(aka "Uccello dalle piume di cristallo, L'" )

 

directed by Dario Argento
Italy 1970

 

This is Dario Argento's directorial debut and with it, he pretty much put giallo movies on the map. That's how potent and influential this movie turned out to be. The premise is nothing special: an American writer in Rome sees a murder attempt but is helpless to try and stop it, and so gets entangled in the investigation to stop the murderer. The premise is not so important as how everything plays out.

From his first movie, Mr. Argento showed he was a master of both atmosphere and suspense. One scene goes to show how he crafts a simple murder. A girl walks home alone. She enters her building and looks up at the stairs. The triangular-shaped stairwell rises, floor after floor, into the darkness. She walks up the stairs, moving in and out of shadows created by the oddly-shaped stairwell. Her own shadow moves across the wall, with simple shots creating eerie suspense where other directors would use music and slick editing to help raise the heartbeat.

Instead of these things, Mr. Argento uses point of view shots, limiting what we can see, only seeing through characters' eyes. We know someone is following this poor woman, but when we see through her eyes, we don't know where he is, or even if he's still peering around trees and walls.

Mention has to go to cinematographer extraordinaire Vittorio Storaro, who paints a wonderful vision. Dario Argento is, firstly, a visual director, but this would be nothing without a great cinematographer capable of filming what the director desires. Mr. Storaro is up to the challenge and helps create a visual feast of a story. Every scene is framed the way it should be to create maximum impact. The critical scene with Suzy Kendall alone in her apartment shows how the cinematography is used to create incredible suspense. With a just of a few shots of Mrs. Kendall's face, a knife and a small hole in a door, my heart was pounding.

This scene is also helped out with the pitch-perfect music and the razor-sharp editing. The pacing in that scene is spot-on to create enough tension so that the release is a definite catharsis of all the pent-up energy. Ennio Morricone's wonderful (though slightly dated) score, with its unorthodox use of voices, and Franco Fraticelli's tight editing combine with Mr. Argento's assured directing to create a great cinematic experience so perfect I don't remember a scene so wonderfully executed. Remember, this is Mr. Argento's directorial debut.

The plot is simple but, as I've said, the style is more important. This movie is a murder story, steeped in suspense, with a side of thriller. The comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock (and the name Mr. Argento acquired as The Italian Hitchcock) are justified. At a time when the US was retching out disposable titles like 'Carnival of Blood', 'Daughter of Satan' and 'The Wizard of Gore', the master, Dario Argento, was making a classic of the genre like 'The Bird with the Crystal Plumage'.

Pat Pilon

Posters

Theatrical Release: 19 February 1970

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Blue Underground (Special Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution

Blue Underground

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:36:24
Video

2.10:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.78 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English only: DTS-ES (discrete) (768 kbps), English, Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448 kbps), Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (192 kbps), Dolby 2.0 mono
Subtitles English
Features Release Information:
Studio: Blue Underground

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.10:1

Edition Details:
• disc1:
• Audio commentary by journalists Alan Jones and Kim Newman
• International Trailer (1:47)
• Italian Trailer (3:12)
• TV Spots (0:20, 0:30)
• disc 2:
• Out of the Shadows: Interview with co-writer/director Dario Argento (17:56)
• The Music of Murder: Interview with composer Ennio Morricone (7:32)
• Painting with Darkness: Interview with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (10:04)
• Eva's Talking: Interview with Eva Renzi (11:21)

DVD Release Date: October 25th, 2005
2-disc amaray (keep) case

Chapters 26

  

Comments:

Blue Underground was wonderful to this title, giving it a terrific package all around. The caps speak for themselves, and the picture is restored with great care, even including "recently discovered never-before-seen footage of explicit violence". Given the age and budget of the movie, it shouldn't really look this good. There aren't really any digital problem with the picture, and print defects are likewise non-existent. There's grain, but it gives the movie the right look.

The insane number of audio tracks (seven, count 'em!) are somewhat redundant, but it's nice to see a company treat any movie with this kind of respect, offering tracks in many different formats in a couple of languages. The sound itself is very faithful to the movie, and the mixing adds to the atmosphere with some nice ambiance and positional effects. The dialogue may sound a little squeaky at times, but overall it's a great track.

The extras are all quite interesting. The commentary is informative, if a bit repetitive and scattered. The two gentlemen give out a lot of ideas and add to the movie. The four interviews on the second disc are great and add a great deal of information and context to the movie.

For fans of giallo, this is a must-own, as Blue Underground did an absolutely stunning job with this set, giving it a lot of care. It's sure to please any fan of the movie.

 - Pat Pilon



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

Blue Underground

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 

 





 

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