Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The (Blu-ray/DVD) - Dread Central
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Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The (Blu-ray/DVD)



Starring Tony Musante, Eva Renzi, Suzy Kendall, Mario Adorf

Directed by Dario Argento

Distributed by Arrow Video

The name Dario Argento not only brings the term giallo to mind immediately, but also inspires thoughts of black-gloved killers in well-suited jackets, thick atmosphere, red herrings, and brutal, sadistic violence. And music; glorious soundtracks often supplied by Goblin (or some variation thereof) or the maestro, Ennio Morricone, two of the biggest names in the game. His filmography is still wildly celebrated by horror fans and many critics – clearly, as this yet-another-re-release proves – but his pictures have also been criticized as preferring style to substance. And that is a valid complaint; however, his films didn’t start out that way. In fact, his debut feature as a director (he had been working as a writer for many years prior), The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), might be his most accessible and straightforward film. Using the story of an American visiting Europe – as he so often does – Argento tells a compelling, woven tale, filled with many of his trademarks, wrapped up beautifully with a clever twist. There is very little fat. Aside from the lack of supernatural elements and a flashier color palette, this is classic Argento all the way, right from the beginning.

Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is an American living in Rome, trying to get past a bout of writer’s block. He is considering leaving Italy and heading back to the U.S. but his plans change when during a walk home at night he witnesses an attack inside an art gallery. Sam is helpless as he becomes trapped between the doors of the glass entrance, unable to do anything but yell at passersby and watch as a villain clad in dark clothing tries to stab a woman. The killer succeeds and Sam can only watch the woman writhe until police arrive. Once they do, their prime suspect becomes the man who saw it all go down: Sam. The girl, Monica (Eva Renzi), luckily survives with superficial wounds to her abdomen.

The police have few clues to go on and their list of suspects totals over 150,000 people. Sam can’t shake what he saw that night, though, and so he takes it upon himself to investigate the attack; however, his unwanted involvement comes at a cost, and soon the killer is targeting Sam, too. This does not slow the mayhem down, either, and new victims are chosen frequently, each dying horrific deaths at the black-gloved hands of this unknown maniac. Eventually a minor break is given when the killer makes a call to taunt police and a strange, distinct “clicking” sound is heard in the background. But who knows what it is? Sam makes the decision to leave Rome after police finally clear his name, but the pull of solving this mystery gnaws at him and he soon gives in, spending the last few hours before his flight tracking down one final suspect who may have the answers he seeks.

Argento already had a hand in making a classic when he co-wrote the screenplay to Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), an epic revenge tale that feels as grand as the West in which is takes place. It also happens to be in my top-three of all-time. When the time came for Argento to make his own picture, the results should not have surprised anyone. Bird is a seminal work in the giallo genre, this despite the fact Mario Bava, a legend in his own right, is the true progenitor of the giallo. But Bava had his own style and filmmaking method that was specific to his oeuvre, whereas the template Argento created inspired dozens of films that often liberally cribbed from his works. His name is synonymous with the movement.

Bird succeeds by allowing this grand enigma to be revealed organically, with less plot contrivances than most in this genre. This isn’t a film bogged down by its own sub-plotting and subterfuge but, rather, the classic murder mystery is an opportunity for Argento to open his new bag of cinema tricks and show audiences what he’s capable of behind the camera. The city streets are dripping with a baroque, Gothic atmosphere, offering up a sinister appearance even without the aid of a knife-wielding maniac. The murders are graphic and provoke a visceral response. People are not simply stabbed and killed; these deaths are often drawn out as the killer takes sadistic pleasure in tormenting and violating victims as life slowly drains away.

Visual impressions are one thing, but another staple of Argento’s filmography has always been his composer. His debut secured Italy’s greatest ever with Ennio Morricone, an unequaled legend who has scored over 400 pictures – and counting! I won’t claim this is some of Morricone’s best work because he has delivered stronger themes and choicer cues in other pictures but Morricone delivering a so-so score still trumps the best work of nearly all his contemporaries. Wordless choirs and lush, flowing instrumentation, beautiful melodies… all of The Maestro’s trappings are here for your audible pleasure.

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage feels a bit like Argento playing it safe, slowly wading into directorial waters and testing his footing before making a much bigger splash with films like Deep Red (1975) and Suspiria (1977). Still, a close-to-the-vest approach works wonderfully in his favor because this is not only an impressive piece of cinema for a first-time director, but it also functions as the ideal entry point for fans looking to experience his work. Blue Underground previously issued the film on Blu-ray but it went out of print, fetching a king’s ransom on the secondary market. Another release by VCI was of poor quality. Arrow Video’s limited edition package is another stunning release, featuring not only a new 4K restoration but also a trove of bonus features and goodies, all housed within a striking package.

Let’s talk about the 2.35:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image. Lovingly restored, the original film negative has been given the deluxe 4K scan treatment and the results should make fans exceedingly happy. In a word: gorgeous. The picture is pristine, with virtually no evidence of dirt or debris to be seen. Colors are rendered with precision and a bold palette that wrings more vibrancy out of the image than ever before. Film grain appears smooth and cinematic, never clumping or appearing noisy even during the nighttime sequences. Black levels retain a richness and depth, with no wavering toward hazy or gray. Contrast is much more eye pleasing than on prior releases, likely coming closer to the theatrical exhibition than anything before. Only the most nitpicking naysayers will find something to complain about; every other fan will see this as the revelation it is.

The mono audio is available in either English or Italian, with a DTS-HD Master Audio track that more than ably carries every word of dialogue, screeching sound effect, and delicate note of Morricone’s score with ease. I did not detect any hisses or pops, nor any issues with sound emitting high in the mix. This is a clear track, produced with great fidelity. Subtitles are available in English.

Author Troy Howarth, of “So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo” fame, provides a scholarly audio commentary track.

“The Power of Perception” is a visual essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas that discusses Argento’s use of obfuscation and misdirection to keep viewers as in the dark as his leads.

“Black Gloves and Screaming Mimis” finds critic Kat Ellinger offering up her own analysis on this feature.

“Crystal Nightmare” is a new interview with Dario Argento, who seems happy to talk about the genesis of this project and the production, along with some recollections of his career as a whole.

“An Argento Icon” is a new interview with actor Gildo Di Marco. It is a bit dry but also a little fun, so there’s that.

“Eva’s Talking” is a 2005 interview with actress Eva Renzi.

Three trailers are included: Italian, International, and a 2017 Texas Frightmare trailer.

Additionally, this sexy set comes with the Blu-ray case housed within a sleek chipboard slipbox, with a two-sided foldout poster, lobby card reproductions, and a thick booklet full of writings, pictures, etc. found alongside it.

Special Features:

  • Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the camera negative in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
  • English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
  • The Power of Perception, a new visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Devil’s Advocates: Suspiria and Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study
  • New analysis of the film by critic Kat Ellinger
  • New interview with writer/director Dario Argento
  • New interview with actor Gildo Di Marco (Garullo the pimp)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp
  • Double-sided fold-out poster
  • 6 Lobby Card reproductions
  • Limited edition 60-page booklet illustrated by Matthew Griffin, featuring an appreciation of the film by Michael Mackenzie, and new writing by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook


  • The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
  • Special Features
User Rating 4 (1 vote)




Who Goes There Podcast: Episode 155 – Veronica



St Paddy’s Day has come and gone and I’ve been “pissed as a fart” for the last 4 days; so please forgive us for the episode being a little late. Veronica is the newest movie to be “too scary to finish” and we’re taking the piss out of the “based of true events” ghost story.

None of this even matters, because on this episode we finally crowned the first ever Who Goes There champion! Tune in for this historical event!

Now I have another reason to hate Christmas; it’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 155!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.


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Prodigy Review – This Kid Is Killer



Starring Richard Neil, Savannah Liles

Written and directed by Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal

From the minds of Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal, Prodigy could have easily debuted as a stage play instead of an intimate sci-fi horror film delivered straight to your television. Told with a confident grasp, the story unfolds in only one location with two characters responsible for carrying the entire narrative. Good performances, sure-handed directing, and a solid script highlighting tense moments make the claustrophobic setting seem much bigger in scope. A little telekinesis thrown in to good effect and a creepy killer kid don’t hurt the momentum either.

Under constant surveillance at a remote black site, an aging psychologist named Fonda (Neil) is tasked with assessing a dangerous young girl called Ellie (Liles), who is highly intelligent and possesses supernatural powers. Fonda attempts to inject some humanity into Ellie, but she is cold and calculating and seems to be toying with him at times and the onlookers watching from behind the glass. The back-and-forth between both characters is competitive and often riveting, with Ellie slowly revealing her abilities to her wide-eyed new audience. Wrapped up in a familiar setup, the decision to study or dissect this meta kid is the central question of Prodigy; but the execution of a simple premise is what keeps the story afloat.

On a very small scale, Haughey and Vidal make the setting feel cinematic with crisp images and smart shot selections that help maintain the tension. There’s a strong backbone in place that allows both actors to bounce off of each other in a well-choreographed mental dance as the dangerous game they’re playing begins to unravel.

Several scenes where Elle demonstrates her powers are the standouts in Prodigy with chairs and tables flying and glass breaking to great effect. These sequences diffuse some of the tension for a moment, only to fully explode late in the film when Elle’s emotions unleash. It’s only then that there has been any kind of breakthrough that could possibly help to save her life.

That gets to the heart of the real question posed in Prodigy: Is an extraordinary life still worth saving if it threatens ordinary lives in the process? Also, does the fact that this potential weapon is housed inside the body and mind of a young, lonely girl make a difference to whether it should survive? These questions and how they’re answered make Prodigy a micro-budget standout in the indie horror genre well worth taking the time to rent this weekend if you’re not planning on attending a St. Patrick’s Day parade somewhere.

Prodigy is now available to on iTunes, Amazon, and other On Demand platforms.

  • Prodigy


The questions raised and how they’re answered make Prodigy a micro-budget standout in the indie horror genre well worth taking the time to rent this weekend if you’re not planning on attending a St. Patrick’s Day parade somewhere. 

User Rating 0 (0 votes)


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Cold Hell (Die Hölle) Review – Giallo Terror Invades Vienna



Starring Violetta Schurawlow, Tobias Moretti, Sammy Sheik

Written by Martin Ambrosch

Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky

I have a serious soft spot in my horror-loving heart for serial killer films. Movies like Seven, The Silence of the Lambs, The Crimson Rivers, and the like draw me in with their cat-and-mouse mentality. Couple those kinds of movies with non-US settings and I’m 100% hooked. So when I was introduced to Die Hölle (aka Cold Hell), which just started streaming on Shudder, I didn’t hesitate to enter this giallo-inspired thriller.

Cold Hell follows Özge Dugruol (Schurawlow), a Turkish taxi driver in Vienna who clearly lives a strained, almost broken life. The fares she picks up verbally abuse her, the Thai boxing gym where she lets go of her anger has banned her after a violent sparring incident, and her family has its own fair share of problems, including infidelity, lack of responsibility, and painful memories of early years.

One night, after coming home from a long shift, Özge opens the window in her bathroom only to see across the way into the home of another woman who is lying on the ground, flayed and burnt, her dead eyes staring at Özge. Stunned into shock, she can only look on before realizing that the man responsible for this woman’s death is standing in the shadows, looking at her. So begins Özge’s journey of terror as this killer makes it his mission to find and end her life.

Cold Hell has an interesting juxtaposition running throughout the film where cinematographer Benedict Neuenfels’ gorgeous visuals are used to highlight the near-squalor and seedy underbelly of Viennese life that Özge lives in. Each scene is bathed in vibrant colors, streetlight reds and neon greens painting the frames. Marius Ruhland, who composed Ruzowitzky’s Academy Award-winning film The Counterfeiters, lends beautiful and thrilling music that knows when to coil up and provide tension before exploding to mirror the chaotic frenzy of the on-screen events.

A direct commentary on religion’s antiquated view of the place and purpose of women, Cold Hell doesn’t shy away from making nearly everyone in this movie a flawed character. People who were unlikable become understandable once the breadth of their circumstances becomes more clear, as is the case with detective Christian Steiner (Moretti), who originally treats Özge with an almost xenophobic attitude only for us to later see that he cares for his dementia-ridden father. While not excusing his previous behaviors, such a revelation gives his irritation and frustration a more justifiable foundation.

When the action strikes, we are treated to breathtaking car chases, blood splashing across the screen, and believable reactions. The characters in this film get hurt and they show it, limping painfully with their cuts and bruises open for the world to see.

The film is certainly not flawless. Some characters feel shoe-horned in and there are rather lengthly segments where the film comes to a crawl. However, the engaging and nuanced performance from Schurawlow easily kept me glued to the screen.

  • Cold Hell


With beautiful music and gorgeous visuals, Cold Hell is an engaging, albeit slow burn, serial killer thriller. This is one film that should not be missed.

User Rating 5 (1 vote)


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