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The Bird With the Crystal Plumage

By Jerry Renshaw

Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is an American reporter living in Rome who witnesses what appears to be a murder. Trapped by a glass wall, he can't intervene, but does manage to scare off the killer. Wounded, the victim survives, and Dalmas's curiosity drives him to look further into the story, but he soon finds himself and his girlfriend in jeopardy and stalked by the would-be murderer. Director Dario Argento's debut film is a remarkable work, more restrained than many of his later films. Based on an obscure 1950s pulp novel, Bird (L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo)draws heavily on Hitchcock, as well as on American novelists such as Dashiell Hammett and Cornell Woolrich. At the same time, its execution makes it a highly original, inventive, and fast-paced film that plays with the conventions of the thriller genre. As was often the case with Hitchcock's work, Dalmas is a spectator to the original crime, reflecting the voyeuristic role of the film audience. He's an ordinary guy who unravels the circumstances of the crime until he comes across the most unlikely scenario, a device also reminiscent of Hitchcock. The score, editing, and camera work, however, give the film a distinctly Italian stamp, and established Argento as a stylish, innovative director to watch. The scene in which Dalmas is chased through the streets by a gun-toting assassin, in particular, is a little gem of suspense. Modern-day thrillers should hope to live up to this film's intelligence, energy, and intricate plot twists.

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FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this soundtrack from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Rated PGNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Dario Argento

Stars: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall

Released: June 12, 1970

Availability: DVD VHS CD


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