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For the Birds: How They Filmed the Crow Scenes for Dario Argento’s ‘Opera’

What’s a night at the opera without a murder…of crows?
Dario Argento Opera Crow Scene
Cecchi Gori Group Tiger Cinema
By  · Published on October 28th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching behind the scenes footage of the crow-invasion scene from Dario Argento’s Opera.

Is it “okay” for directors to fire guns on set? Probably not. But damn it, there’s just something so inadvertently satirical about big personality auteurs brandishing weaponry while directing.

The most infamous instance of directorial gunplay took place on the set of The Exorcist, where William Friedkin fired a gun to elicit the desired startled reaction from his unsuspecting actors. But, as evidenced in the clip below, we have another contender: Italian horror master Dario Argento, who doubled down on his directorial bravado by bringing birds into the mix. Alfred Hitchcock would be so proud.

The clip contains behind the scenes footage of Argento directing the impressive bird attack scene in 1987’s Opera. In the sequence, a flock of ravens is set loose into the titular opera house. In the context of the film, the birds have been released in an attempt to identify Opera‘s deranged black-gloved murderer, who assaulted them earlier in the film. Ravens aren’t just smart, you see: they hold grudges.

Between shots of Argento screaming while firing a gun, the clip showcases a compelling mix of techniques that demonstrate how Argento and his crew pulled off some of the sequence’s most audacious moments. In typical ’80s fashion, they range from impressive displays of movie magic trickery (like mechanical puppetry and an enormous rotating crane) to “fuck it, let’s just release live crows into an opera house.”

As to the purpose of Argento’s gunplay, some mysteries persist. Is he trying to rile up his avian actors? Are the blasts just a very impassioned way to make a countdown more interesting? Who knows. Either way: it’s absolute chaos. So I have to stan.

Watch “Filming the bird shots for Dario Argento’s Opera“:

Who made this?

This video comes to us courtesy of the Dutch-based film historians over at Eyes on Cinema. Their YouTube and Twitter accounts are essential follows for anyone interested in interviews, and other contextual cinematic ephemera.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).