the sensual heights of Deep Red (1975), ‘Bird’ is an electrifying blueprint for that movie and indeed the genre that Argento would dominate in the 1970s and 1980s.
‘Bird’ kicks off with shots of a leather-gloved ‘man in black’ handling a bizarre set of knifes whilst the camera stalks a beautiful young woman about the city. A man on his way home then witnesses the same figure attack a woman in an art gallery, a scene which replays throughout the film as our witness struggles to remember key details. Whilst he helps the police with their investigations, he becomes the target of the killer himself.
It’s surprising that in his first movie, so much of what would become to define Argento is already present here. We have set-piece murders, a leather-gloved killer on the end of a phone, curious offbeat characters, jazzy camerawork, a terrible event hidden in the past and the necessary violent plot-twist. However, Argento’s omnipresent weaknesses are unable to hide behind the bravado of his debut feature; ‘Bird’ has a poor and sparse script which at times belittles the element of suspense held within the movie’s narrative. The acting on display is nothing much to shout about either.
To look at, it’s a very pretty film with a visually-punishing use of colour. On the acoustics side, Ennio Morricone’s score is far removed from the pounding prog-rock soundtracks of Goblin on Argento’s later films, but fits the mystery of the film beautifully.
All in all, this is a notable movie. Firstly, as the cinematic introduction to Argento’s technical brilliance but also because it’s actually a rather neatly packaged mystery thriller. This is probably Argento’s most hitchcockian film and the air of suspicion which gathers around our main protagonist (and intrepid investigator) has a decided ‘wrong man’ feel to it. A minor cult classic.
Hotdog rating: 8/10