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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage aka L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo [Blu-ray]

 

(Dario Argento, 1970)

 

Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray vs. 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL vs. Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray

 

     

 
     

 

       

VCI coming out with their Blu-ray in September 2013:

   

   

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Universal

Video: Blue Underground / O1 Dist.   / Arrow Video

Disc:

Region: FREE

Runtime: 1:36:30.826   1:32:25 (4% PAL speedup)    1:35:49.744

Disc Size: 34,090,175,527 bytes   /  31,580,186,369 bytes

Feature Size: 30,704,007,168 bytes  /  21,641,730,048 bytes

Average Bitrate: 32.42 Mbps   Average Bitrate: 5.53 mb/s    23.78 Mbps

Chapters: 26   /   12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 24th, 2009    May 23rd, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1   1.85:1    2.0:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3427 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 3427 kbps / 24-bit
(DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1551 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 1551 kbps / 16-bit
(AC3 Core: 5.1-EX / 48 kHz / 448 kbps)
Dolby Digital EX Audio English 448 kbps 5.1-EX / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital EX Audio Italian 448 kbps 5.1-EX / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono)

 

DTS Audio English 1509 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: DTS Audio English 1509 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit
DTS Audio Italian 1509 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

None

 

English, none

 

Extras:

Audio Commentary with Journalists Alan Jones and Kim Newman
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)
U.S. Trailer
Italian Trailer
TV Spots

 

Audio Commentary with Kim Newman and Alan Jones

Brand new High Definition restoration of the film from the original negative presented in Director of Photography, Vittorio Storaro's original 2:1 Univisium aspect ratio
4 Sleeve art options with original and newly commissioned artwork
Two-sided fold-out poster
Exclusive collector's booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento 
A Crystal Classic: Luigi Cozzi Remembers Dario's Bloody Bird (15:02 in 1080p)
Sergio Martino: The Genesis of the Giallo (29:04 in 1080p)
The Italian Hitchcock: Dario Argento Remembers The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (15:15 in 1080p)

 

Bitrates:

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

Description: THE STUNNING DEBUT BY DARIO ARGENTO - THE ITALIAN MASTER OF TERROR
In his first film as writer/director, Dario Argento (Suspira, Deep Red, Two Evil Eyes) single-handedly created the Giallo genre and instantly emerged as the filmmaker critics worldwide hailed as 'The Italian Hitchcock.' Tony Musante (Traffic, We Own the Night) and Suzy Kendall (Circus of Fear, Torso) star in this pulse-pounding suspense thriller about an American writer in Rome who witnesses - and is helpless to stop - a brutal assault, the cunning vengeance of a maniac, and the heart-stopping horror that lives - and kills - deep in the dark.

Blue Underground is proud to present this legendary shocker in striking High Definition, remastered from its original camera negative (including recently discovered never-before-seen footage of explicit violence) and remixed in 7.1 DTS-HD and 7.1 Dolby TrueHD. Illuminating Extras include four featurettes with Dario Argento, Oscar(R) winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, legendary composer Ennio Morricone, co-star Eva Renzi and much more!

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

The Film:

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.

Posters

Theatrical Release: 12 June 1970 (USA)

Reviews       More Reviews      DVD Reviews
 

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 for DVDBeaver

 

 


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
 

One should be willing to accept grain over detail in this 1970 classic. I thought the Blu-ray image looked grand and obviously superior to the DVD (reviewed HERE by Pat Pilon). Both detail and the visibility of heavy grain are the most remarkable improvements over the SD digital rendering. I had the feeling there was some brightness boosting as colors seemed almost overly vibrant but I could find evidence of digital manipulation. While noise exists I won't say it was an issue with no clunky artifacts to distract from the curious Argento visuals. Fans should just beware that it appears all that could be done with this image quality has been achieved here. Even the restored source can't accurately make it look sharper than it originally was. For those keen on grain - it is here in abundance. Blue Underground have done well with over 30 Gig of space for the feature on this dual-layered Blu-ray disc with a healthy bitrate. Outdoor scenes are bright and contrast subtleties seem captured effectively by the MPEG-4 encode. This Blu-ray has a thick textured appearance probably very adeptly resembling the theatrical appearance. Once again - nothing leads me to believe that this transfer is anything but a solid effort at reproducing an important genre film for home presentations. It is far from HD-demo material but the colors, improved detail and high level of grain make for a very satisfying viewing.

 

01 Distribution's reissue of BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is a disappointment. The non-anamorphic, single-layer transfer begins at 2.35:1 for the titles and then is cropped to 1.85:1 for the rest of the feature. The cropping is ruinous to Vittorio Storaro's compositions (see capture 4 for the missing cropped framelines of the still camera POV).

 

We had been informed in email prior to seeing the release that "...there is more cropping on the left than the right, Storaro has recolored the film, the viewfinder crop marks are missing from the still photo POV scenes and those stills have been recolored in black and white (they have always been in color)." Yes - it appears Storaro has set the film to his preferred 2.0:1 aspect ratio and a lot of information is missing from the left edge. Colors are also different in many scenes - skin tones cool off. The Arrow has almost 2/3rds the bitrate of the Blue Underground transfer. Either way you cut it - we are losing information from the frame. Detail, grain and depth go to the Blue Underground. It was interesting seeing The Bird With the Crystal Plumage in this aspect ratio and I can certainly say it changes the film's impact.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Audio :

Like the DVD there is a funky English DUB offered. On this Blu-ray we get boosted mixes in  DTS and TrueHD but I preferred the Italian Dolby Digital EX with yellow subtitles (NOTE: the subs don't accurately follow the DUBs). This film won't be remembered for the pristine effect sounds but probably more so for Ennio Morricone's delicate and lurking original score. I didn't note a lot of deft separation but a little can go a long way with a film like this. Italian post-Dubs are always noted for being a bit scattered and this is another case in point. Still - all part of the Giallo charm and although only English as a subtitle option, like the DVD, this release is Region FREE. NOTE: There is no 'flat' track for purists.

 

Italian mono audio is okay. Reviews of the Medusa DVD suggested that it had the best picture before the 2-perf sourced HD master used for the Blue Underground releases. The Medusa disc featured mono and 5.1 Italian tracks, a mono English track, and subtitles in English and Italian. Italian viewers would be better served by either the old Medusa disc or the Blue Underground Blu-ray or SD-DVD which also featured the Italian track in 5.1 EX, surround, and mono (in addition to DTS-ES English, 5.1 EX, surround, and mono).

 

In short I think the Blue Underground wins on the DUB front with decent mixes but the Arrow offers a lossless Italian track - in stereo (Morricone's score is still notable). This may be the most accurate for purists but for those seeking depth and range the U.S. disc's DUB has some surprising power and stealth. Both have the optional English subtitles and both are region FREE.

 

 

 

Extras :

Duplicated from the 2-disc Blue Underground DVD set from 2005 and we will hearken to Pat's description (from HERE). "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 are great and add a great deal of information and context to the movie." NOTE: the first three interviews are in Italian with English subs optional and for followers of Argento, Storaro or Morricone - they amount to decent information - if fairly short pieces. Beyond that there are trailers and TV Spots.

 

There are no extras on the Distribution 01 disc.

 

Same good Newman/Jones commentary and we get three 1080P documentaries totalling 1 hour; A Crystal Classic: Luigi Cozzi Remembers Dario's Bloody Bird (15:02), Sergio Martino: The Genesis of the Giallo (29:04), The Italian Hitchcock: Dario Argento Remembers The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (15:15). I liked the last one best but all have some good info. Also included is a 4 Sleeve art options with original and newly commissioned artwork, a two-sided fold-out poster and an exclusive collector's booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento.

 

Blue Underground - Region FREE Blu-ray

 

 

DVD Menus
 

 

Arrow Video - Region FREE Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
A seminal Giallo from one of the masters. The Blu-ray exceeded my expectations and produced a rewarding and enjoyable presentation of this classic. I think this has good value for just over $20, but fans will need a higher-end system to take full advantage of the stronger differences to the DVD - but I can vouch that they definitely exist and grain lovers will be in nirvana.

 

Obviously, AVOID the 01 Distribution - Region 2 - PAL release!

 

Well, I think the Arrow is an interesting package and hard core Argento fans may wish to indulge simply for the new Storaro A/R judging the film experience for themselves. It does make for a big difference in my opinion. Nice to have the original audio uncompressed and the extras (although repeated commentary) are worthy. So, the release has a lot going for it and those adamant can debate the flagrant and subtle differences visually ad nauseum.

Gary Tooze

February 18th, 2009

Eric Cotenas

February 21st, 2010

May 11th, 2011

 

 

       

 
     

 

       

VCI coming out with their Blu-ray in September 2013:

   

   

 

 


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze

 

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