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L'Uccello dalle Piume di Cristallo

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Handschuhe / Bird with the Glass Feathers / The Gallery Murders

Italy/West Germany 1969
produced by
Salvatore Argento for Seda Spettacoli, CCC-Filmkunst
directed by Dario Argento
starring Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho, Renato Romano (as Raf Valenti), Giuseppe Castellano, Mario Adorf, Pino Patti, Gildo Di Marco, Rosita Torosh, Omar Bonaro, Fulvio Mingozzi, Werner Peters, Karen Valenti, Carla Mancini, Bruno Erba, Reggie Nalder, Giovanni Di Benedetto, Maria Tedeschi
written by Dario Argento, music by Ennio Morricone, conducted by Bruno Nicolai

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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One night, American author in Rome Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) witnesses a murder attempt in an art gallery from the outside, and as he rushes in to help, he is caught between automatic sliding doors. When the police finally arrives on the scene, the murderer has long made an escape, but the intended victim Monica Ranieri's (Eva Renzi) life can be saved, and inspector Morosini (Enrico Maria Salerno) decides to confiscate Dalmas' passport to keep him in the country as an important witness - or even suspect. Thing is, the unknown murderer thinks Sam knows more than he does and thus tries to kill him on more than one occasion, which causes Sam to pick up investigations on his own, investigations that lead him to such colourful characters as a stuttering pimp (Gildo Di Marco), a police informer (Pino Patti) and a half-crazed painter (Mario Adorf), all of whom provide Sam with valuable clues. But things take a turn for the worse when via telephone, the killer doesn't only threaten Sam but also his girlfriend's (Suzy Kendall) life. However, through a random sound recorded on that phonecall, they find the killer's whereabouts and can only just stop him (Umberto Raho) from killing Monica Ranieri for real. But once the killer's out of the picture, the worst is yet to come ...

 

This movie is both the first movie by former scriptwriter Dario Argento as well as an early seminal example of the Italian giallo-genre (= Italian horror-serialkiller-whodunits, which were extremely popular in the late 60's, early-to-mid 70's until eventually spawning the more simplistic American slasher genre). Surprisingly for a man who earned his living by writing screenplays up to then, Dario Argento's approach proved to be very visual rather than story-driven (though by giallo standards The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is actually rather compact) - and his mastery of blending style (both in terms of images and music), suspense and explicit violence would in later years become Argento's trademark, with this movie, despite looking quite excellent, being a mere precursor for things to come.

In all, not Argento's best or most daring film (though far from his worst), this is just an extremely enjoyable horror thriller not to be missed by fans of retro genre cinema.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
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starring
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out now on DVD