Old 11-21-2012, 12:27 PM
Four Flies on grey Velvet (1971)

The third directorial effort for Dario Argento always had a special place in my fanboy-heart. It concerns a rock drummer, Roberto Tobias who accidentily stabs a man to death and has photographs of his dilemma mailed to him by an unknown blackmailer. It turns out that guy is seriously nuts - heīs not out for money, he just basically wants to make Robertoīs life a hell. To emphasize the point, the unknown person leaves dead cats in Robertoīs freezer and dead bodies everywhere else.

For a long time "Four Flies on grey Velvet" remained the most difficult movie by Dario Argento to actually see. Itīs only about 2 years or so since Mya put it out on DVD in a worthy shape albeit with serious audio issues, up until then most bootlegs were sourced from the long forgotten Silver Video release, itself being cut and not in very good shape. Shoddy distribution aside, "Four Flies" was follwing "The Bird with crystal Plummage" and "Cat o nine Tails" in the directorīs so called "Animal Triology".

While Argento was far from the first italian doing giallos, "Bird" was a high-water mark in the genre, kinda like "Halloween" was for slasher movies a decade or so later. That movie set the template for a lot of movies to follow and itīs successor "Cat o Nine Tails" showed a different take on the genre, more traditionally influenced by american murder mysteries. "Four Flies on grey Velvet" is again, different. Different from most giallos I think this was the point in Argentos filmography where he really evolved into his own personality movie-wise. Itīs properbly the closest to a "noir film" he ever made. Our lead character Roberto (played by Micheal Brandon) is easily the least sympathethic protagonist in a giallo at this point. On the surface is leads a perfect life - heīs got an upcoming rock band, a hot and rich wife and a good social stand. But once we look beneath the surface, the guyīs a human wreck way before heīs being blackmailed. Another fairly novel note character wise is of course Jean Pierre Marielleīs private eye Arrosio. Although fairly eccentric, that character is one of the earlier cases of a openly-gay guy who isnīt only sympathethic but pretty competent in his field, despite his impressive line of failiures. Also on board is Bud Spencer as Robertoīs best and only real friend God - while basically being a bum with a fishing rod, heīs almost a divine figure indeed - always well-meaing and always right. Iīd worship that guy, the only pity is that he doesnīt get to beat people up. The female lead, Robertoīs estranged girlfriend is played by Mimsy Farmer one of the more unique beauties of the seventies and always a delight to watch.

In general, "Four Flies on grey Velvet" displays a more open form - this is not even close to the rather simplistic murder mysteries of Argentoīs first two films. Itīs about sexuality and the way people deal with it and the then common standards - the murder wears a very childlike although definitely masculine mask, Marielliīs gay character is an example for realizing youīre different and still have a good time (until he dies like all those hetero characters) and when the killerīs twisted motivations are revealed they add to that point. The humorous segments that were also found in "Bird" and "Cat" are given more space, something that doesnīt gel with most Argento-fans apparently but they also add flavor to the more "juxtaposed" style of "Four Flies". While there are indeed some shortcomings in the script, the most hysterical being the "scientific" reason behind the movieīs title, again I say people donīt know what they get with Argento. What most people see as "flaws" in his characters or scripts is just keeping with the italian tradition of more "concious" storytelling.

Ennio Morricone is back on score duties and while this isnīt his best work the main theme forshadows his biggest hit "Chi Mai" from "Le Professionel". Of course, Argentoīs trademark visual compositions are allover "Four Flies" although less on the forefront than usual. The final frames alone are a good example why heīs considered a visual genius. The film is not as brutal as some of his other works, again "different". I think itīs interesting to note that Argento was burned out of the giallo formula he helped to shape after this movie - to the point were he didnīt consider making any more murder-mysteries in the future. Indeed, his next film which is even more obscure than Four Flies ever was, "The five days of Milan" showed him going for a David-Lynchesque (were before David Lynch made any movies of course) historical drama. He would of course come back to the horror/thriller genre and release "Deep Red" and "Suspiria" upon an unsuspecting world. Four Flies on grey Velvet shows Argento on a crossroads - at one time delivering another water-mark giallo and at the same time going for a more experimental, "human" approach. People who just donīt like his movies wonīt find themselves converted by this - Itīs mandatory viewing for Argento or giallo fans nontheless.

Last edited by Dehydrator; 11-21-2012 at 12:31 PM..
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Old 11-21-2012, 06:31 PM
Argento was really an inspired madman in the 1970's. The animal trilogy is something else. I first saw "Four Flies" two years ago when it was finally released after so long and just didn't enjoy it. Rewatched it recently and was able to appreciate it.
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