Four Flies on Grey Velvet

11/30/2021 10:50

Film: Four Flies on Grey Velvet (4 mosche di velluto grigio)

Year: 1971

Director: Dario Argento

Writer: Dario Argento

Starring: Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer and Jean-Pierre Marielle



This is actually one of the last few horror/giallo films that I hadn’t seen from the great Dario Argento. I decided to finally seek this out when looking through Letterboxd for the most popular horror film from Italy that I hadn’t seen yet for Italian horror month. To get into this one, the synopsis is a musician is stalked by an unknown homicidal maniac, who blackmails him for the accidental killing of another stalker.

We start this movie off getting a chance to meet our lead. He is a drummer for a band and they’re rehearsing. His name is Roberto Tobias (Michael Brandon). We get to see that he is being stalked by Carlo Marosi (Calisto Calisti). They have a confrontation in an abandoned theater. Carlo is shocked by Roberto and tries to pretend like he hasn’t been following him. This is staged though. Someone on the top level turns on lights and takes pictures as Roberto accidentally stabs Carlo to death.

Roberto goes home to his wife, Nina (Mimsy Farmer) who knows something is up. They have a party, but her husband is a bit in his own head, for good reason. He gets spooked though when he finds a picture of him killing Carlo hidden amongst the records. It is during this party that a guest tells a story of how they execute people in a different country. This haunts Roberto’s nightmares.

Much as the synopsis states, Roberto gets odd phone calls from the person who witnessed his crime. There is more to this story though. Nina wants her and her husband to just leave, but he can’t. This causes him to seek the aid of his friend Godfrey (Bud Spencer), who introduces him to The Professor (Oresto Lionello) and also recommends him go see a private investigator. Amelia (Marisa Fabbri), who is the maid for the Tobias family, notices something and decides to try to blackmail this person as well.

Nina cannot take it anymore as this person continues to come into their home at night. Roberto is determined to stay though. Things get complicated even more when Nina invites her cousin, Dalia (Francine Racette), who is in love with Robero to come stay with them. He has to figure out who is blackmailing him and what they want before it is too late. The truth of what is going on here is much closer to him than he realizes and not everything is as it seems.

That is where I’m going to leave my recap for this movie and where I want to start is that I find it interesting this movie is a bit harder to find. I watched this on YouTube, but I did figure out it is also on Plex. When I was searching for ways to watch this, it is out of print for a physical copy and is a bit of a ‘lost’ film. The reason this shocked me is that Argento is such a big name and this is part of his ‘animal’ trilogy with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat o’ Nine Tails. Both of these movies I’ve seen multiple times with this being a first time watch.

To actually get into movie, we have an interesting giallo film here. We are following Roberto, who was the target of this plot, but it becomes bigger than that. Whoever is blackmailing him doesn’t provide what they want in return. We have Roberto trying to get to the bottom of that. The police are here a little bit, but he has left them out and for good reason. He is afraid that he will be booked for murder. It isn’t until Nina reaches out to them or they seek her out that they get involved. There is Gianni who is looking into things as well as The Professor, but there isn’t much investigation actually done.

Now I’m not going to spoil this movie, but I did want to give a little bit with the mystery. A troupe of movies in this sub-genre tends to have some kind of trauma. That is something that we get here. There were little things that I picked up on and I thought I figured out the reveal, but ended up being wrong. That is something I judge these types of movies on so I’m glad that I didn’t find it too obvious. The reveal though did make sense to things that I heard. I’ll give credit to Argento here, except the reveal was a bit too villain twirling their mustache to give away why. It is something I come to expect for this genre as well though.

That should be enough for the story so I’ll move to the acting. I thought that Brandon was solid as our lead here. He doesn’t have much in the way of personality it seems, but from the beginning he thinks he killed someone so I chalk that up to his brooding. Farmer is solid in her smaller role as well. I liked Marielle along with Lionello, Racette and Spencer. The cast isn’t great, but they fit for what was needed to me.

Then the last things to go into would be the effects, cinematography and soundtrack. For the former, they are solid. This movie does have some violent scenes, but I think it does well in hiding it at times. The effects were practical which were good. What I found more interesting was the cinematography. Argento and his director of photography shot the heck out of this. If there are any gripes, they go too experimental with some things. It doesn’t look bad so I don’t think I’ll take off points. Then the last thing would be the soundtrack. It was done by Ennio Morricone, so it is good. It isn’t his best, but it is still up there. The sound design like with the whispers of the killer worked too.

So then in conclusion here, this is one of the more obscure Argento films, but I still enjoyed it. We are getting an interesting giallo here. The story isn’t great. It doesn’t necessarily need to be either. It kept me interested until the final reveal. The effects were good along with the cinematography. If anything they went a bit too experimental. The soundtrack and design work. I have some nitpicks here and there, but this is a solid film for sure.


My Rating: 7 out of 10