Monday, 3 December 2012

Review - Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971 - Dir. Dario Argento)

The third in Dario's "Animal Trilogy", (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat o'Nine Tails being the other two entries) Four Flies on Grey Velvet still has Dario finding his directorial style. I hadn't seen this before, and to be honest it's not one of his best (that title surely has to go to Suspiria?) Let's see what it's got to offer...

A gentleman with big hair and a comedy moustache. Right, I'm sold. What else?

Michael Brandon (from TV series Demspey and Makepeace) stars as Roberto, a married man who is unfortunately involved in an accident that looks suspiciously like a murder. To his chagrin, a creepily masked photographer takes some snaps of the supposed crime. Then all of his friends start getting killed...

Four Flies on Grey Velvet is a strange one, because it sits somewhere between comedy and your usual Dario film. A private detective becomes involved in the plot, when Roberto starts getting a bit jumpy. Private detective: Rockford. That's the first thing that springs into my mind. Tough. Rugged. Lives in a caravan on a beach. Not so here. The detective is so completely camp, it's bordering on pantomime. I was waiting for some Larry Grayson catchphrases to appear, but sadly not. Another scene is set at a coffin exhibition. There are some cracking lines; one customer complains about a coffin being uncomfortable, the seller informs him that they've never had any complaints from their clients.

Then there is the flip side of the comedy coin: the deaths. They are nowhere near as gory as his later offerings but they are pretty stylish. I can't say that the sequences are scary but they are certainly tense, especially the death of Dalia. Where some films are 'Slashers', this is more in the 'Bump, Nick and Grazer' sub-genre. Dalia's death scene contains a pathetic 'dragging down stairs' shot that is almost as bad as the one in The House by the Cemetery, but Dario pulls the scene round with a brilliant use of reflections. The final death is pretty impressive with Dario getting to use an ultra high-speed camera. All set to beautiful music by Ennio Morricone. So good it made me raise my rating by at least one point.

As with most gialli the plot is a tad bonkers at times. The idea that an impression of the final image seen by a murder victim is left on the eyeball is mildly preposterous but I couldn't help but like the way the idea was used. Stupid yet fun.

There is a recurring shot that pops up at various points in the film, much like the guts scene in Catch 22. It involves a beheading that would have given me nightmares when I was younger. But, unlike Catch 22, the final version on the shot lacks any real power and the editing looks a bit dodgy to me. It's a shame, because I was imagining it was going to be so much better.

I wasn't very keen on this through the first half, although it had grown on me by the end. There are better Dario films to watch first, if you haven't seen any yet, but this is a film for more than just the completists. Oh, and God makes an appearance too.

If you like this you could also try:
Suspiria, Tenebrae, Deep Red, Lizard in a Woman's Skin.

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