Dario Argento is one of the mostly fondly remembered Italian film-makers of the late 20th Century. His most notable work is in the Giallo genre of film – an Italian film genre that mixes the genres of Horror and Thriller with violent imagery and psychedelic atmosphere – and through his perfect understanding of suspense, atmosphere and mystery, he was dubbed ‘The Italian Hitchcock’ by both critics and fans alike. Although Mario Bava may have invented the Giallo genre with 1963’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much, it’s said that Dario Argento perfected the genre with his low-budget directorial debut: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage would become the first of three Giallo films that are now recognized as Dario Argento’s ‘Animal’ trilogy: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Cat O’ Nine Tails and Four Flies On Grey Velvet. Upon it’s original release, however, there was a lot of interest behind The Bird With The Crystal Plumage as Dario Argento had previously worked with legendary Italian film-maker Sergio Leone on writing the phenomenal Once Upon A Time In The West, so people were anxious to see how Dario Argento would cope with both writing and directing a feature film, especially in a genre that Dario Argento had no previous experience with.
The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is definitely an outstanding achievement for Dario Argento. The film may be his directorial debut, but The Bird With The Crystal Plumage firmly displays his talents in creating suspense, creating atmosphere, and creating an ever evolving mystery that’s full of dead ends and red herrings. I feel that the film demonstrates what would become Dario Argento’s iconic talents as The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is a film that’s full of suspenseful sequences, disturbing murder scenes, beautiful, dynamic cinematography and a touch of psychedelic imagery. However, the greatest aspect of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is the fact that its a very unpredictable Giallo film. The story that the film tells is a tale fraught with police mistakes, incorrect conclusions, detailed clues and the whole crux of the story relies on an important detail that the film’s protagonist tries his best to remember. However, it’s very obvious the film pays more attention to the deep mystery than the characters as I feel that the protagonist was quite underwhelming and the other characters didn’t leave as much of an impact as they should have done, but as far as directorial debuts go, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is better than most. It’s a very ambitious film, with a complicated story that keeps adding new and interesting plot points with every scene.
However, there’s something about The Bird With The Crystal Plumage that feels somewhat primitive. The film hints at Dario Argento’s iconic style, but his later films demonstrate his iconic style more clearly. The film’s story is quite complicated, yet evolving, but it lacks the focus and character depth found in his later films. The film’s story is quite inventive, but it lacks the imaginative qualities that make Dario Argento’s later work so powerful. In my opinion, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is a very good Giallo film, but it’s a very ‘safe’ Dario Argento film that’s cemented in reality. That’s not a bad thing, as it’s very beneficial for a film-maker to play it safe with his debut before going all out on his later projects, but it does mean that The Bird With The Crystal Plumage stands out amongst Dario Argento’s other, more imaginative works. I feel that, for it’s time, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage was definitely a landmark film, but today, it hasn’t held up so well when compared to Dario Argento’s other works.
In my opinion, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is a very good film. However, after experiencing Dario Argento’s other films before watching this one, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is a film that’s definitely lacking the panache of Dario Argento’s later works in the late 1970’s, early 1980’s. It’s a solid film, but I don’t feel that it’s still as ground-breaking today as it was in 1970. However, I would definitely recommend The Bird With The Crystal Plumage to anyone who has never seen a Dario Argento film as it’s a very good starting point that shows his potential as a talented film-maker, but understand that it’s quite different to his usual cinematic affair.