Bird With the Crystal Plumage
Dario Argento's first movie, shot in 1969, is a brilliant giallo which sets the stage beautifully for his 70s horror classics, Deep Red and Suspiria. While his murder set pieces are not as elaborate as they would soon become, Bird With the Crystal Plumage is still a chilling and cringe-inducing slasher from the maestro of the macabre.
The story follows a burnt-out American scribe (Tony Musante) who, while in Rome, witnesses a brutal attack on a gorgeous socialite (Eva Renzi) and finds himself the focus of the police's investigation. In order to save himself, and renew his creative juices, he teams up with his gorgeous girlfriend Julia (Suzy Kendall) to find the black-gloved, concealing-coated killer (portrayed by Argento himself).
With heart-stopping visuals by DP Vittorio Storaro and a hauntingly jazzy score by Ennio Morricone, Bird With the Crystal Plumage is a first-class thriller that's an absolute must for the library of any film buff who loves a sexy suspenser.
= = =
The Fifth Cord
The talents of Vittorio Storaro and Ennio Morricone are abundantly obvious in this lush, baroque thriller directed by Luigi Bazzoni in 1971, and their stunning collaboration helps elevate this otherwise standard story into film fetishist's fantasy of sound and focus.
The story is similar to Bird With the Crystal Plumage (an alcoholic journalist finds himself on the trail of a murderer after the police make him a suspect in their investigation, yada-yada-yada) but as with all gialli it's the atmosphere and cast of characters that make it worth the ride down the razorblade's edge.
The maniac's murders take on a personal significance when Bild (Franco Nero) discovers that the killer is systematically doing away with everyone who attended the same New Years Eve party he himself attended. The only real clues involve the dark leather gloves left by the assassin at the crime scenes, each with a finger severed.
Extremely suspenseful and fraught with nail-biting tension throughout, The Fifth Cord is one of the better gialli I have seen, yet had never heard of before receiving the DVD for review.
= = =
Watch Me When I Kill
And now, from one of the best lesser-known gialli, to one of the worst… Watch Me When I Kill has all the kooky plotting and red herrings we fans of the genre expect, but with none of the beautiful visuals, nerve-twitching score or far-out cast of characters we love.
Mara (Sylvia Kramer) is an exotic dancer, but we never see her at work — instead, most of the action (or lack thereof) takes place backstage, in a pharmacy, and in people's dowdy apartments. She witnesses a murder, and becomes… wait for it… the target of the gloved grave-filler.
Shot with a pedestrian eye and lazily scored, the title Watch Me When I Kill comes across more like a plea than a demand.
= = =
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson