Bird With the Crystal Plumage, The / Phantom of Terror, The(1970)

Bird With the Crystal Plumage, The / Phantom of Terror, The(1970)

“It seems very clear to me that there is a dangerous maniac at large in this city.”

After an American writer (Tony Musante) in Italy witnesses the attempted murder of a beautiful redhead (Eva Renzi) behind the glass walls of an art gallery, he and his girlfriend (Suzy Kendall) put their own lives at risk while attempting to help a police inspector (Enrico Maria Salerno) figure out who the mysterious serial killer might be.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Amateur Sleuths
  • Dario Argento Films
  • Horror Films
  • Serial Killers

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “tricky and bloody horror-mystery” — very loosely based on the same novel that was turned into Screaming Mimi (1958) — is “stylishly directed by Dario Argento, Italy’s specialist in this kind of material.” (Other Peary-listed titles by Argento include Deep Red [1975], Suspiria [1977], and Inferno [1980].) Peary notes that The Bird With the Crystal Plumage “has some scary moments”, but argues that “perhaps the best scene is half comical, with Musante visiting an eccentric artist whose painting is the key to the mystery”.

Peary points out that the film’s “dubbing hurts” (yes, it does), and that it “should be seen in [a] theater for full effect” — though thanks to Blu-Ray technology, that’s no longer necessary. The storyline offers plenty of atmospherically filmed sequences and twists and turns, with several possible candidates for the murderer. It’s worth a look by giallo fans, though not must-see viewing for all film fanatics.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Vibrant cinematography and sets

  • Several tensely filmed sequences

Must See?
No, though Sargento fans will of course want to check it out.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


3 thoughts on “Bird With the Crystal Plumage, The / Phantom of Terror, The(1970)

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Argento’s first film is one of his best films although not quite the height of his achievements with both Deep Red (1975) and Suspiria (1977) topping this. It’s a fabulously involving and twisty thriller and of great significance to Italian cinema in that it was THE Giallo that influenced the form the most.

    Mario Bava had done The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1962 AKA The Evil Eye) and Six Women for the Murderer (1964 AKA Blood and Black Lace); both being considered the beginning of the cinematic Giallo, but only the former had succeeded at the box office. With Argento’s debut the trend really kicked off and as such this film is definitely must see for film buffs; it’s significant as a result. There have been something like 400 Gialli made since and very few before.

  2. Not must-see. As per my 8/19/17 post in ‘Revival House of Camp & Cult’ (fb):

    “How many times do I have to tell you? – ‘Ursula Andress’ belongs with the transvestites, not the perverts.”

    ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’ [blu-ray]: Some cultural differences defy (even as they beg for) understanding. In a DVD extra – an interview from this year – Dario Argento tells us he was “deeply moved” (?!!) as he was writing the script for his directorial debut. The script is nonsense: it has a fair amount of awkward dialogue and it’s often turgid (the film is 90 minutes but feels longer). Still… being the debut of DP Vittorio Storaro, this ponderous kill-thriller often looks great and sometimes stunning. As well, maestro Ennio Morricone had just worked with Argento (as a screenwriter) on ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ – and he agreed to do the ‘Plumage’ score (largely improvised – and it’s very effective in its free-form style). ‘Plumage’ is based on a novel called ‘The Screaming Mimi’, made into a much-better 1958 film with Anita Ekberg and Gypsy Rose Lee – which influenced the shower scene in ‘Psycho’. In turn, ‘Plumage’ has a ‘Psycho’-esque, “Let’s explain the killer’s motive” conclusion.

  3. Not surprised that you weren’t keen. Strongly disagree on Screaming Mimi; a rather thin, sketchy little programmer. Interesting to be sure but not a patch on Bird.

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