Bird With the Crystal Plumage, The (1970)

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970), written and directed by Dario Argento.

An American in Rome witnesses an attempted murder, part of a string of recent serial killer stabbings. The police suspect him at first, then use him as bait to draw out the real killer. This works, in that the psycho is interested in meeting him again. Our hero becomes obsessed with solving the case, despite the danger to his girlfriend, whose job is to collapse in hysteria when menaced.

Argento's first film as director, it's visually interesting, an attempt to be a late-60s Italian Hitchcock. The story has quite a bit of humor, but also too many red herrings and blind alleys. I did not understand several big plot developments. The police lab scenes are ridiculous, maybe intentionally so. The lead (played by Tony Musante) is not a very appealing character.

Some striking moments and point-of-view perspectives. Parts were commonly censored for years, but are available now, as when a victim is threatened suggestively with a knife and her underwear cut off. It's really not very explicit, but still tense and sexually sadistic (think A Clockwork Orange (1971)).

It's an international cast and as is often the case the lip sync and dubbing is very rough.

Ennio Morricone score.

Available on Blu-ray from Blue Underground, which includes an enthusiastic commentary track by two knowledgeable Argento scholars. They claim that the giallo film conventions had already been laid out (mostly by Mario Brava) but that this was the first internationally successful movie in the genre.