Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage – Where the Bird Flew in 1970, Part One


8-28-70, LA – Still open today as a leading theater, the Pantages shows Dario Argento’s breakthrough as a Director, Bird with the Crystal Plumage, released by UMC in The US. The theater was one of the many Pacifics in the area, but sadly went under as a cinema by 1977. It would turn into the theater many know and love now – a reviving that might have sparked the arrival of the Fox in Detroit as a leading theater.

The recent release of Dario Argento’s classic giallo through Arrow Video USA has been getting the raves left and right after Blue Underground’s OOP presentation has turned into a collectible item. It’s a highly recommended film that’s a great way to get into the Director’s work before the days of Suspiria, and one which the censor’s knife met to get a GP rating for the US market with only a few seconds of a slashing (the “Panty Removal scene”) chopped out – a very small amount compared to the censorship in later films which made cinema fans angry (Most notably the mess made for the “Unsane” release of Tenebre by Bedford Entertainment) and video fans in the search for expensive imported videos back in the day.  The infamous US pan-and-scan presentations released through the VHS era by United Home Video is at least had some fine clamshell covers which are the appeal to collectors.

You already know the film (I hope you do!), so it’s time to “fly” around with some first runs and Drive In showings see where it landed.

Universal Marion, led by self-made millionaire Louis Wolfson and helped by Sidney Glasier, was a Florida-based company that did well at first with films like Mel Brooks’ The Twelve Chairs, thrillers like the Night Visitor, and even a dip into the imported erotica scene with Eve was Everything but Legal which was more dramatic than the title suggested. After under-performing with Glen and Randa, one of the many “hip” movies of the day that reportedly did not entertain the audience and found trouble to get plays for an X-Rated movie that had no signs of what the customers wanted in one, and released the Manson Exploitation flick Sweet Saviour with Troy Donahue, UMC faded away possibly seeing that the American Independent scene was getting crowded and a bit of a risk to make any serious money if you were not into Porn (Sweet Saviour was an X that flopped on it’s first run) as Argento’s film went into the sea of late night TV showings by 1977 and the crowded world of VHS before the DVD era, although appearances with high-prestige Horror films through the years starting with UMC’s pick up of The Night Visitor (there was a showing with Argento’s own Deep Red!) and good critical reception earned it and Argento a long standing cult through it all.

I think UMC also had connected with Peppercorn Wormser in New York, but I’ll get back to that later, but it’s safe to say that they were thinking big for at lest a year.

10-9-70, Cuyahoga Falls, OH – The State was one of the many Leow’s cinemas through The US at the time and would live through the 80’s. It’s now a church.


10-9-70, Chicago – The McVickers was one of Chi-Town’s strongest theaters opening in 1857 and living through many eras of entertainment and would stay in business until 1984. The Early 70’s showed that there were some companies like UMC that would serve first run films to the areas many major studios were by then avoiding. It was a time when several of Downtown Chicago’s theaters including the Cinestage were turning Adult or Exploitation-driven leading to an era of exciting and sometimes dangerous movie watching (Detroit had that serious problem with the UA and Summit, both turning Adult by that time).

In this ad, there was no knife – two years later, the ads for Last House on the Left also featured the knife covered up in the center.


10-9-70, Hazlet, NJ – The Rte. 35 Drive In was one of the first to dare to pair Argento’s breakthrough with a film by the master some were already comparing him to. I can see some critics playing the cynical snobs (wait, that’s in the job description, right?) and say that there’s no contest as to who was better in a rather unfair battle, but real film fans including several in-the-know programmers decided to see for themselves. In the end it’s a good guess that those who really watched both liked them on their own merits.

One of Leow’s first Drive Ins, it was a big one housing 1,400 cars, and the land is now housing a multiplex.



9-18-70, Stratford, Conn. – A cinema that’s now an office space.


9-18- and 9-25-70, Montgomery, Alabama – A Paramount Theater, the Empire was established in 1914, and would be handed to Martin theaters by the Mid-70’s. It was a strong theater to get first run movies, and Bird… was a good success in the area.


10-16-70, Miami – The ABC Theaters were another chain that had connections to play some of the happening hits and several Explotiation and Sexploitation films in some areas. Like the Leow’s


10-30-70, Bangor, Maine – A long-standing theater that’s sadly demolished and is now part of an office block.


10-30-70, Fairfield, Conn. – Playing the Nutmeg Theater circuit in at a screen that was in business through the 80’s, but a look at the address now sees it to be just an empty building that used to be a Cabinetry store.


11-6-70, El Paso – At the still-open Plaza Theater, part of the Interstate chain at that time. Angry Breed, an already dated hip acid biker teen flick, was a bit of a mismatch, but that’s alright. Back then, a mix up was seriously welcome as much as a perfect match.


Detroit, 11-11-70 – A serious showing in the Motor City’s suburban cinemas proved to be a big score for this movie. The most prestigious screen was the Quo Vadis in Westland while the Michigan Theater was still showing movies at that time (and would later play Jess Franco’s Eugenie in ’71). The Allen Park, still open and now digital, was part of the Nicholas George chain that dominated the area, and the Mall cinemas were part of the General Cinema theater chain around the time that AMC was turning into the best known company for the multiplex business model (it would buy up GCC in 2002).


9-18- and 12-4-74, Philadelphia –  The Fox was a Millgram theater that used to be one of the best in the area – supervisors worked with white gloves…not black (ha! ha!) – but would shut down in 1980. The December showing was the next run that might be called Suburban Second Run.


10-30-70, West Hazleton, PA – At the Herkster, now the Cinema and Draft House.


10-9-70, Upstate New York and Manhattan area – Bill Landis’ Sleazoid Express wrote about the Lyric on 42’nd Street as a kind of place that was comparatively normal in the street of sin that still played the good stuff – in the book, it was the chapter focusing on Andy Milligan as reportedly Bloodthirsty Butchers was a regular showing, after all. A Brandt Theater, it joined up with UMC during it’s first year (Sweet Saviour was not played at any Brandt or Loew’s in NYC, in case of you were wondering).


10-9-70, New Jersey (Asbury Park and surrounding areas) – It was a hit!
11-20-70, San Antonio – The Laurel was a long standing theater which closed in 1982. Bird was the word when it was held over!


11-27-70, San Antonio, Hitting the local Drive Ins after it’s success at the Laurel, both of these places now long gone and have been replaced by retail – The Trail now a Wal Mart! The S seen in many ads through The 70’s was for Santikos, who are still in business with two multiplexes in the Houston area.


12-4-70, San Antonio – Sometimes a very successful feature would go through a Drive In one week and another then next, as was the case of Bird… in San Antonio.


12-11-70, San Antonio – Remember Psycho? Well, you will after this showing! There were programmers who seriously loved their films and usually treated them the best they can, and the already high standing of Bird… had this inspired pairing.


~ by screen13 on July 20, 2017.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: