Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), an American journalist working in Rome, witnesses a man in a raincoat attacking a woman in the lobby of an art gallery. Sam thinks there is something "off" about what he sees, but he can't put his finger on it. Inspector Morosini (Enrico Maria Salerno) tells Sam that Monica (Eva Renzi), who survived the attack in the gallery, is only the latest in a string of victims who have been slashed to death by an unknown figure. Against the advice of his girlfriend, Julia (Suzy Kendall), Sam decides to investigate the case on his own, encountering a hit man colleague (Reggie Nalder) of the real killer, as well as a crazy artist who has a peculiar diet and whose painting of a gruesome murder somehow precipitated the more recent killings. Meanwhile, more women are cornered and slaughtered, and Julia herself becomes a target ... The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was Argento's first film, and it brought him to international attention. With a twisting, clever script, a surplus of interesting details, and good performances and direction -- not to mention photography by Vittorio Storaro and music by Ennio Morricone -- Bird is suspenseful and intriguing, if psychologically dubious. One of the film's chief flaws is that the character of Julia is barely developed; she might as well just be another stick figure victim. There's a terrific climax involving a huge spiked piece of sculpture that is pushed onto our hero. Musante [Nutcracker: Money, Murder, and Madness] makes an appealing protagonist, and Umberto Raho [The Ghost] plays the gallery owner and Monica's husband. Atmospheric and even amusing, the influential film (which was itself influenced by Hitchcock and others) is a prime example of Italian giallo. Argento makes good use of the locations -- the hidden alleys, byways and back doors of Rome.
Verdict: High-class giallo. ***.