Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), an American writer living in Rome, witnesses a woman (Eva Renzi) being attacked in an art gallery. Attempting to help, Sam ends up trapped in a glass atrium and can only watch as the woman is stabbed and the attacker gets away. Following the incident, Sam grows increasingly obsessed by the idea that something he witnessed during the attack didn't make sense. But as he embarks on his own investigation, Sam and his girlfriend Giulia (Suzy Kendall) become targets for the mysterious killer.
While the Italian giallo genre of murder-mystery movies existed before 1970 (Mario Bava had already unleashed The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Blood and Black Lace on audiences in 1963 and 1964, respectively), its was Dario Argento's dazzling debut feature that transformed the giallo into box office gold. Gripping and stylish, with thrilling set-pieces that rival Hitchcock at his best, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is an astonishingly assured debut that would become the template for an entire genre. And while Argento would go on to better it with 1975's Deep Red, this remains a remarkably skilful piece of filmmaking with a glove-clad grip on the viewer that never diminishes, no matter how many times you've already seen it.
Picture: Arrow first released The Bird with the Crystal Plumage on Blu-ray back in 2011. Sadly, that Full HD presentation of the film suffered from a number of issues, not least cinematographer Vittorio Storaro's bizarre insistence that the film be issued in a cropped 2.00:1 version and that some shots seen through a camera viewfinder were changed to black and white (see comparison below).
This latest release more than makes amends for that botched first attempt. Not only is the film finally presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but Arrow has undertaken its own 4K restoration from the original camera negatives. The result is a vast improvement in every single area and comes as close to perfection as you could realistically hope for.
Picture rating: 4.5/5
Audio: Restored DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono English and Italian soundtracks are included on the Blu-ray. While you might not expect too much from them, there's no denying that Ennio Morricone's score sounds sensational on both tracks.
Audio rating: 3.5/5
Extras: Worthwhile extras include a commentary by genre expert Troy Howarth, brand-new interviews with Dario Argento (31 minutes) and actor Gildo Di Marco (22 minutes); two video essays - Black Gloves and Screaming Mimis by critic Kat Ellinger (32 minutes) and The Power of Perception by author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (21 minutes); a 2005 interview with the late Eva Renzi (11 minutes); three trailers; a double-sided poster; six art cards; and a 40-page booklet.
Extras rating: 3.5/5
We say: It's taken two attempts, but Arrow has finally done Argento's stunning debut proud on Blu-ray.
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage: Limited Edition, Arrow Video, Region B BD & R2 DVD, £30
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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