Saturday, 22 November 2014

Euro - Horror Vaction: Four Flies on Grey Velvet (aka 4 Mosche Di Velluto Grigio)(1971)

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (aka 4 Mosche Di Velluto Grigio)(1971)
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, and Jean-Pierre Marielle
Running Time: 104 min

  I love old school Argento films and this the last on the list of his 70's horror work that I have to see.  This was the final film in his "Animal Trilogy" which included "Bird with the Crystal Plumage" and "Cat O'Nine Tails", both terrific films, and he then returned to making Giallo films in 1975 with one of his masterpieces "Deep Red".  So this should be an interesting ride.

  Studio drummer Roberto Tobias has noticed that a man has been following him for over a week and when he tries to confront him about it, the man runs away and Roberto takes chase after him.  They end up in an abandoned theatre and the man denies the fact that he has been following him.  He then pulls out knife and tells Roberto to leave him alone.  There is a scuffle and Roberto accidentally stabs the man in the gut with the knife.  Unfortunately, someone in the rafters turns a spotlight on them and snaps a few pictures.  Stunned Roberto lets the dying man fall into the orchestra pit and then takes off from the scene of the crime.
  The next day, Roberto reads in the paper that the man he killed has been discovered by the police.  This makes Roberto uneasy, knowing he just killed somebody but also because he starts receiving strange phone calls in the day, as well as a letter with the passport of the dead man in it and even during a party with his friends, he discovers some pictures of him killing the man under a stack of records.  That night he tells his wife, Nina what is happening but she doesn't believe him and when he tries to show her the letters and pictures, they are gone.  She tells him to go to the police but he can't because then he will be arrested for murder.  Neither of them can understand why this person is not blackmailing him but trying to torment him in such a peculiar way.  So the next day, he goes down to the outskirts of town to see his homeless friends and hires them to keep an eye on his place, which they are happy to do.  Probably for a sandwich.
  However the night that all the stuff went missing, Roberto's maid saw the person who is tormenting him, then calls them on the phone and demands to be paid for her silence.  They set up a time to meet in the park but when they do, they maid is murdered!  After the maid dies, then Roberto is sent a letter saying that he is next to die.   Will Roberto ever find out who his mysterious tormentor is or will his stalker do away with him the same way they did away with the maid?

  This wasn't as gory as I was expecting but it was still an enjoyable watch.  What I like about early Dario Argento (Opera, Deep Red) films is the fascinating camera work that he uses.  In this, he uses high speed camera equipment to film an unforgettable car crash, which could produce a triple digit number of frames per seconds and twelve cars were used to get this effect.  For the time, this was pretty cutting edge and it looks very cool in the scene.
  Also he does an excellent job with the whodunnit element of the story and introduces a variety of characters that are capable or have the motive and ability to be the tormentor, which keeps you guessing right until the end.
  Most interesting thing though about the film is that Argento has a number of amusing characters that play up more of a comedic role, which is a lot different than most of his other films.  He has an idiotic mailman, who is battered and bruised during the film from constantly delivering the wrong mail to people and is just starting to fight back.  Also, a gay detective that Roberto has hired that has never solved a case but feels that this one might be the one to break his lucky streak.  These are interesting and fun secondary characters that break up the tension and sometimes the duller parts of the film.  It adds some real colour and life into the film.

   Although the story was alright, there are still issues with the storyline.  There were opportunities that the characters who were being murdered could have easily revealed to other people.  For instance, the maid was talking to people on the other side of the wall right before she died.  She could have shouted the name of the killer.  Also the detective could have let Roberto know over the phone, or warn him about who is was investigating and where things were going but then I guess it wouldn't be much of a mystery and the movie would be over a lot quicker.  There are some other weird twists that don't jive   **SPOILER** Like the man Roberto was suppose to have murdered, isn't dead but the newspaper and police report he is. That is some seriously bad police work, if you don't know the difference between dead and alive.  Also there is a scene with Nina's cousin, Dalia where she hears the killer's thoughts or memories.  I think this be a tip of the hand but it just doesn't make sense to me and doesn't work.  **ENDSPOILER**
  Also the tormentor had this weird mask, which kind of makes sense in the end, but it isn't consistent in the film and he/she only uses it about half away through and then it disappears.  It's unfortunate because it was pretty creepy and I would have liked to have seen more of it, when the killer was attacking his victims.

 This wasn't my favourite Argento film but there are definitely some very enjoyable elements in it.  Again, it's not as gory as some of his other films but he does weave an excellent story of murder together, along with some unexpected humour and some interesting cinematography.  This is a great film to catch for any Giallo fan and anyone who loves Italian horror films.

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