Some years before the general public witnessed the stunning and surreal SUSPIRIA, first time director and screen writer Dario Argento reinvigorated the Giallo genre with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. A taught little slasher mixed in with the witness turned detective thread.
After his success in co-writing the screenplay for Once upon a time in the west with Bernardo Bertolucci for Sergio Leone, Argento turned to his producer father Salvator to finance his first film, based on the Fredric Brown novel, The screaming Mimi.
Here we find Argento establish many of the visual tropes we've come to love from him.
Deep reds (pun intended), black gloves and the faceless killer slashing its way through a number of gorgeous women.
Tony Musante plays Sam, a writer in Rome who witnesses the brutal attack of a young woman in an art gallery. Is this the work of a known serial killer? Once his statement is taken he is forced to stay in town and is under suspicion for the crime. The police cannot find sufficient evidence to find the killer and now it is now up to Sam to clear his name and obtain his passport to ensure his freedom and the survival of himself and his girlfriend.
Suzy Kendall (Circus of Fear) plays Julia, his lover who inevitably becomes entwined in the mystery. While her role is limited to potential victim, she has one scene that truly pushes a young actresses limits.
Reggie Nalder fans look no further. His name is buried deep in this one, but if you enjoyed him in Mark of the devil, he's here in all his creepy goodness. I was so happy to see his burnt visage in this film. A real treat!
I loved the mystery unfolding here in this film. Character motive is always in question and it takes you right to the end to find the killer unmasked.
Now, let's say that Argento's father wasn't an established film producer. Would he have had a much harder time getting the film made? Maybe. But does it bare any effect on his writing and directing ably? NO! He leaps out of the gate and really gives the film a stylistic flare and runs with it. His finger prints burn into this film, and he also doubled as the killers hands! So there you go! An Ennio Morricone score certainly helps as well! It's gripping and adds much to the suspense.
On the Blu Ray:
Cinema Cult bring us bird in an aspect ratio 2.00:1; or so we think it is. The back of the box just states 16:9. Its a very strong transfer and we noticed more information on top than the US VCI Blu.
We are not entirely sure what the original aspect ratio is regardless; it maintains rich colours and deep black levels. This appears to be the same transfer used by Arrow films in the UK.
Seeing how the US (blue underground) and UK (Arrow disc) are OOP and going for crazy prices; Cinema Cult save us once again bringing us it locally at a insanely good price.
I have vivid memories of walking down the video store as a kid, and hiring a movie called scarecrows. The movies tagline was ‘trespassers will be mutilated’. It was released on the premier video label, I remember hiring it but remembered very little details of the movie. The many years this little gem was unavailable, and in extreme frustration no legit copies were available until late 2000’s. In Australia we never had a release since the 80s video tape. Today Cinema Cult are here to rescue this call classic, and expose it to the audience it deserves. To begin the titles “scarecrows” sounds pretty corny, you think a movie about killer scarecrows would be a mindless slasher. That isn't the case, scarecrows is an intense, character driven ride of a movie. That leaves you wondering and guessing throughout the entire film.
Written and directed by the insanely underrated William Wesley, this film stands as a high achievement of the late 80s horror era. The film involves a group of Military thieves who take off with $3.5 million in cash from a military base; holding hostage the a pilot and his daughter. There are five military members including one female. One of the robbers jumps out of the plane, betraying his fellow team members, He then lands in a field which is inhabited by the scarecrows sitting on crosses. The traitor soon discovers a house, the is house completely abandoned in the middle of nowhere, inside the find a photo of three men presumably taken in the 1920s. Already the film has an amazing southern gothic vibe. The film never feels boring with the pacing being very tight, even moments when they're trying to track down the traitor who took off with the money, leaves us on the edge of our seats seeing if he will get away. He finds a truck and takes off, while the hostage daughter and female military member find the old house and stay in there, while the others are out looking for him.
Eventually the truck breaks down; but here's the twist, the truck never had an engine. This is when the film delves into the surreal and invites the viewers to the nightmare. The traitor feels as if he's going insane, trying to escape the money, he then gets cornered by the scarecrows. From here on the scarecrows begin to pick off each robber one by one on this abandoned property. What makes Scarecrows so unique is its atmosphere, the whole film is a mystery, why are the scarecrow is coming to life. The great thing about the film is that it leaves you wondering what the cases, are they going insane, is there a supernatural element, were the previous farm owners devil worshippers? These ideas get played out. One of the military robbers eventually come up with a theory to why this is happening to them. It is such an eerie moment that it will send shivers down your spine.
In terms of characters we discover each of the military robbers personalities, in the end of are they really bad people? By the way do you like gore? Because scarecrows has buckets of it. Cinema Cult thankfully presents us the unrated version of the film; which involves dismemberment, guts coming out of a bag, decapitations and so on. But the gore is well spaced out; so when the moment so horror to come it takes you off guard. Scarecrows is a brilliant little forgotten late 80s gem which was sadly straight to video; it got lost in the piles of rubbish direct to video movies of the time. Please seek it out and you'll discover a eeire, character driven, amazingly paced gorefest.
On the Blu Ray: 3.5/5
Cinema Cult present Scarecrows original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 , it is a very strong transfer taken from the 35mm print. There is no damage on the print and it is extremely clean, no specs or dirt to be found anywhere. The film also has very rich black levels which is important because most the film takes place at night, to transfer so good you can see every bit of detail in the dark, This film has amazing cinematography which adds to the freaky nature, Cinematography was by Peter Deming, who also did Hellraiser and Evil Dead 2. Audio wise Cinema Cult present a English (DTS-HD 2.0) track. No pops or crackles to be heard. Being low-budget film the score is very important, and it comes out clear and crisp as an orchestral piece.
The Blu-ray comes housed in a traditional Cinema Cult casing, with stunning artwork and nice hard slipcover. We also have a trailer for the film and a few other trailers for other cinema Cult titles. The fact that we have this movie now on blu ray in Australia is a good enough reason to pick it up alone. Our local release is the way to go value wise. Do yourself a favour, pick up and discover a truly forgotten horror gem.