L'Uccello dalle Piume di Cristallo / Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Handschuhe
Bird with the Crystal Plumage
Italy/West Germany 1969
Salvatore Argento for Seda Spettacoli, CCC-Filmkunst
directed by Dario Argento
starring Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Eva Renzi, Enrico Maria Salerno, Werner Peters, Mario Adorf, Umberto Raho, Renato Romano, Raf Valenti
Music by Ennio Morricone, conducted by Bruno Nicolai
One night, American author in Rome Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) witnesses a
murder attempt in an art gallery from the outside, & as he rushes in
to help, he is caught between automatic sliding doors. When the police
finally arrives on the scene, & the intended victim Monica Ranieri's
(Eva Renzi) life can be saved, inspector Morresini (Enrico Maria Salerno)
decides to confiscate Dalmas' passport to keep him in the country as an
important witness - even Dalmas himself admits he has seen something,
but is unable to point his finger at it) - or even suspect. But the
murderer it seems, too, believes that Dalmas knows more than he is
willing to admit & makes a failed attempt at Dalmas' life. To clear
himself of any suspicion as well as to get his passport back, Dalmas
decides to take up investigations of his own, which lead to little at
first, as the victim's husband (Umberto Raho) even refuses to let him
speak to his wife. So Dalmas decides to concentrate on other victims
attributed to the same killer (it seems that the Roman police has a
serial killer at its hands), & soon, after visiting an antique
dealer (Werner Peters), he comes up with a naive but haunting painting
that seems to be essential for the case. But at the same time, the
killer also carries on with his killings, & not only that, he boasts
about it on the phone to the police and hires another killer to make a
second attempt at Dalmas' life, & when that fails, phones Dalmas to
threaten his girlfriend Julia's (Suzy Kendall) life. When the phonecall
to Dalmas & the one to the police are compared, though, they all
make a surprising discovery - the 2 calls came from different people !
And then, there's this weird sound on Dalmas' tape that noone in the
police department can identify. So Dalmas gives his tape top a friend
for further investigations while he himself decides to visit the painter
(Mario Adorf) of above mentioned picture to make a surprising discovery:
the painting was based on fact, it portrays a girl that was raped &
almost killed 10 years ago ! His friend though comes up with even more
conclusive evidence, the sound on the tape is the mating call of a rare
Siberian bird, of which only one specimen exists in all of Italy, which
is kept in the zoo ... directly below the appartment of the Rainieris.
The killer, aware of all these new developments in the case tries to
kill Julia as a warning but fails. So all our heroes plus the police
soon pay a visit to the Raieri's household, where the husband readily
admits to being the killer only to throw himself out of the next window.
But then why does Julia disappear all of a sudden ? Dalmas manages to
follow her trail through a maze of streets, even finds her, only to
suddenly realize he has entered the very art gallery where he witnessed
the murder-attempt at the beginning of the movie, & the victim of
that crime, Monica Ranieri, turns out to be the assailant, who ended up
at the wrong side of the knife rather by accident, & now she goes
after him, being shot by the police only in the nick of time. The
explanation for all this does indeed lie in the painting of the crime
from 10 years ago, when she was indeed the victim & afterwards did
identify with her attacker rather than herself as the victim - or so the
friendly psychiatrist at the end of the movie tells us.
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This movie is both the first movie by former scriptwriter Dario
Argento as well as an early & seminal example of the Italian
giallo-genre (= Italian horror-serialkiller-whodunits, which were
extremely popular in the late 60's, early-to-mid 70's until eventually
spawning the much more simplistic American slasher movies). Surprisingly
for a man who earned his living by writing screenplays up to then, Dario
Argento's style proved to be very visual rather than driven by the story
(which in fact, while by no way bad, is rather mediocre & standard
giallo-fare). What would set Argento apart from other directors though
is that he does not rely solely on a stylish & fashionable direction
but tries most successfully to incorporate his style into scenes of
suspense & horror - which is already visible here & would
permeate a large part of his body of work.
review © by Mike Haberfelner
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