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Film / The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

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The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo) is Dario Argento's debut as a film director, his first giallo film and the first film in his "animal trilogy". It was released in the year 1970. Ennio Morricone composed the soundtrack.

The plot follows American writer Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), who has been in Italy with his girlfriend Giulia for two years, trying to get around writer's block. Walking the streets one night, he witnesses a struggle between a woman and a man in black in a gallery. As he tries to intervene, he is locked between the gallery's glass doors and can only helplessly watch the man runs away as the woman is crumpled on the floor with a fatal wound on her stomach. He manages to get a passerby to call the police and the woman is saved in time. He finds out that there has been a string of similar murders of women in the area, and begins doing some investigation of his own on the matter.

Examples in this film:

  • Acquitted Too Late
  • Actor Allusion: Needles the hitman is played by Reggie Nalder, who played Rien the hitman in The Man Who Knew Too Much. It's one of several nods to the works of Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Sam is a writer who becomes obsessed with finding he killer.
  • Ambiguously Gay: The owner of the antique shop where the first victim worked.
  • Automatic Door Malfunction: Sam is on the verge of returning to America but witnesses the attack of a woman in an art gallery by a mysterious black-gloved assailant dressed in a raincoat. Attempting to reach her, Sam is trapped between two mechanically-operated glass doors and can only watch as the villain makes his escape.
  • Ax-Crazy: Even though the Ranieri's are partners in crime, Monica is much crazier than her husband Alberto and her attack on him is what brings Sam into the mix.
  • Big Bad: Monica Ranieri is the killer.
  • Bound and Gagged: Giulia in the killer's hideout which Sam investigates near the end.
  • Car Fu: Sam's police bodyguard is run over by two hired killers in a car.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Sam's friend Carlo is an ornithologist, who helped Sam get a job writing a book on the preservation of birds. Carlo's knowledge of birds allows him to identify the cry of a rare bird heard in the background of a tape of the killer's phone call to the police.
  • Clothing Damage: The killer slices open the fifth victim's nightgown before finishing her off.
  • Creator Cameo: Every shot of the black, leather gloves, was actually Dario Argento, as it was far more convenient for him, knowing exactly how to handle the hand movements.
  • Disney Villain Death: Alberto's death.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: The second murder victim was a prostitute named Rosita.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Monica, whose attack Sam witnessed behind the glass, is the main killer.
  • Evil Laugh: Hearable when the killer starts playing with Sam in the climax.
  • Eye Scream: Averted when Giulia tries to stab and misses the killer peeping through the hole on her door.
  • Flashback Echo: Monica survived a brutal attack in her past and when she saw a painting portraying a man killing a woman, she snapped and started killing people, while making her husband a partner in crime.
  • Hand of Death: The murders are shown with close-ups of the killer's gloved hands holding a knife or other weapon.
  • Harassing Phone Call: Two threatening phone calls are made, one for Sam and one for the police.
  • Helpless Window Death: Sam is trapped between the glass doors when he witnesses the murder attempt on the girl.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Used by Needles the hired killer who are gunning for Sam.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Sam is horrified when he finds out that Consalvi keeps cats as a food source, and he just tasted some.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The soundtrack. When you hear the 'lalalalalala', someone's gonna get it.
  • Jitter Cam: Possibly the only Argento film that uses this. His later films have much steadier camerawork.
  • Mad Artist: Consalvi. He paints stuff and sustains himself with cats.
  • Off with His Head!: The killer tries to chop Sam's head off, but misses because an old woman passing by warns him.
  • Once More, with Clarity: You can clearly see that Monica is the one holding the knife if you know what you're looking for, but the scene likely goes by too fast the first time to notice.
  • "Rear Window" Witness: Sam is trapped between the glass doors when he witnesses the murder attempt on the girl.
  • The Reveal: There are two killers, the Ranieris.
  • Serial Killer: After Sam witnesses the attack in the gallery, the police tell him the assailant is believed to be a serial killer who is killing young women across the city, and Sam is now an important witness.
  • Shirtless Scene: Provided twice by Sam.
  • Take My Hand!: When Sam and Inspector Morosini are attempting to arrest Alberto, he falls out of the open window while fighting them. Sam and Morosini each grab one of his arms, but are not able to hold him and he falls to his death.
  • Verbal Tic: Rosita's pimp adds "goodbye" at the end of his sentences. He also stutters.