February 27, 2009

Four Flies on Grey Velvet

From Aaron Hillis at GreenCine Daily comes his pick for DVD of the Week:

Four Flies on Grey Velvet

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (4 mosche di velluto grigio)
Directed by Dario Argento
1972, 102 minutes, In Italian (no subtitles) or English dubbed
Maya Entertainment

Four Flies on Grey Velvet When Dario Argento's ultra-nutty horror spectacle Mother of Tears was released last year, I was far from alone in believing it to be the first watchable film of the Italian maestro's in two decades, which perhaps isn't the grandest of compliments if you've seen what came before. On the other end of his career, however, before hitting his zenith (everything from 1975's Deep Red through 1987's Opera), even his hokier-plotted giallos like Four Flies on Grey Velvet (his third feature and last leg in the so-called "animal trilogy," following The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat O' Nine Tails) bare more suspense, panache and memorable sequences than most of what passes for modern American horror and crime thrillers. Never before available as a legitimate home video release in any format until today, the uncut, vividly photographed Four Flies on Grey Velvet deserves a new cult following in your living room, the more friends and booze the merrier. Don't worry about twisting the arms of the squeamish either, as the bloody mayhem is so implicit that when originally released theatrically by Paramount, the film only carried a PG-rating.

Four Flies on Grey VelvetRock drummer Roberto (Michael Brandon) is getting weirded out by the suspicious stranger in the dark suit and sunglasses who appears to have been stalking him at band practice, on the streets, and now in the shadows outside an abandoned theater. Finally getting proactive, Roberto follows him inside and up the stage stairs, where the confrontation goes murderously awry: the man pulls a switchblade, and Roberto accidentally stabs him with it in self-defense. Before he can even process through the adrenaline fog while standing over the dead man's fallen body in the orchestra pit, spotlights illuminate the scene, and a second stranger in a puppet mask appears in the balcony with a camera and long lens. Who set Roberto up? Is he in further danger? Are his wife Nina (More's Mimsy Farmer), her cousin Dalia (Francine Racette), and the housemaid (Marisa Fabbri) in trouble, too? Toss in some blackmail, strained marital relations, infidelity, an ineffectual private detective, a rising body count, and the plot device that gives the film its title—when one victim's eyeball is photographed by a coroner, the last image she saw was permanently imprinted on it: four blurry houseflies on a velvety grey... hey, what is that surface?

When the twists get perversely convoluted, characters are knocked off in disturbing ways from the first-person perspective of the killer, and the camerawork is both rigorous and chic (one Hitchcockian murder features two top-notch tracking shots: a woman from the neck up as she falls backwards down the stairs, followed by the knife in center frame as it slowly plunges downward, reflecting her image), you must be filling up on a gooey, decadent Argento dessert. As Bill Cosby never said, "There's always room for giallo."

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Posted by cphillips at February 27, 2009 10:45 AM

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