There is a serial killer in Rome. He has killed three women. The police are aware of the murders but, so far, the press hasn’t put it together yet. Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is an American writer who is mostly in Rome on vacation but is also currently finishing up a writing assignment. His girlfriend Julia (Suzy Kendall) is a model. Once he is done with his assignment he will be going back to America and Julia will be going with him.
On his way back to his apartment one evening he witnesses a woman in an art gallery being attacked. The assailant is dressed in black. He gets away and traps Sam between two automatic doors. Unable to reach the woman all he can do is watch her try to crawl to him.
When the police arrive Inspector Morosini (Enrico Maria Salerno) questions Sam to glean everything he can about what Sam saw. Sam never saw the man’s face so he can’t help much. The Inspector finds out that Sam is scheduled to go back to America. Believing that Sam may still be of use he confiscates his passport.
Sam decides to talk to the victim at the gallery to see if it will jar any memories from him. The victim was Monica Ranieri (Eva Renzi). Her husband Alberto Ranieri (Umberto Raho) is very protective of his wife and will not allow Sam to talk to her. Sam becomes intrigued by the case and starts investigating the previous victims. One victim was a woman who worked in an antique shop. He finds out that the last thing the victim did was sell an unusual painting. A picture is of a man in black killing a woman.
Sam’s investigation seems to garner the attention of the killer. Sam begins to get strange phone calls. At one point someone tries to run him and Julia over. Now it seems the killer is fixated on Julia and is stalking her.
“The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” was released in 1970 and was directed by Dario Argento. It is a horror mystery and a thriller. The film is an Italian giallo and part of what is known as the Argento animal trilogy. The trilogy also includes The Cat O' Nine Tails (1971), and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971). Argento managed to flow between several genres. He has written and directed war dramas and spaghetti westerns, giallos, even a little horror. Argento also wrote most of his films.
In the movie the bird with the crystal plumage is referred to as a "Hornitus Nevalis". The species doesn't actually exist. The bird used in the film is played by a Grey Crowned Crane. It doesn’t show up until towards the end of the film and it basically makes a cameo appearance. It does lead the hero to the killer but other than that its only contribution is to give the movie a really cool title.
Dario Argento’s cameo is of the killer’s hands. All of the shots that show the gloved hands are Argento.
Argento managed to direct some really good giallo. Although he had written many, this was his first directorial effort. It is also a very good one. The film is quite sinister and absolutely riveting. Some giallo is scattered and full of incongruities. The acting over the top. This film, however, was well done. The acting was good and the plot interesting. I enjoyed it all the way through.