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Dario Argento's injection of high-style into the murder-mystery created a new genre (giallo) that was hugely successful and influential, inspiring American filmmakers such as Brian de Palma and Quentin Tarantino. Tony Musante stars as an American writer who witnesses a horrific murder, but is unable to glimpse the killer's face. As he becomes a target for the killer he decides to help the police with their investigation; all the time unable to pinpoint something unusual about the night of the murder that he can't recall.
Boasting gorgeous widescreen cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and Argento's flair for baroque set-pieces, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was an overnight sensation, earning the director the nickname of 'the Italian Hitchcock'. Now hailed as the first fully formed 'giallo' - a distinctly stylish and European take on the whodunnit thriller - the film's template in fact derives from Argento's clever fusing of two elements from the films of his mentor and Italian horror forerunner, Mario Bava. Taking the idea of an innocent embroiled in a murder case who attempts to solve the case himself from Bava's 1963 film The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and marrying it with the black-gloved murderer and stylish killings of Blood on Black Lace (1964), Argento established the formula for a genre that would become a cornerstone of Italian cinema through the 1970s and 80s.