Review: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

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The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is “The Italian Hitchcock” Dario Argento’s very first film. This film was a big hit and put “Giallo” films on the map. I don’t know much about these films, but find them simiular to America’s classic film noir period. These films are called Giallo because many are based on the cheap pulp books, most translations of English mystery books. These books are called Giallo because of the yellow covers most of them had. The French called these books noir, The Italian’s called them Giallo. In fact the first Giallo novel to be adapted was James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, adapted in 1943 by Luchino Visconti as Ossessione. Giallo films became popular in the late 1960’s and peaked in the early 1970’s. They have a lot of the same tropes as noir, but add a few of there own. They seem to bridge the gap between film noir and horror.

Dario Argento maybe the most famous director of this kind of film and has transitioned to more films that would be considered horror over the years. In this film Argento seems to take noir films, add some Hitchcockian elements and throw in a more violent, horror element during the murder scenes and you have the bases for this film and Giallo films to come.

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This film starts with an American writer in Italy, played by Tony Musante. He is about to go back to America with his beautiful girlfriend, played by Suzy Kendall. On his way home one night he witnesses an attempted murder in an art gallery. As he tries to enter the gallery he gets stuck between the two glass doors as the murderer locks him in as the murderer escapes out the back. He signals a man who calls the police, the police come and save the victim. The police question our American writer and take his passport so he cannot leave the country as planned. Soon he starts his own investigation and seems to be encouraged by the Italian police to do so. This leads him on a twisted trail of clues to find the killer. The killer has already struck before and seems to be targeting beautiful young women. Can our hero find the killer before they can get to his girlfriend? Will he get out of the country alive?

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This film has some interesting smaller characters that are discovered along the investigation. Argento has always been one of those directors that has interested me. It seems like he can make some brilliant films along with some that are best watched by those that like cheap horror films.

This one is beautifully shot and makes for a good neo noir film. It is a good place to start for those that are curious about Argento’s films. Suspiria is maybe his best known film and if you are a fan of good horror films, this is a must see. If you are not a fan of horror start with this film.

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Favorite Tidbit: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is an uncredited adaptation of Fredric Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi. There is a American classic film noir based on this book from 1958 called The Screaming Mimi. I have not seen this film yet, but would like to watch it and compare the two films.

 

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Review: Crack-Up

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Crack-Up is a film noir from 1946 staring Pat O’Brien!

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No, Not that one, this one:

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Crack-Up is based on a short story from Fredric Brown and is directed by Irving Reis.  Our leading lady is played by Claire Trevor.  Trevor appeared in many film noir threw out her career.  Character actor Wallace Ford plays our lead detective.

The story starts out with our hero breaking into a museum and looks to be drunk and out of control.  He is followed in by a police officer who wants to arrest him for public drunkenness and for trying to take a swing at him.  The board for the museum is having a meeting at this time and recognize our hero and ask if the police officer will let them take care of him.  He isn’t drunk he is sick.  Our hero comes to and tells our detective how the last thing he remembers is being on a train when it wrecked with another train.  The only problem is there was no train wreck!  This is where the mystery takes off.  Why does he think there was a train wreck? What happened to our hero? Was he drugged? This mystery is just the beginning, as we have murder, art, money, dames, conspiracies and a twisting plot that will leave you swinging in the wind.

Another great looking film noir, this one by camera man Robert De Grasse.  The story sometimes doesn’t make a lot of sense and may have some holes in it that are hard to overlook.  I really thought this movie might have a mentally ill main character, given the name of the film and the way he acts at first.  I guess in 1947 the public wasn’t ready for mentally ill main characters. As the movie goes along we find a perfectly good reason for the way our hero is acting.  Then it is made light of with our last line, “Everybody is nuts around here, but me.”

This is not a widely watched film with a 6.6 rating on IMDb from only 657 voters.  I would say this is a far rating and is worth watching for the hard-core film noir fan, but not a film I would recommend for somebody that is looking for just a few good examples of the genre.