Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)
Michael Brandon (Roberto Tobias), Mimsy Farmer (Nina Tobias), Jean-Pierre Marielle (Giani Arrosio) and Bud Spencer (Godfrey ‘God’)
Screenplay by Dario Argento
Directed by Dario Argento
This is my third entry in my short blogging series – ‘My Early Mornings with Dario Argento’. I didn’t intend to review the early work of Dario Argento, I just kind of stumbled into this project thanks to the fact that I don’t have access to many new films in my temporary home, located in Nice, France, and I was battling some serious jet-lag when I arrived, which caused me to wake up in the middle of the night. At first it was enraging to be on this schedule, but then I found that nothing goes better with early morning delirium than Argento’s dreamlike films. The combination is really quite satisfying, but now that the jet-lag has subsided I need to wait until I am lucky enough to wake up in the early morning naturally. Sorry Mr. Argento, but I’m not about to set an alarm clock for 4am. So far I have reviewed Argento’s first film, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (which I enjoyed but greatly prefer the novel it was based on ‘The Screaming Mimi’ by Fredric Brown), and The Cat o’ Nine Tails (in which Argento shows off his very real story telling skills). Next up on the docket is his third film, Four Flies on Grey Velvet.
The film tells the story about a young, musically talented, and attractive drummer named Roberto. One night after band practice Roberto finds himself caught in a blackmailing trap set by a strange masked perpetrator. Roberto is made to unwittingly commit a crime, which is simultaneously photographed by the masked villain. Roberto is subsequently blackmailed by the same character. It is left to Roberto to either catch his blackmailer or give in. But is it only blackmail that the masked villain has in mind? Could it be something more sinister?
After the visual delights of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and the attention to plot in The Cat o’ Nine Tails, I was sure that Argento would hit it out of the park with his third film. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While I remember reading somewhere that Argento’s first three features were theatrical successes, I think there is a huge difference in quality between the first two, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet. The main character is annoying, as are a rag-tag cast of ‘private eyes’ that assist him later in the story. The dialogue has that inanity that I sometimes associate with Argento films, whether it is a translation issue, writing issue, or both is unknown to me. Some scenes in the film are unintentionally hilarious, while others that are supposed to be humourous left me scratching my head: see the reoccurring scenes with an odd-looking mailman. Finally, the elaborate and creative kill scenes that viewers have come to expect from Argento are completely absent.
If, like me, you are interested in watching Argento’s early works in their entireity then you are unfortunately required to watch this piece of garbage (normally I’m not so harsh, but this one made me really mad). If on the other hand you are looking for something that is actually scary or mysterious then for the love of god steer clear from this one. I want those two hours of my life back.