What I think sets Argento apart from some of the directors of his time and era is the fact that he truly understood the language of film. No offense to Fulci, Deodatto and the like. It’s just, I consider Argento as more of an artist than those directors were. While they strove to make the most hedonistic and violent pictures they could make, Argento was really more relaxed with his onscreen violence. He used it of course, but Argento’s bloody work never seemed like the only thing that held his films together. He always had an interesting story, and more often than not, some amazing if not acrobatic camerawork. Coupled with a brilliant sense of color, Argento just couldn’t be duplicated. I realize I’m speaking of him as if he’s dead at this points, but I’m just not sure how well his work holds up today. I’ve only read reviews, so I’ll try not to judge until I’m able to get around to watching Sleepless. Even though Argento’s career was basically just beginning, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage actually stands up quite well to his later and more daring work. From the very beginning of the film I was hooked, the amazing scene where Sam has to stand and watch as a lovely young woman bleeds on the carpet of her art gallery is something that sticks in your mind long after watching the movie. Stuck between two glass doors, Sam has nowhere to go. Argento takes voyeurism to its most extreme levels and directly reaches out to the audience who are also forced to endure the violence. The sequence is made dream-like due to the impossibly white carpet and brilliantly lit set pieces. It isn’t outside the realm of possibility that such a set could actually exist in the real world, but it is so impeccable that such beauty simply isn’t common.
Usually in a film like this I wouldn’t think much of the actors, but I must say I was impressed with Tony Musante. Although I couldn’t tell if all his lines were in English (you never know with all these poorly dubbed Italian flicks), but it at least appeared that he was speaking the language. He wasn’t exactly mind blowing in the role, but he did a good enough job to convince me his mild-mannered behavior was genuine. It’s more than you can say about some additions to the Giallo genre, where the characters are often puddle-deep. I was partially annoyed by our lead character’s girlfriend however, she was fairly average through most of the film except for one scene where she stepped backwards into eye-rolling territory. The scene that killed me was the bit where she is chased by the killer and finds herself stumbling over everything in her apartment, sobbing and unwilling to do anything to help herself. I think this gets on just about everyone’s nerves, as it is a staple of horror cinema, but her whining really started to grate my nerves. Probably thanks to the dubbing, once again. Everyone else ranges from satisfactory to poor, depending on how long they’re on the screen. There’s really no reason to split ends about poor acting though, with the dubbing it is truly hard to gauge legitimate performances. I just thought Musante did a good enough job that he deserved some acknowledgment. The one and only star of the film is Argento though, and that basically goes for every film he has ever made. Well, maybe with a few notable exceptions.