It took me a few weeks, but I finally got a chance to dig into my Arrow Blu-ray of Dario Argento's 1970 film The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.
Bird has special significance to me, as it was the first Argento I ever saw (followed closely by Suspiria and Phenomena in its US incarnation Creepers). I was barely sixteen and just beginning my video store tenure. My horror diet up until that point had consisted mainly of slashers and creature features and it was films like Bird that opened my eyes to the fact that horror could be more than mere entertainment. It could also be artistic.
I adore this film with its quirky characters and meandering tour of the Rome less travelled. Bird was not the first giallo, but it set the template (in much the same way Halloween would kick off the American slasher boom almost a decade later) for what would come later not only in Argento's career, but also that of his contemporaries in Lucio Fulci, Sergio Martino and many others.
Based on the fourties pulp novel The Screaming Mimi, Argento took the nugget of the story and made it his own. I've always found his exploration of memory (where the protagonist is always chasing that one important detail) fascinating, not only how well he executes it, but also how many times he was able to successfully mine it throughout his career.
As for the Blu-ray, I’ll let the experts talk about the transfer, all I know is it looked as good as it ever has, and I’ve seen it projected on 35mm. Arrow really went to town on the presentation though. I posted Industrial Blue's unboxing video before, but even that doesn’t do justice to how stunning this set is. Perhaps most impressive is the gorgeous sixty-page booklet that dissects the film in many different ways as well as gives a good rundown of the gialli as a whole.
I was also really impressed with the special features. There are two lengthy talks on the film with scholars Alexandra Heller-Nicolas & Kat Ellinger that were very informative, even for those well versed in the subject. I was not aware that there was another adaptation of The Screaming Mimi out there from 1958! I'll have to track that down. There is also a great commentary by Troy Howarth, as well as a new half-hour interview with Dario Argento himself. It was really refreshing to see him just sit down and talk extensively about his debut.
Big ups to Arrow for this one. There are few horrors that I always get the same amount of enjoyment with each viewing as I do with Argento’s ouevre. A good chunk of his catalogue are masterworks as far as I'm concerned, whether they be of the nail-biting thriller or supernatural fever dream variety.