The Bird With the Crystal Plumage

Dario Argento’s directorial debut receives a great new Blu-ray release from the good folks at Arrow Video. While most of the trademarks of Argento’s future giallo filmography are here – close-ups of a killer’s black-gloved hands, bursts of violence, a hero bumbling into the story – The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is slightly more subdued. Argento would eventually grow into his more lurid flourishes.

Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), an American in Rome, witness a near-fatal attack of a woman (Eva Renzi), and soon starts playing detective. His snooping makes him the target of the killer, who is also going around town slaughtering people left and right.

There’s a psycho-sexual undercurrent here, as is to be expected with most Argento films. But most of all, Crystal Plumage is inherently watchable, almost hypnotic. The narrative has bizarre little touches and side-trips – in one lengthy sequence, Sam ends up at the run-down barn of an artist, and soon discovers the artist eats cats. Weird little touches like this heighten Crystal Plumage’s overall mood into near fever-dream levels. Quite simply put, there aren’t many films like this.

Notable Special Features:

Critic Kat Ellinger offers an essential analysis of the film, discussing how Argento came to create the film and its many themes. Argeno is on hand as well in a separate interview, talking about how he came to direct. The filmmaker originally planned to just write the script, but eventually decided to direct as well. There was one problem: the first time director didn’t know how to shoot scenes. Luckily, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro was there to assist.

There’s a video essay from writer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, and while Heller-Nicholas is a phenomenal writer, this feature is a bit of a disappointment. Part of the reason is the audio quality of Heller-Nicholas’ narration is oddly poor. On top of that, the narration is a bit stiff. One gets the sense that this video essay would be better off as just a regular essay.

Special Features Include:

  • 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 featuring
  • 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

 

Re-Animator

Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator is one of those rare movies that somehow gets better every time you see it. Gordon took H.P. Lovecraft’s short story Herbert West–Reanimator and turned it into this glorious, gory, over-the-top horror-comedy.

What makes Re-Animator work is the fact that while there’s some very silly stuff going on here, everyone is playing it absolutely straight. As a result, you can’t help but burst out laughing at lines like, “Cat dead, details later.”

Jeffrey Combs is a delight as smug, arrogant med student Herbert West. West is in possession of a glowing green liquid that has the power to resurrect the dead. What could go wrong? Literally everything. Soon, West has pulled his hapless landlord and fellow med student Dan (Bruce Abbott) into his schemes.

Very few horror films manage to be as much fun as Re-Animator is. The last half of the movie, which involves a character toting around his own severed head, must be seen to be believed. Re-Animator inspired several sequels, as well as a comic book, but nothing even comes close to the original movie.

Notable Special Features:

The new Arrow Video Blu-ray release combines several special features that were previously on other home video editions. There’s also a new audio commentary featuring director Stuart Gordon and actors Graham Skipper and Jesse Merlin of Re-Animator: The Musical. While this is a fun listen – “How can you make a musical out of this?” was Gordon’s first reaction to the musical idea, followed by, “Why not?” – the bulk of the commentary is more focused on the musical than Gordon’s film.

A feature-length documentary goes through both the making of the film, and nearly every single scene in the movie. It’s extensive and exhaustive. Gordon talks about his theatre roots and how he wanted to make a movie, and realized horror would be the easiest to get backing. At one point, Gordon tried to get PBS to finance a series of short half-hour adaptations of the Re-Animator story. Eventually, this blossomed into a feature film. There’s a lot to take in here, including the revelation that Gordon took the entire cast to the LA County Morgue before filming began as research. Sounds fun! Another fun revelation: the sets the film shot on were so old that silent film star Mary Pickford had once filmed there. Yeesh.

Another great feature here is an interview with Barbara Crampton, the hardest-working woman in indie horror. Crampton doesn’t just talk about making Re-Animator, she walks interviewer Alan Jones through her entire career. It’s a must-watch for fans of the actress.

Special Features Include:

  • 4K restoration of the Unrated version
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Mono, Stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround Audio Options
  • Isolated Score
  • Audio commentary with director Stuart Gordon and actors Graham Skipper and Jesse Merlin of Re-Animator: The Musical
  • Audio commentary with Stuart Gordon
  • Audio commentary with producer Brian Yuzna, actors Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott and Robert Sampson
  • Re-Animator: Resurrectus – feature-length documentary on the making of the film, featuring extensive interviews with cast and crew
  • Interviews with director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna, writer
  • Dennis Paoli, composer Richard Band and former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone
  • Music discussion with composer Richard Band
  • Barbara Crampton in Conversation – the Re-Animator star sits down with journalist Alan Jones for this career-spanning 2015 interview
  • The Catastrophe of Success: Stuart Gordon and The Organic Theater – director Stuart Gordon discusses his early theater roots and his continued commitment to the stage
  • Theater of Blood – Re-Animator: The Musical lyricist Mark Nutter on adapting the cult classic for musical theatre
  • Extended Scenes
  • Deleted Scene
  • Trailer & TV Spots
  • Still Gallery
  • Screenplay (BD-ROM Content)
  • Reversible sleeve with newly commissioned artwork by Justin Erickson

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