“Four Flies on Grey Velvet” (1971)
Studio: Marianne Productions
Starring: Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Bud Spencer
Directed by: Dario Argento
Running Time: 102 min.
Synopsis: A drummer is being stalked by a killer who saw him accidently kill a man.
I’ve been waiting a long time to see this film, which just came out on DVD months ago. An Argento film I read about and have seen many still pictures of that were very stylish and that made me want to see this movie even more. When I finally saw it, I thought it was good, but not as good as I thought it was going to be and not as well done as his other films.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet is considered the third installment in Argento’s animal trilogy, which started with Bird with the Crystal Plumage and followed by Cat O’Nine Tails. Although none of these films were connected and the only thing in common is, that they all have animals in the titles and of course, Argento was at the helm.
The film is about a drummer, Roberto, who is being stalked by a strange man. One night after rehearsal, he follows the man into an old theater and confronts him. He accidentally kills him, but as that happens, another person in the theater (wearing a weird mask that is almost cartoonish with blonde hair, pale face, and round bug eyes), witnesses the killing and snaps a picture of it. Now, that person starts to stalk Roberto and people around him start popping up dead.
The movie has Argento’s style all over it, down to the music, camera shots, editing, you name it. The opening scene starts off with a downward angle close up of drums being played. The rest of the scene has a mix of great cutting, obscured camera angles, and a good score. There’s one other interesting shot, where the camera is shooting through the hole of a guitar.
There’s also the use of Argento’s trademark high pitched whispering voice of the killer, which has been used in many of his films. Depth of field is also used many times through out the movie. One scene in particular is when the killer holds up a club and smashes it on the head of its next victim. The club is focused on in the foreground, while the victim is seen in the back. The camera smoothly follows the action with the club as it hits the victim’s head.
Also, there’s a recurring scene of a dream, where it shows a man about to get his head cut off in an execution ceremony. This nightmare that Roberto is having starts when a man from a party tells a story of how in the Middle East he witnessed a man being beheaded. Each time the dream is shown, it always stops right before the head is cut. The decapitation is finally shown towards the climax of the film.
One thing the film lacked was some parts of the story. It moved very slowly at times and some of the killings weren’t as suspenseful as other Argento classics. Also, the use of comic relief was used a little too much. Another thing, the actors are not as likable as the ones in his other films. Other than that, the movie is very stylish, a good story, and some great editing and camera work. I’m finally glad I got to see this lost film from one of the greats in cinema.