Ennio Morricone’s haunting score to Dario Argento’s debut feature, and landmark of giallo cinema
Giallo is a revered horror sub-genre. Inspired by a series of Italian detective novels, distinct with their yellow covers (hence ‘giallo’). The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is a prime examples of the genre, one all the more impressive considering it marked the directorial debut of Dario Argento (Suspiria, Deep Red, Phenomena). Late one evening, an American writer on sabbatical in Rome witnesses an attempted murder in an art gallery. Becoming the only person to have seen this suspected serial killer preying on the city, he is drawn into matters by police, and eventually starts his own investigation: an act that puts him in increasing danger. This mystery and encroaching threat is a hallmark of the giallo series, one also marked by psychological horror, vibrant and unnerving visuals, erotic overtures, and brutal violence. Arrow Video recently put out a new 4K release of the film which is well worth your attention.
Ennio Morricone is synonymous with the western genre, but has often tilted into other genres, with horror being one of his predilections, The Thing, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, The Cat O’ Nine Tails, and most pertinently The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, serving as prime examples. As Argento did with this feature, Morricone put his own stamp on the giallo genre with a score that set a standard, and inspired much that followed.
The score feels tilted into jazz, weaving in percussion and brass instruments. Chill beginnings give way to more discordant tracks, weaving in the eeriness of wind chimes and ecclesiastical feel from an organ to add suspense. The jazzier notes fit an improvisational feel, much of the score feels reactive to what unfolds on screen. Adding to this is the wordless vocals of Edda Dell’Orso, which run the range of the many visceral emotions that run through the film. Ethereal, haunting, tortured, erotic. Ranging from the soothing lullaby of L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo to the more perturbing Fraseggio senza struttura. An off-kilter, evocative score that befits the film and genre at hand.
Mondo/Death Waltz recruited artist Luke Insect to come up with the design for this release. A haunting bird’s eye adorns the cover, surrounded by shimmering feathers. The reverse complements the foil finish gatefold, art inspired by the pivotal opening scene from the film.
The records themselves are pressed on 140g vinyl, in a Crystal clear colorway.
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is available via Mondo now